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Starting Off on the Right Paw with New Pet Introductions

Bringing a new pet home is always fun and exciting for us but how might our other furry family members feel? It could be a source of stress or worry so it’s always important to introduce new pets gently so everyone starts off on the right paw. 

A Good Experience for Everyone

You can actually begin whilst your new pet is still with their breeder, foster or rescue organization. Do some scent swapping by rubbing a blanket on your new pet and taking it home so your existing pet becomes familiar with their scent even before they arrive home. 

Get your home ready too. Make sure you have crates, pens or use baby gates as partitions so everyone can have some space and time out from each other. 

It can be tempting to lavish the new arrival with fuss and attention, especially if they are young and have more demanding needs than your existing pet. But remember, any older pets will need just as much love and fuss as normal, if not more to help them adjust to their new friends’ arrival. 

To begin with, supervise all introductions and praise and reward both pets when they are around each other. If your existing pet is showing signs of uncertainty, that’s fine. Let them approach in their own time – don’t try and force them.

If it’s a puppy you are introducing, remember they are often boisterous, so you might want to keep them on a lead or in a crate initially. Keep the introductions short and sweet and always positive, so everyone involved has a good experience. 

If you are introducing a new pet to an existing cat, then make sure your cat has plenty of places up high to retreat to if they are feeling unsure and want to take a look from a safe distance. 

Your existing pet will also need to know that all the stuff they value is still very much theirs. Beds, food bowls, toys, access to water or litter trays are all important to our pets so make sure there are enough to go around; don’t expect your pets to share. For cats it’s always recommended to have one litter tray per cat plus one spare just so they can always get that bit of privacy. 

If it’s a small furry or a bird you are bringing home, then be sure to keep them safe from existing cats and dogs. 

Cat and Dog Introductions

Cartoon of dog chasing cat
It’s important to get the balance right with introductions and not push too fast. ©Zigzag

Despite the picture the fur flying cartoons portray, cats and dogs can often get on well as housemates. To set your pets up for success though, it’s important to take things gently and slowly so that the new friends accept each other. 

When introducing a dog to an existing cat, it’s important to consider any experience your cat has with dogs and think about how they might react. If your cat is likely to run, which most do, it’s important to have the dog or puppy under control either by keeping them in a crate or using a lead. You don’t want your dog to be able to chase and frighten your cat. 

Allow your cat access to plenty of high up places where they can view from somewhere they feel safe and out of harm’s way. Reward everyone for good calm behavior and make the experience positive. If it doesn’t go so well, don’t panic and try to force things; leave it for now and try again another time.

Cats can often vote with their paws when a new dog arrives so it’s really important to take things slowly and do all you can to introduce them gently. 

Make sure your cat’s territory isn’t too disrupted by the new arrival. Your cat won’t want to have to walk past the dog to get to the cat flap, litter tray or their food. So think carefully about where you position dog crates or beds. Think about where your cat likes to spend most of the time in the house and avoid making those areas places that the new dog or puppy will use. This isn’t to say they won’t be able to share areas in the future but just for now whilst they get used to each other, keep as much as you can consistent for your existing cat. 

If you are bringing a kitten or cat home to meet an existing dog, much of the same advice above applies too. You will want to keep the cat in a carry basket for the initial introductions so the new cat can feel safe and secure. Swap blankets, so the pets can get used to each other’s scent away from each other; again, you can even do this before you bring your new pet home. 

Realistic Expectations

Pheromone diffusers and sprays can help pets feel more comfortable and confident when meeting and living with their new housemates. But these aren’t designed to replace time and patience. It’s important to get the balance right with introductions and not push too fast. 

Hopefully given time and patience everyone will get along. It isn’t going to happen immediately though, it’s important to remember and appreciate that your pets might never be best friends sent straight from a Disney film but if they can live harmoniously alongside each other then that’s very much a win.  

About the Author

Lisa Milleret, Diploma in Companion Animal Behaviour (DipCAPBT Hons), ICAN Certified Animal Behaviourist is part of the Zigzag Puppy App Experts Team. Lisa grew up with a love for all animals but she always had a particular affinity with dogs and horses. She began studying with COAPE in 2007 and took the plunge in setting up her animal behavior practice in 2012 following completion of the level 5 diploma qualification. She has also worked with many rescue organizations including local dogs’ homes and breed specific rescues for beagles and basset hounds and she has a particular interest in teaching dog safety to children within schools.


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