Moving in with a roommate can be tricky as it is, let alone when trying to introduce a new pet into the mix at the same time. When cats and dogs (or cats and cats and dogs and dogs) first move in together, the relationship can be pretty precarious. But as long as the introductions are made properly, the pets will likely get along in the end– or at least be able to coexist peacefully.
The first rule of introducing pets is to avoid just tossing them into a room together and hoping they work out their differences. That’s probably not going to work.
Introducing pets can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, and the first interactions should be just a few seconds long. As they slowly get used to the other’s smell and to sharing their home, things will get easier for you and your roommate.
Isolate the Newcomer
No matter what, the animals need to be separated by a door at first. This will give them the opportunity to smell each other and even interact under the door a little, without being able to do more than hiss or growl if they’re uncomfortable.
Usually that means that one animal will be stuck in a single room, while another is able to roam the rest of the apartment. If you’re moving into your new roommate’s apartment, or vice versa, the new animal is the one that should be isolated in a single room.
Move both of their food and water bowls near the bottom of the door to get them as close to each other as possible, and switch the animals’ places every so often. This will give the new pet time to get used to the rest of the apartment while the other animal explores the newbie’s space and becomes even more accustomed to their scent.
Let them interact with each other (supervised) a couple times a day at first, and slowly increase the number of times each day.
Give Them a ‘Safe’ Zone
Each animal should have a safe place they can retreat to if they start feeling uncomfortable.
For the new cat or dog, this can be their isolation room. Keep a bed or crate in each separate area that will make the animals feel safe.
Take Dogs On a Walk
Dogs react really well to being introduced while on a walk together because it gives them time to feel (read: sniff) each other out. Plus, the sights and smells while on walks can distract dogs from each other if the relationship is a little tense at first.
Try to keep the leashes loose and avoid yelling harsh orders– believe it or not, the two pups can feed off that negative energy and become even more tense with each other.
If they’re meeting for the first time before the walk, have one dog sit or lie down for treats, while the other is allowed to sniff, then switch their positions.
If the introductory process is taking longer than you thought it would, try to be patient. Some animals, especially if they’ve lived alone their whole lives, find it really difficult to live with another pet, so they may continue barking, growling, or hissing for weeks.
Keep doing what you’re doing, and if you stop noticing any progress at all, consider asking for help from your vet or an animal behaviorist.
Give Them Attention and Love
Don’t forget that your animals love you, so give them plenty of attention when they’re feeling scared or confused!
Living with another pet can be stressful and difficult for some cats and dogs to adjust to, so make sure that your four legged friend is feeling loved and safe during the transition.
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