Merg­ing pets into fam­ily not easy

South Waikato News - - NEWS - By NICK BAR­NETT

She has fallen in love with him, and he with her. The time has come to blend their lives by liv­ing in the same house, and the whole idea is ro­man­tic yet sober­ing, up­lift­ing yet scary.

One rea­son it’s scary is that she has a cat and he has a dog and a cat. Dog and cat happy Pets can learn to get on. They re­ally can . . .

How will the four-legged fam­ily mem­bers get on with each other as the two house­holds merge?

It’s a big ques­tion that’s been on the mind lately of a Four Legs Good reader named Kather­ine.

‘‘Looks like I will be mov­ing in with my boyfriend in the not too dis­tant fu­ture,’’ Kather­ine emailed me to say. ‘‘He has a dog of about one, a bois­ter­ous Vis­zla, and a cat of about nine years of age. The cat and dog ex­ist rel­a­tively happily to­gether. The dog is out­side most of the time and the cat gives him a swipe ev­ery now and then to show who is boss!

‘‘I’m pretty ner­vous about how my cat and his cat, and my cat and his dog, might get on. She is a bit of a toughie in my neigh­bour- hood de­spite be­ing a small cat, and chases other cats off. She’s none too sure about dogs though! Any tips?’’

The ‘‘will they get on?’’ ques­tion faces any­one who de­cides to take on an­other pet, whether or not a hu­man be­ing is part of the deal. And a lot of peo­ple have done that – in­tro­duced a new pet to an ‘‘old’’ pet – with bril­liant suc­cess. We’ve even man­aged it in my house.

Here are some dis­til­la­tions of that wis­dom:

1. Take it slow. Give the new pets and the old pets some time to ad­just to the new set-up. Think about tak­ing a staged ap­proach, start­ing with the brief en­counter and work­ing to­ward the ex­tended one.

2. Give them space. Let your es­tab­lished pet have an exit route in case meet­ing a new pet is stress­ful. Al­lo­cate a cer­tain space – a spare bed­room, say – for the new pet to oc­cupy for a time and be­come con­fi­dent in, be­fore giv­ing it the run of more rooms. When your pets are at the stage of be­ing in the same room to­gether, al­low them each a bit of space such as a bed or blan­ket or the top of a cat­climber.

3. Be a sen­si­tive diplo­mat. Su­per­vise things, be pa­tient, be gen­er­ous with treats, use the tool of dis­trac­tion. It’s just like for­eign pol­icy, only with more tummy tick­les.

4. Be aware of the im­por­tance of smells. Your new pet and your old pet need to get use to each other’s scent and you can help this along through us­ing the same brush on them, or oth­er­wise bring­ing the pets’ smell into play be­fore a phys­i­cal in­tro­duc­tion.

5. Use cages and crates – they give you some con­trol. Have the new pet in a cage or crate when first meet­ing the an­i­mals it is to share the house with; the crate can be the new pet’s safe place.

6. Use doors. A door can close off an area for one pet to feel safe in. A glass door can me­di­ate the early meet­ing so the pets can start get­ting used to each other’s pres­ence.

7. Use neu­tral ground. For ex­am­ple, if you’re bring­ing Cat No 2 into the home, first have both it and Cat No 1 stay a few days in the same cat­tery – they’ll get to know each other.

I’m sure you can add to or sharpen th­ese ideas from your own ex­pe­ri­ence. There are count­less suc­cess sto­ries – such as the way my old cat slowly ad­justed to hav­ing one dog, then two dogs, shar­ing his house.

And Kather­ine has up­dated me, a week or two af­ter the fam­ily merger. She re­ports the ‘‘odd hiss or rrreeow, a bit of chasey, and def­i­nitely the odd paw in the face for the dog’’, but the two cats and dog are co-ex­ist­ing ‘‘fairly well’’. ‘‘We have only just started let­ting my cat out­side now, but all in all a suc­cess so far.’’

Love unit­ing: So what hap­pens when two peo­ple merge their lives and their pets? Nick Bar­nett tack­les the is­sue.

STRESS­FUL TIMES: South Waikato SPCA in­spec­tor and cen­tre man­ager opens up about the stress of her job.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.