Introducing A New Dog or Cat to Resident Pets

Bringing home a new dog or cat is unquestionably exciting, but existing pets in the home can add a layer of complexity that you need to be prepared for. True, some cats and dogs simply share a mutual sniff and are good to go. But it’s asking a lot to just assume that a new pet will immediately be comfortable with you, their new surroundings, and every other pet in the household. As often as not, the getting-to-know-you process takes a bit of time from you, the Guardian and the other pets in the household.

Before you even bring a new pet home, we strongly suggest you have the pets meet someplace neutral: at the meet-up, for example, if you are adopting through

Whether in the home or not, it’s important to approach introductions carefully and responsibly, to ensure right off the bat that neither pet develops any unwanted behaviors or tendencies.

Here are some things to keep in mind before going full steam ahead:

  • Just because the new pet lived with other dogs/cats in the past, that doesn’t guarantee that they will get along with yours.
  • If you have multiple pets, introduce them one at a time so that the new pet does not get overwhelmed.
  • Don’t leave pets unattended until they are fully socialized with one another.
  • The introduction process often takes time and patience, but is extremely important in establishing boundaries and behavior in the home.

How to introduce your new dog or cat to your existing pets:

  1. Prepare your home: Even non-territorial dogs and cats can feel like their “home turf” has been invaded when a new pet is thrown into the mix. Prepare your home to accommodate your new friend before he or she arrives: make sure each pet has his or her own space and toys; keep their food separated.
  2. Take your time: When you first bring home your new pet, it will be tempting to simply open the carrier and let them roam free. Better to transition them slowly to the home by giving them a “tour” of the house. Lead them around, encouraging them to explore the home at their own pace. Once he or she is comfortable and familiar with this new environment, it’s time for formal introductions.
  3. Keep dogs or cats at a distance: If possible, restrain one or both pets while introductions are made. Discourage any chasing, fights, or other sign of aggression by remaining calm and in control of the situation. Be prepared to distract them by using toys, food, or verbal commands.
  4. Pay attention to body language: Look for loose, wiggling body and tail movements, playful bows, and a relaxed mouth – all, positive signs. Be alert for stiff, slow movements, barring of the teeth, growling, hissing, or intense staredowns, as these signify a negative reaction. If this happens, quickly take control of the situation and lead the pets away from one another until they’ve calmed down. Then, try once again to re-introduce at a greater distance.

What you can do to make it go smoother:

  • If possible, bring any existing pets to the meet-up to get a feel for how they will interact before bringing the new pet into the home.
  • Don’t force a friendship between two pets if they simply don’t get along. Remain in control of the situation and always take steps to ensure the safety of all involved.
  • If you’ve tried everything, but things just didn’t work out—it’s okay. Don’t endanger either pet any further if it’s clear they can’t interact safely. If this is the case, you can choose to relist the pet on Get Your Pet to find a more suitable home for him or her. For more info, check out: What if my newly adopted pet isn’t working out?