The thought of welcoming a new pet into the house is always extremely exciting, but sometimes it isn’t always as straightforward as you’d expect.
Having a new family member can be fraught with anxiety as they get acquainted with another pet, a baby, or simply struggle to get comfortable in their new surrounds.
Here are some important tips from Dr Rachel Chay, Chief Veterinary Director at Greencross Vets, on how to welcome your new fur baby the right way.
It may not be all that surprising, but one of the best ways to introduce a new pet to your home is by doing your homework.
Having an idea of your new animal’s routine will help them settle in faster and reduce confusion. “Decide on what areas your pet will be allowed to access and if you are going to let it on the couch etc. all these little things can make life hard later on if we don't think them through,” she says.
Also, don’t forget to make the most of the wider pet industry network. “Reach out to your local vet or a pet store with quality trained staff," she explains.
Do a scan for any household risks. Rachel says the main factor for puppies is chewing, so take your expensive handbag or shoes out of the equation.
“Don’t set them up for failure and make sure they only have access to things you’re happy for them to chew,” she says.
Meanwhile, cats love to scratch furniture so consider removing any valuable pieces from their areas and also watch out for falls as kittens love to jump.
“Think about what the world looks like from their level,” Rachel advises.
Remember the first day will be filled with anxiety as they’ve only known life with their mum and siblings, so don’t just plonk them in the backyard. “Make sure you’re home all day and allow them to explore in a supervised fashion,” she says.
Create a safe space
Make a sanctuary for your new pet in a laundry or a small bathroom, in case of any accidents. “Creating a space that is theirs, where they can retreat if it's becoming too overwhelming, particularly if you're introducing a puppy to a family with smaller children, is vital,” she says.
When creating this space, Rachel recommends using a comfy bed, a soft toy to cuddle up with, food and water bowls, and even pheromone diffusers (products that mimic the calming pheromones of dogs or cats and come in many forms such as sparys, plug-in diffusers, wipes and collars) to comfort your new pet.
Meeting another pet or baby
Every pet has it’s own personality so needs a well-thought out meeting and adjustment period plan.
“It’s very important they are supervised and that the ‘older’ pet is never punished or banished as it can cause resentment,” she explains.
Instead, tread carefully and keep both safely restrained for their first face-to-face meeting so the new animal doesn’t leap all over your existing pet.
Some people even conduct the first meeting through a screen or glass door so they can see and smell each other but can’t do any harm.
At the first sign of any aggression, Rachel recommends separating the pair immediately and if possible consult with a veterinary behaviourist to nip it in the bud before it escalates.
Cats are notorious for being stubborn and welcoming a new pet is no exception. Rachel says this integraton period will generally take longer so be patient and keep them in separate rooms with controlled interactions for as long as they both need.
Always supervise your new pet with a baby or young child. Rachel advises it's wise to keep your baby off the ground for the first-time meet, too.
Anything you can do to make the welcoming of a new pet less of a shock for another is wise.
Rachel says you can introduce your new pet’s scent via a blanket or toy to your existing pet - or even take them with you while you “shop” around.
“If you have a dog, you can take them when you’re buying a new animal or going to a rescue centre to see how suitable a new pet will be," she suggests. "You'll also get to see how they initially get along on more neutral turf,” she says.
Feeding and toilet training
There’s nothing worse than bringing a new pet home only to find they won’t eat anything you put in front of them.
Rachel suggests finding out what they’ve been eating previously and don’t be afraid to try other things. “There’s a whole range of nutritious foods for young animals at your local pet store,” she says.
Don’t forget to make sure they’re aware of where their toilet area is and remember they’re babies so keep them close by because when they’ve gotta go, they’ve gotta go!
For territorial reasons, if you're trying to introduce cats, it may help to have separate litter trays.