Adopting a new pet
Adopting a pet from a rescue centre or a previous home can be very rewarding, but can present its own challenges. Care should be taken when making the decision to research the pet you will be taking on as they have already moved families at least once so may need a little extra care and attention to help them settle in. Adopting a new pet doesn’t necessarily mean that you are taking on an older “problem” pet, animals are put up for adoption for many different reasons.
There are a few things that can help when bringing your new pet home for the first time. Prepare your home for a new arrival, set them up an area of their own where they can go and relax and be alone as they may find all the attention and new surroundings stressful. A good first step is to get your new pet their own bed and designate an area for it along with an area for food and water bowls. These area’s should remain the same, try not to move them around as consistency helps in the settling process. When you get your new rescue pet home for the first time, let them explore their new home in their own time. Try not to “make” them stay near you or in the same room, let them settle where they feel comfortable. There are also pheromone products available to help you new cat or dog settle into their new home.
When bringing home a rescue dog for the first time it’s a good idea to start your routine as you mean to go on. Consistency in feeding, walking and bed times will help your dog settle in quicker, when everything is new and different. Whether you have a puppy or an adult dog, there are additional products available to help with the transition into their new home environment. Adaptil do a range of pheromone products that mimic those produced by the mother when feeding her pups. There is a plug-in diffuser that releases the pheromones into the air in the room that it’s plugged into, so the ideal place to use it would be in the room that your pet will be sleeping in. Adaptil also do a collar that your new dog can wear that uses their body heat to release the pheromone. This lasts for 30 days, the same as the plug-in. There is also a spray option available which can be used to spray the blanket that will be theirs. This blanket can then be placed in the car on the trip home and then into their bed once home, to reinforce security.
It is important that you introduce a new dog to your family carefully. Introductions can be tense for both you and your dogs so appropriate procedures should be followed to minimise stress.
Preparing for the introduction
• Scent is an important method of communication for dogs. You can help to integrate the new dog into your home by ensuring that he smells of “home” before being introduced to your current dog.
• To do this, gather scents from the new dog’s head by gently stroking with a soft cloth and dabbing this around your home and furniture to mix and spread the scents. You may also wish to swap the bedding of your animals to enable them to smell each other prior to meeting.
Introducing your dogs for the first time
• It is best to introduce dogs on neutral territory – a good suggestion is to take the dogs out for a long walk together. The interest of the walk will make the introduction less intense and they can all get to know each other as they walk. At least two people should walk the dogs to ensure safety at all times.
• Keep the dogs on longer leads (e.g. 1.5m length) when they are walking so that you are not too close if squabbling between the dogs occurs. If squabbling does occur, walk the dogs away from one another and re-introduce when they are both calm and relaxed.
• When bringing the new dog home, remove anything they are likely to fight over, such as toys or bones, before allowing your dogs into the house.
• Attention from members of the family may also be a resource to fight over, so ignore them until they have settled down.
Try to ignore any small disagreements and scuffles, although be ready to lead the dogs away and isolate each of them until they have calmed down.
• Feed your dogs apart until they are used to each other, separate them before answering the door and do not make such a fuss of the new dog that others feel excluded.
• Care should be taken not to leave them alone together until it is obvious that they have become friends.
Usually introductions go smoothly and the new dog is treated, and acts, like a visitor. The relationship between dogs is sorted out during the first few weeks and disagreements are possible during this time.
If introductions are unsuccessful or you are having difficulty, ask us to refer you to a suitably qualified animal behaviourist. We will check both dogs over first to make sure there are no underlying injuries or illnesses.
Before taking on another cat it’s important to think carefully about whether it’s the right decision and how your existing cat or cats will feel about a new arrival. When left to their own devices cats do sometimes form social groups if there are lots of resources like food and space available. These social groups are often made up of related females. However, just like their wild solitary ancestors, many cats today are happiest living on their own.
Unless cats consider themselves to be in the same social group they are unlikely to be friendly with each other, will do their best to avoid each other and might even fight or show aggression. They are also likely to find it stressful having to share important resources like food, beds and places to toilet. Cats that live with another cat they aren’t friendly with can, as a result, experience stress, anxiety or frustration.
Introductions are important If you are planning on taking on another cat then preparation is key and careful introductions are really important. The way cats are introduced to each other can make a difference to how happily they will live together. Don’t be tempted to rush the introductions, they should be gradual; the whole process may take a week to several months.
First step: set up a ‘cat-safe’ room
Before you start the step-by-step process of introducing your new cat to your existing cat(s) and even before you bring your new cat home you will need to set up a ‘cat-safe’ room for your new arrival.
Access to the whole house can be a bit overwhelming for your new cat when you first bring them home. If you
just let them loose in the house you’ll likely find that they hide away in fireplaces, behind sofas and any other small gaps they can find! It’s best to set them up their own cat-safe room so they can gradually acclimatise to their new surroundings and it’s also essential for managing introductions between your cats.
Items for the cat-safe room
Somewhere to get up high
Familiar smelling item (from where they previously lived eg, rescue centre)
Make sure the room is safe and hazard free
Some cat owners have found the pheromone product ‘Feliway’ useful for helping their cats feel more settled. Try plugging in a Feliway diffuser in the cat safe room at least 24 hours before they arrive.
Setting up the cat-safe room
Once you have everything you need for the cat-safe room you just need to set it up in a way that will make it most comfortable for your cat. Naturally cat’s don’t like to eat, drink, toilet and sleep in the same area so make the best of the space you have to keep these bowls, beds and litter trays apart. For example, place their water bowl in one corner and their food in another. Ideally the cat-safe room will have a window (which can be kept securely shut) to provide your new cat with a view. Use a cat-tree, chair or other piece of sturdy furniture so that they have easy access to look out. Their hiding place is best located in as private a spot as possible and away from the door. 5 steps to integrating a new cat into a multi-cat household Once your cat-safe room is ready you can begin the 5 step process of integrating your new cat with your already resident cat(s). Always go at your cats pace and only move onto the next step if there are no signs of fighting or aggression e.g. hissing, spitting, showing teeth, swiping.
