Bringing home a new furry friend can be an exciting experience. However, there are a lot of responsibilities to consider in pet ownership, including time, energy, and commitment. After all, pets are a part of the family, too.
Dr. Sarah Griffin, lecturer at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said to carefully consider pet ownership, especially if children are in the picture.
“Pets can be great additions to a family, but parents must be leaders in showing children how to interact with and care for the pet,” Griffin said. “Younger children need constant supervision when they are interacting with the pet so that the child is not accidentally harmed and the pet is not traumatized by rough handling.”
Additionally, parents should be attentive to signals that the pet is stressed, such as a tucked tail or pinned ears. In this case, the pet may be overwhelmed and need a safe place in the home for quiet time.
“For dogs, this could mean the crate,” Griffin said. “Cats prefer towers or condos to climb on and get away from the chaos below.”
If pets are already living in the household, owners should determine whether the existing pets would get along with new pets. In general, Griffin said kittens and puppies are more accepting of new pets, while older cats and dogs may require some time to adjust to the change in their lives.
For introducing a cat to another cat or kitten, Griffin suggested housing the new cat in room that can be closed with a door for a least a month. This way, the new cat can get familiar with their new home.
“The cats will be able to smell each other but won’t be able to have any face-to-face interaction,” Griffin said. “After this adjustment period, the cats can be allowed to meet through a baby gate or kennel. This will limit any physical or threatening contact and safely allow their first face-to-face interaction.”
A similar method can be used for introducing a cat to a dog. However, when the face-to-face interaction is allowed, the dog should be on a leash so they don’t accidentally or intentionally hurt one another.
“Make sure there is an escape route if the cat feels threatened,” Griffin said.
When introducing two dogs to each other, Griffin recommended keeping both dogs on leashes until neither animal is showing any signs of aggression. Additionally, taking the dogs to a neutral territory, such as a park or front yard, for an initial introduction can help the animals be more accepting and less territorial. Feeding in separate areas can also decrease the chance for aggression.
Although it is easy to fall in love with an animal, it is not always easy to care for them. Before bringing home a furry friend, be sure you and your family are ready for the responsibilities of pet ownership.
Pet Talk is a service of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.