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Introducing Your New Pet
Congratulations! You have a new family member ready and eager to join your home and to make your life a little better. But before you settle into a life long relationship, there is the process of proper introduction.
This is a situation that many have faced before you and many more will face in the years to come. The solution is one that is well understood by rescue groups and animal lovers alike. Any such solution must factor in the natural behavior of companion animals and not “force” human solutions onto them. The process is one of four distinct steps that must be followed at the animal’s pace and no faster or else failure will ensue.
Initial Introduction into Your Home
Any and all adoptions are traumatic for the animals concerned and even the best home can be a difficult transition. All homes have a signature odor, which is created by the carpets on the floor, the paint on the walls, the food you cook, and the people living in the house. The new companion animal has to become familiar with the odor before it regards your home as it’s home.
Place the new companion in a small room or crate for 5-7 days together with a litter box, food and water and a comfy bed. Allow the new animal and existing animals to sniff each other under the door and play footsy as they like. Do not allow face to face meetings, but feel free to bring the newcomer out into the house to meet other members of the family and to bond with you while you watch TV. During these times, keep existing pets out of the room. When the animals are no longer very interested in what is on the other side of the door, it is time to move onto step two.
Moving out into the Family Room
Once the animals have become blasé’ about each other, now is the time for a limited face to face meeting, but through the safety of a crate or carrier. While watching TV or relaxing, bring the newcomer out into the family room in the carrier and allow him to have interaction in the controlled environment. The first interaction should be relatively short and then the exposure time gradually lengthened. Animals are naturally curious and will want to know who is the other animal in the home. Just make sure the process is controlled and not rushed.
You have to be the judge of when to move onto step 3. Do not rush them, let them take as long as they need or as long as it takes. Believe me it is worth the wait.
I’m the Alpha – Get Used to it.
In step 3 you are mimicking nature in that you are saying to both the newcomer and the existing animals “I am the alpha (Boss), this is my house and this cat/dog lives here, get used to it.
The methodology is to place each animal beside you on the couch or floor and gently pet them. This lets them know you love them, but also that you are the alpha and have decided to allow the newcomer to move in and live with you all. Normally, this process only takes one night, but in some circumstances it may take several evenings before the stress lessens and then they are ready for the final step, face to face free association.
Face to Face Free Association
Now the animals have come to understand that the old order has changed and a newcomer has moved in and is ready to become a full member of the family. This is the time to place them onto the family room floor and allow them to get to know each other without the safety of the carrier.
The first evening or two you should keep a close eye on how they are doing and make sure they interact properly. After they have all settled down, you can gradually give them more freedom and spend less and less time monitoring their behavior.
Companion animals, like humans, have good days and bad days and you should expect the occasional set back, both during the period of introduction and in the years following. If the set-back occurs during the initial introduction, just drop back one step and slowly proceed from that point. If it occurs later in the relationship, then use the old time out routine and place the offender in a small room for an hour or two. If the problem persists, please consult your vet to be sure that a medical condition is not the cause of the problem. If the problem persists for a lengthy period, you may want to consider a product called Feliway, or Feliway Comfort Zone. These are products that mimic the feline facial pherenome, which has a calming and comforting effect on cats. If this does not work after several days, you may want to consider a Prozac type medication. There is a form of Prozac that comes as a transdermal gel that is applied by rubbing inside the ear. The medication is Fluoxetine. Follow the advice of you vet whether or not an animal needs to be medicated. Now lay back and enjoy your new relationship and let things progress in a slow natural way.
You have many years ahead of you, don’t rush things.
Copyright © 2007 Commonwealth Humane Society