Step 1 SET UP THE ENVIRONMENT FOR THE NEW CAT AND CREATE POSITIVE ASSOCIATIONS WITH THIS SPACE FOR ALL CATS Keep the new cat in a separate room (the cat-safe room you have already prepared) with all of its important resources: litter tray, water and food, resting/sleeping place, toys and a scratching post. There should be no direct contact with your resident cat(s).Hang a toy on both sides of the door of this cat-safe room or put a food bowl in front of it (on both sides) with frequent offers of delicious food. Continue to feed your cats as normal in their usual food bowl but in addition place some special food (eg, treats, wet food of a new flavour) in these extra bowls.
Step 2 EXCHANGE SCENTS Swap bedding with the scent of your new cat with other bedding with the scent of your resident cat(s). The bedding can be placed in each other’s’ core areas, for instance beneath food or water bowls. There should be ample bedding so that this change in bedding does not leave any cats with limited places to sleep or rest. Swap rooms – in addition to the swapping of bedding, the resident cat(s) could be briefly confined (such as confining resident cats to your bedroom during the night) to allow the new cat to inspect the home. However, confinement should only occur if it is unlikely to cause any distress such as frustration. Conversely, the new cat could be temporarily removed from its room to allow resident cats to explore the environment. It is recommended that the latter occurs only when the new cat is entirely relaxed in their new home, and therefore this is unlikely to be advisable until several days after the introduction of the new cat.
Step 3 ALLOW VISUAL CONTACT Visual contact should only commence when there are no signs of any aggression around the door that separates the new arrival. Once commenced, visual contact should be as frequent as possible. The resident cat(s) and the new cat
should be allowed to see each other, but still be physically separated. This can be achieved in a number of ways including:
A transparent or netted door
A small crack in the door, narrower than the width of a cat’s body
Having one cat inside a crate
Step 4 GIVE PHYSICAL ACCESS, BUT SUPERVISED CONTACT Physical supervised access can occur as long as there are no signs of fighting or aggressive behaviour displayed by any cat during ‘visual contact’. Once commenced, physical supervised access should be as frequent as possible. After a period of positive visual contact, allow the new cat and one resident cat to have the opportunity to physically interact for a short time and in a restricted space (such as one room) and under the owner’s supervision. Special treats and toys are highly recommended during these sessions and the owner should be encouraged to use them interactively to distract cats from staring at one another or directing too much attention to other cats, and to disperse any tension. Punishment should never be used.
Step 5 ALLOW FREE ACCESS WITHOUT SUPERVISION FOR SHORT PERIODS Free unsupervised access for a short period of time (a few minutes)can occur as long as there is no aggressive-type behaviour between any of the cats during step 4. Once commenced, free unsupervised access should be as frequent as possible. At other times the new cat should still be kept separate. If friendly behaviours are seen between the new cat and any of the residents, for example playing, grooming, rubbing against each other, these particular two cats (or more) can be kept together for longer periods. At this stage, enrichment is particularly important in terms of providing multiple resources including litter trays, hiding places, food and water bowls. With time, if things are going well, the separate room can be kept open and the new cat and residents given freedom to come and go as they please. It is important to note that in some cases the addition of a particular cat to a household with existing cat(s) proves to be too challenging/stressful for the owner, for the resident cat(s) and/or for the new cat. Rehoming of the incompatible cat may need to be considered.
Introducing unfamiliar rabbits needs to be done very carefully. Here are some helpful tips to help you bond your existing rabbit to a new companion.
Before introducing rabbits neuter both rabbits.
Male rabbits can take up to six weeks to become sterile after they’re neutered.
Females shouldn’t be bonded with another rabbit immediately post-neutering to reduce the risk of injury.
Prepare side-by-side accommodation
Provide a barrier between the rabbits’ enclosures, that still allows them to see/smell each other, and lie side by side. Each rabbit must also be able to hide from the other whenever they want – ensure they both have constant access to hiding places.
Prepare a neutral area, this needs to be somewhere neither rabbit has been housed before.
Know the signs of positive and negative behaviour
Sitting/lying side by side (even when the barrier is in between them)
Grooming each other
Seeking each other for positive interactions
Behaving normally around one another
Chasing each other
There may be some unrest in the beginning however this is normal and may last about seven days.
Once they seem comfortable in one another’s presence whilst living side-by-side, try swapping some of the rabbits’ nesting materials over, or rubbing a cloth over one rabbit and then the other to transfer scent.
Short periods of being together with supervision
Once the rabbits are comfortable with the sight and smell of each other they can be introduced for short periods in the neutral area.
A familiar person should sit with them to supervise. While some negative behaviours are normal during introductions, these shouldn’t be allowed to escalate. If they’re mounting each others head, which may lead to injury; or showing severe or persistent aggression towards each other, they need to be separated immediately however be careful so you don’t also get injured.
During the first few introductions the area should be completely empty so you can observe them. If the introductions are going well you can introduce toys, hiding places, tunnels, etc., however you need to make sure there are enough for both rabbits.
If things are going well gradually increase the time they’re together so they’re spending supervised time together daily.
Once the rabbits are spending one to two hours together daily without any problems they can be introduced into their intended living space, initially under supervision.
Rabbits can be left alone together safely once they’re showing positive behaviours towards one another.
Always speak to us for more detailed advice before attempting to bond rabbits. If you’re concerned about your rabbit’s behaviour, seek veterinary advice.