How to introduce a new pet to the family

Did you know that more than 2 million Kiwis own a pet?

Cats would be pleased to know they’re the most popular here, with 45 per cent of us owning one (or being owned by one), and 31 per cent of us owning a dog, according to Roy Morgan research

Not only are these furred friends endlessly entertaining, cuddly, and adorable, they’re even good for our health. They provide companionship, may help to reduce stress and anxiety, and in the case of dogs, they encourage you to get outside for regular walks (or a session of tug-of-war if you own a large breed).

Where to find your new best friend

If there’s a four-legged hole in your life you’d like to fill, you’ll need to decide whether to adopt an animal from a shelter, or purchase one from a breeder.

When you adopt from a shelter, you’re giving an animal a new life and a new chance of happiness, while also making space at the shelter to house another animal. These pets are often already house trained, and usually have had all their vaccinations, microchips, worming, and flea treatments completed already.

Adopting from a breeder means you know exactly what you’re getting, and you can adopt your new pet as soon as they’re old enough. This means you can raise them in your own home and train them yourself.

Keep in mind that you should aim to adopt a pet that suits your lifestyle. If you’re living in a small apartment, you may be better suited to a cat or a small dog that doesn’t need a large amount of space.

How to prepare your home for a pet

Begin by removing anything that would be dangerous for your animals, such as items that could easily be tugged down to fall on them, or hazardous materials. Also note that some plants are poisonous to animals – such as lilies for cats – so double check before bringing any pets home.

Next, make sure you have all the supplies you’ll need on hand. This includes a pet bed, food, toys, a cage for transport, a collar, and a leash.

Finally, be sure to assign an area for the pet so they feel they have a safe space, and ensure there are no loose windows or spaces where they could escape.

How to introduce a new cat to an old cat

Before you start, keep in mind that this is general advice only. Every pet has their own quirks and behaviour, so if ever in doubt you should speak to a vet or certified animal trainer. 

To begin with, set aside a room in the house for the new cat. Bring it directly there, and let it get settled in with a bed, kitty litter, and food so it can begin to feel safe. Even if you don’t have an existing cat, it may take your new one a few days to come out from under the bed or behind a couch as it gets used to the new surroundings. Spend time in the room, but don’t force interactions or force it to come out.

Once your new cat is somewhat settled, bring in an item (such as a towel or pillow) that your old cat loves to sit on to introduce the smell, and vice versa. This will introduce the idea of another cat to both pets without a physical meeting first. You can even swap their food bowls.

Next, introduce the cats without contact, ideally through a baby gate or screen door where they can see one another. Following this step, you can remove the barrier and allow them to size each other up. Do not force them to interact, but if they do start to hiss, make a loud noise or throw a small soft toy to distract them.

Going forward, keep an eye out for aggressive behaviour, such as one cat blocking another from the food bowl or doorway. Talk to your vet if you have any ongoing issues or see troublesome behaviour.

How to introduce a new dog to an old dog

Introduce the dogs in a neutral space outside of the home, such as at a nearby park. Have treats on hand to reward good behaviour, and keep your own voice and behaviour calm and relaxed.

Allow them time to sniff each other, and once they’re getting along well, you can take them for a walk together to allow them to get friendly in a non-threatening but familiar setting before returning home.

Once you get home, keep them on the leash and walk through and around the home together. All going well, you should be able to allow them off the leash and supervise as they continue to explore together.

How to introduce a new pet to kids

Begin by allowing your new pet to become comfortable at home before meeting children. This will help them to feel safe and unthreatened.

Next, introduce the pet to a few items of the child’s clothing to acquaint them with the smell. Give them a few hours to get used to it, playing with them and letting them relax so they learn that the smell is safe.

Finally, you can introduce the pet to the children. Ensure the kids know to stay calm (no squealing!), let the animal come to them (no chasing!), and be very gentle with petting (no tail pulling!).

As your new pet settles in, keep an eye out for behaviour such as destroying furniture, urinating indoors, or becoming possessive over food or toys. These can all be signs that your pet is unhappy, so you may need to chat to your vet or a trained animal specialist to help them settle in.

And if you have more loved ones than just your four-legged family member, you can help them financially, and enable them to provide for your beloved pet when you’re no longer around, with OneChoice Life Insurance