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In a perfect world, multiple pets would be introduced into a household simultaneously. Or better yet, all pets would simply coexist harmoniously.
Now, welcome back to the realities facing our world: The timing never works perfectly, so pets typically have staggered introductions into a household. Furthermore, while some pets naturally get along swimmingly, others – for a variety of reasons – struggle just to tolerate one another.
Thankfully, our team of veterinarians has assembled an abundance of knowledge regarding how to successfully integrate pets. Whether going from a single-pet household to a multi-pet household, or from a cat household to a dog-and-cat household (or vice-versa), strategies exist to make this transition smoother for pets and owners alike.
Read on for seven tips to ensure Huckleberry the hound dog and Bob the Maine Coon cat coexist peacefully, if not happily, under one roof.
1. Be Gradual with Cat-to-Cat Introductions
When adding another feline to a cat household, the integration should not occur overnight. In fact, in an ideal scenario, the cats won’t interact for at least a week.
Upon bringing your new cat home, place him in a private room where he’s separated from your resident cat. After a week has elapsed, allow your resident cat to explore outside the door of that room, but don’t crack open the door until all signs of aggression (hissing and growling) are absent.
Finally, bring the new cat into your main living area within his carrier and feed both cats within each other’s presence, thereby sparking an association of pleasure with one another’s company. Once both cats are comfortable in this situation, let them interact under your supervision.
2. Have an Exit Strategy for Cat-to-Dog Integration
Most cats are a regular Houdini, capable of making themselves scarce should a frightening situation present itself. Still, it doesn’t hurt for you to assist your cat with cultivating this inherent talent.
Before adding a dog into your cat household, provide your cat with a variety of escape routes and high-up hiding places that are easily accessible. Your cat must be able to get away from the dog whenever necessary.
Once your cat becomes acclimated to your new dog, he will be less inclined to utilize his escape methods. But even after both animals develop a comfort level, your cat will maintain peace of mind knowing the escape option is always at his disposal.
3. Match Your New Dog to Your Resident Dog
When selecting a new dog to add your family, it’s important to do so with the breed, age, and gender of your current dog in mind. Use foresight to serve as an effective matchmaker.
If the incumbent dog has lots of energy for playing, obtaining a puppy or young adult dog is appropriate. However, if your current dog is unlikely to tolerate the antics and energy of an adolescent dog, consider getting an older dog that will not try to compel your old faithful to play all the time.
It’s recommended to choose a new dog of the opposite sex of your resident dog to reduce the risk of aggression. Also, avoid breeds noted for aggressive behavior when adding a second dog, as it’s preferable for the incumbent dog to retain his “alpha” role within the household.
4. Consider Adding a Puppy for Dog-to-Cat Integration
A puppy is like a blank canvas, and this creates an advantage when it comes to adding a dog to a cat-dominated household.
By obtaining a puppy rather than an adult dog, you’re likely assured of having a dog that will learn to tolerate or even like cats as he grows up. In some cases, puppies have even become playmates for felines.
But regardless of whether the dog you’re attempting to integrate is a puppy or an adult dog, ease the dog-to-cat transition by keeping the new dog on a leash until both animals are calm, letting your cat initiate first contact and preventing your dog from chasing your cat.
5. Weigh All Factors Before Opting to Add Another Cat
If only we could read our cats’ minds. A cat exhibiting signs of boredom may be receptive to having a new friend, but there’s really no way to know for sure ahead of time.
Consequently, since you can’t ask for your cat’s opinion, you should assess various practical considerations carefully before deciding to grow your pet family. Does adding another cat make sense for you?
Consider both financial and spatial factors. Can you afford the costs associated with extra medical care, food, and litter? Moreover, does your residence contain enough space to make the arrangement work even if the cats ultimately don’t get along well?
6. Know Your Limit for Dog Ownership
How many dogs are too many? That’s a question many multi-dog families have faced as they’ve grown their domesticated pack of pooches.
Having more than six to eight dogs as pets can seem excessive, unless you’re a breeder or involved in some canine enterprise that requires you to own many dogs. Owning large numbers of dogs means that individual dogs do not receive the same level of attention they would if they were part of a smaller unit. The relationship of human and dog changes, becoming less personal, and the dogs become less pet-like and more pack-like.
While there is nothing wrong with this altered dynamic, it represents a consideration – in addition to financial and spatial limitations – when contemplating adding more dogs. The reality of the situation is that more dogs typically results in more incidences of behavior problems.
7. Practice Moderation as a Cat Owner
When it comes to cat ownership, keep in mind the economic principle of diminishing returns – that point at which the level of benefits gained is less than the amount of time, energy, and financial resources you invested.
While it’s entirely possible to have two or three or more cats coexisting peacefully under one roof, it’s been said that if more than a dozen cats live in the same house, the incidence of problems related to inappropriate urination is close to 100 percent. As the number of cats in the household increases, the incidence of behavior problems rises.
For most people, two to three cats are enough. For others 5 to 10 might be manageable. For the occasional feline aficionado with time, the patience of a saint, and money to burn, even larger numbers of cats can be successfully managed.
Resources for Pet Integration
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