It can always be tricky to bring a new animal into an already existing pack. The experts always say that slow introductions are best and lots of planning can help lay a good foundation. Some people didn’t have that luxury when the fires happened and family and friends, including their pets, showed up on their doorstep in the middle of the night. I heard about one friend who took in four different families with an assortment of animals in tow. I’m sure her home was sheer chaos!
That kind of situation is OK if it is temporary. Everyone does what they need to in order to keep things safe. Cats and other small pets are confined in bedrooms and dogs are kept leashed if necessary. Depending on circumstances most people were able to make other living arrangements after a day or two. But what about those who totally lost their homes and haven’t been able to find a rental? How do you integrate new pets peacefully in with existing resident animals? Whether your family is staying on long-term or someone has offered to take in your pets as a long-term foster, the goal is to make the transition a smooth one.
Hopefully, the home you’re staying in hasn’t been turned into a total war zone and all the animals are in sort of a neutral position, but if not, then you have to back up and start again. Like restarting your computer and hoping that will get rid of the glitches! Cats need a very slow introduction to new animals and having a sanctuary room is critical to their feeling safe. Keeping to their regular routine as much as possible is also a big help. Realize that their world has been turned upside down too and don’t ask for too much too soon.
Dogs do best when introductions are done on neutral territory. Go to a park nearby and reintroduce them. Going for walks together keeps the dogs moving and there are distractions to keep them busy rather than just putting all the focus on each other. Often a long hike together is all that is needed to ease the tension. Of course, the new dog has to be respectful of the resident dog’s territory and possessions. And the guest/newcomer needs to respect the house rules regarding their pet. If getting up on the couch is a taboo then don’t sneak it. It will just cause confusion for the dog. It also helps to pick up all the toys and bones so there is nothing for the dogs to feel possessive about. As they get more comfortable in each other’s presence you can reintroduce some toys. Some dogs are just not willing to share so you will always have to be aware and put toys away after play sessions. Better to do that than risk an altercation.
If things do not improve after a couple of tries, you might need to bring in a professional trainer/behavior consultant. It would be a shame to consider rehoming one of the dogs if this hasn’t been tried. You can call the shelter for some referrals. Sadly, sometimes it’s just not a good match and the risk of injury is too high. That’s when rehoming one of the dogs should be considered. We have suggestions of how you can do this on your own, without having to surrender the dog to the shelter. Please do call us for ideas at 584-1582.
Introducing animals is a lot like dating. Sometimes the chemistry is there and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it can take several “dates” for it to work and sometimes its love at first bark. Sometimes the animals can co-exist but it’s not a real “union” and you have to decide if that is good enough, or if you are looking for more. Relationships are work – even for our pets!
No More Lost Pets – free microchips and pet ID tags for residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati City. Stop by the shelter during our open hours with your pet to get one! The shelter is open Wed 1-6:30 p.m., Thurs.-Fri-Sat 1-5:30 p.m. and Sun 1-4:30 p.m.
Fix-it Clinics – Free spay and neuters for cats; and $60 dog surgeries (up to 80 lbs.) for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at email@example.com.