If Our Pets Could Talk
By Jackie Kellum
Before you decide to bring another pet into the family, THINK.
During this decision process, you should be realistic regarding your current pet’s ability to adapt to this change. Things you need to consider is your established pet’s age, especially if he is a senior with poor vision or hearing, has difficulty walking, has pain due to age or illness, is medically fragile, or has been alone for a long period of time. If you are dealing with any of these issues, you need to question yourself if this is the right time and thing to do to him. Will your current pet acclimate easily to this change in his life and feel comfortable in his own home? Another question to answer is, Will your establish pet(s) benefit from this new addition?
When you are considering a new possibility, evaluate the personality, energy level, and assertiveness of the potential “new guy” so there is a good match with your other pets. To keep the household peaceful, you must also consider your current responsibilities before taking on new ones. You need to be truthful and realistic with this evaluation. This applies to both cats and dogs.
Another decision factor is knowing if you can handle this situation financially and whether you can make enough time to provide meaningful attention to each pet. Part of this thought process should include, and you have an answer for, what will happen if something “happens?” That is, if you become disabled or when you die. Who will be responsible to take care of your pets in these circumstances? Death is not an “if” circumstance, it is a “when” situation.
If your honest answer is yes, a new addition would be good, you need to make a plan about the introduction of the new pet and not just “wing it.” Also, make sure all pets are current with their vaccinations and parasite prevention. If you have any medical concerns about either pet, have them examined by your veterinarian prior to the introduction. Have reasonable expectations about the new addition’s behavior and reactions to his new housemates. Observe for and have a plan how to deal with territorial behavior, possible food aggression, “marking” in the house that did not occur previously, or jealousy on the part of either the new or established pet. If there are many pets in the house, make the “new guy” introductions one by one in a quiet, calm environment, not a “mass meeting.” This helps the new one from becoming overwhelmed, frightened, or possibly aggressive with this new situation.
Each dog and cat has their own unique natural instincts and behaviors that need to be addressed with introductions. Stay in control of the introductions. Introducing your dog or cat to their new family members in the right way is essential for building positive relationships and safety for all. Properly socializing your dog or cat to other pets means giving them the skills they need to successfully live together and encourages positive interactions. To create a harmonious household you need to guide or teach each pet what to do when they feel overwhelmed, and ensure a safe and calm environment for each pet member. Reward calm behavior by giving positive attention, or possibly a treat. Introducing a new pet mate to an established pet may be less complex if they are the same species (dog-dog, cat-cat) versus dog-cat or cat-dog. But whatever the circumstances, the success of the introductions and integration requires thought and planning.
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