How to introduce new pets to each other

How to introduce new dog, cat, parrot, rabbit or a rat to each other

Harmonious Cohabitation between Pets – Passionimo Answers your Questions 

Pet lovers like you and us often have a hankering for more than one companion. Survey says that 19% of Quebec homes include a dog or a cat with a respective average of 1.2 and 1.7 pets per home*.

To put the odds of a good cohabitation in your favour when you introduce a new pet in your home, the team of Passionimo prepared a list of questions and answers.

How should I introduce a new pet in my home?

First, take the time to really think about it. Here are a few things to consider: How much time can I invest? What is the space available? What is my budget?

Even if your child claims to absolutely want a dog or a gold fish and to be prepared to take care of the pet day and night; in reality, that commitment might last a few weeks at most. Instead of telling children that their pet will have to go back to the shelter if they don’t take care of it, keep in mind from the get-go that the pet will often wind up being your responsibility… Remember that pets are not toys: they are sensible creatures who will form a bond with their family, often in a very short time!

Get information on the breed you’re interested in to make sure it fits with your lifestyle. Another good tip: before adopting a pet, why not pet sit the dog of friends while they go on vacation. This is a good way to see if your patience won’t run out after a week.

I want a second cat. How can I make sure that my current cat will be able to coexist with the new one?

The first thing to do is to find a very comfortable room where you can lock in the newcomer, making sure not to use your current cat’s favourite spot! Give each cat separate food and water bowls, a litter box, and a blanket. We suggest rubbing the blankets on the neck of each cat to distribute pheromones and get them used to the smell of the other.

After a few days, switch the bowls, litter boxes, and blankets, and let the new feline roam free. Don’t force contact between them: let the cats get to know each other at their own pace. Make sure that there is no competition over resources: provide 2 food dispensers and 2 or 3 water bowls. An easy rule to follow for litter boxes: one box more than the number of cats in the house. Also keep in mind that two litter boxes next to one another or even in the same room cancel each other out.

Do you have tips specifically for dogs?

The rules are pretty much the same: make sure that there is no competition over resources and that the first dog can keep its routine and favourite spots (like a couch or its bed, etc.). 

The best way to introduce dogs is to keep them entertained, e.g. taking them on a walk. This way, they can get to know each other while having fun. In case of doubt, use basket muzzles and keep them on a leash during the early stages of introduction.

Is there a risk that my new furry friend will transmit diseases to my current pet?

Yes, and sadly, this happens frequently, including transmitting fleas and intestinal worms and contracting respiratory diseases. Here are 2 rules to follow:

1- Get your current pet vaccinated even if it never goes outside. Vaccination is all the more important when introducing a new animal because the immune system of indoor pets is rarely solicited and thus more susceptible to diseases.

2- Before taking a new pet home, bring it to your veterinarian, especially if it’s an outdoor pet or if it’s coming from a shelter.

Here’s a typical scenario: a 7-year-old indoor female cat who never put one paw outside is suddenly sharing her space with a non-neutered outdoor cat riddled with fleas and tics. Your home runs the risk of being contaminated in mere hours, which is far from ideal for both pets… Yet another good reason to begin introductions by isolating the new cat!

Additionally, some diseases can remain dormant for several days before showing signs or symptoms. That’s why it’s so important to protect the pets you already own.

Do I need to take special precautions if I have children?

Yes, keep a watchful eye on the situation! Pets, not unlike humans, have different levels of patience. Introducing a new pet in a home environment is a stressful experience for everyone involved. Caution should be exercised.

Going in with the false notion that a pet will never bite is akin to thinking that a mom will never yell or lose patience… It’s essential for pets to have a corner or spot where they can seek refuge to be left in peace. Be mindful that the new pet will not know that! For dogs, it can be reassuring to have their own crates.

What should I do to introduce an exotic pet in a home with a cat or dog?

We often see those touching stories of cats and rats or birds sharing a beautiful friendship on Facebook. This can happen in real life, but there are also sad tales of predation. Don’t forget that cats are highly instinctive and skilled hunters. Some dogs can be love bugs with cats indoors but chase them around as soon as they step outside. The environment plays a key role in a pet behaviour.

Some sad stories can be easily prevented. Think of those retired greyhounds who suddenly share a home with a rabbit… After being trained to run after a prey for years, there’s a good chance the dog might attack the rabbit.

Since rats are friendly pets for the whole family, is it possible to own more than one?

Yes, but it would be preferable to have them neutered, especially if a male coexists with a female. We recommend introducing the rats in a neutral place and to keep 2 separate cages. Then, if things go well and there are no signs of aggression, you can use a very big cage containing several supply points and water sources. Don’t forget to use a 3-tier cage with stairs and passageways. Rats are highly intelligent and need stimulation.

If your rats share a living space, you can avoid fights by providing a steady supply of food. Also, include shelters with 2 openings to allow rats to escape more easily if physical attacks occur.

What about rabbits?

Rabbits can easily coexist, but both males and females need to be neutered. Actually, they tend to live longer when they have a companion. Ideally, do not keep rabbits in a cage: they are very territorial and need a lot of space in their natural habitat. You can also avoid competition over resources by providing several food and water bowls, as well as litter boxes.

Important note: Rabbits and ferrets cannot coexist. Since ferrets are carnivores, they see rabbits as prey, so do not take any unnecessary risk. Rabbits can also be annoyed by screeching birds.

Can I own more than one ferret?

Generally, introducing a new ferret in a group goes very well. Since they love to play, do the introductions in a neutral place and use games to distract them. Ferrets can usually share a home with cats and dogs, but not with preys like birds, guinea pigs, and rabbits.

Can parrots coexist?

It’s easier for parrots of the same species to coexist, but nothing is impossible. However, we do not recommend mixing species with a considerable difference in size because of the high risk of death in case of conflicts.

We suggest starting by placing the parrots in separate cages far from one other, ideally in different rooms. This way, they will hear each other’s chatter, and the introduction will be gradual.

Bring the cages closer over a stretch of time and make sure that the parrots are still comfortable with the situation. When their cages are close (without being completely pushed together), start to take the birds out at the same time and foster positive interactions through games and treats.

Depending on the relationship the parrots will develop (friends or a couple) and the size of the cage/aviary, it might be preferable to keep the parrots in separate cages and take them out at the same time. You have to be extremely patient: the integration can take weeks or even months, or it very well might never happen.

Do you have other questions?

Please do not hesitate to contact the Passionimo veterinary clinic closest to you. 

You have more questions?

Do not hesitate to contact the nearest Passionimo veterinary clinic.