How to avoid pet hates

You’ve already got one beloved pet and now you want to get a new dog or cat. But how do you ensure that everyone will be firm friends?

New cat, old cat

If you’ve already got a cat and you’re getting another, it can be helpful to understand a little about what makes our feline friends tick. Cats are territorial by nature. They also thrive on predictability and routine. This means that the arrival of a newcomer may not be something they relish!

First of all, think carefully about the new cat to get. It’s best to avoid getting one that’s the same age and sex as your existing cat, for example, as they are most likely to fight. A kitten will often be accepted by an older cat although a boisterous youngster may annoy an elderly resident!

Keep your new cat in a separate room at first (with the door securely shut). This should be kitted out with everything she needs from bedding to food bowls to toys and will be a great place for her to get used to your home without feeling ‘threatened’. It’ll also give your resident moggy a chance to get used to the newcomer’s smell well before a face-to-face meeting. (Smell is very important to animals.)

The next step is to start getting the two cats even more used to each other’s scent. You can do this by switching over their bedding.

When you are ready for face-to-face meetings, the best thing to bear in mind is that slow and steady wins the race. Start with very short interactions and see how you go. Make sure you’re calm and relaxed too. Animals pick up very easily on mood. Praise and reward calm interaction.

With patience, you should find that your two cats soon co-exist happily. If they haven’t after a few months, it might be worth seeking the advice of your vet or an animal behaviourist.

New cat, old dog

If you’re getting a new cat and you’ve already got a dog, follow similar steps to the ones above but also make sure that your dog is on a lead when the two animals first meet. This gives the cat a chance to ‘escape’ if she wants to.

It’s also very important to make sure the cat’s food is out of your dog’s reach (say on a countertop). No-one likes someone who steals their dinner!

New dog, old cat

If you’re planning on getting a dog and you’ve already got a cat it makes sense to think carefully about what breed you choose. Greyhounds and terriers like to chase, for example – something your cat is unlikely to appreciate if she’s lived in a ‘dog-free’ world up until now!

The dog should be kept in a separate room at first. (Or at least a crate if that’s not possible.) This will get everyone a chance to acclimatise slowly and get used to each other’s scent.

After about a week or so, start building on this by swapping your dog and your cat’s bedding.

When you are ready for them to meet face-to-face, keep the dog on a lead, take things slowly and remember to be as calm and relaxed as possible. Praise any positive interactions – maybe even offering a few treats

Build up these meetings gradually and, with a bit of luck, it won’t be too long before everyone is getting along swimmingly.

New dog, old dog

Your old dog will be territorial in your house, so the best place to introduce them to your new arrival is outside, away from your house. Take the two dogs for a walk together, both on the lead. Once they seem friendly you can go inside the house. It’s best to allow the newcomer in first so the old dog does not try to prevent them going in.

Also remember that a dog that hasn’t had enough exercise will be bored and full of pent-up energy. This can lead to fighting.

The good news about introducing two dogs is that canines are pack animals. This means they’re very ‘up for’ the idea of shared living.

Baby vs adult food

Kittens and puppies are not simply smaller versions of cats and dogs. They’re growing babies and need more nutrients and calories than their adult counterparts. Pet food designed for kittens and puppies give them all the ingredients they need to grow into healthy adults. To give your cat or dog the best start in life, feed them kitten or puppy food until they are at least one year of age.