The more, the merrier, right?
Pets bring so much joy to our lives. It’s easy to assume (or hope) that more pets = more happiness. But the truth is, whether or not to get another pet depends on your specific circumstances. So before you take the plunge, consider how the new addition will affect you, your family, and your current pet.
Are you ready for another pet?
First things first: make sure everyone in the home is on board with the decision to get another pet and understands the role they’ll play in providing care. Getting another pet won’t necessarily double the time needed for caregiving duties—for example, you can likely walk two dogs together once everyone is comfortable—but it will add to the family’s daily workload. You’ll need more time for feeding, grooming, picking up poop, or cleaning litter boxes. And, even if you all enjoy spending time together, you’ll want to make sure there’s time to give each pet individual attention.
Keep in mind that activities that are fun and manageable with one pet may be more difficult with two. If you take your pup with you to work, on outings, and vacations, imagine what those experiences will be like with two dogs. Is there room in the car to comfortably fit everyone? Does your office allow you to bring multiple pets?
There are also financial implications to consider. Another pet means more food and supplies, more toys, and more veterinary care. Think through all of the known costs—and assume some unexpected ones as well—to make sure there’s room in your budget before committing to a lifetime of care.
And lastly, if you rent your home, check your lease and verify that your landlord is okay with additional pets.
Will your current pet enjoy (or at least tolerate) a new buddy?
Is your pet social with other animals, or do they prefer to do their own thing? Do they get possessive of their food, toys, or their people’s attention? Your pets don’t have to be best friends (even though that is the ultimate dream), but you should be reasonably sure that your current pet won’t mind sharing space with another four-legged family member.
Next, think about your pet’s personality and activity level. For example, if you have an older dog, he may not appreciate a young pup crawling all over him. Or if you have a cat that likes to keep to herself, getting a Border Collie that will attempt to herd her every time she crosses the room probably won’t be fun for her. In other words, even if adding a second pet is generally a good idea, it’s important to try to pick one that will be the best fit for your current four-legged family members.
Tips for introducing a new pet to the household
If you’ve decided to welcome another pet to the family, it’s important to start the relationship off on the right foot. While meeting your new pet may have been love at first sight for you, your current pet may not feel the same. Anytime there’s a significant change in the home, it’s an adjustment. Follow these tips to set the situation up for success.
- Take it slow. It’s best to introduce dogs in a neutral territory before bringing them home together. Keep them on leashes and let them sniff each other for short periods.
When introducing dogs and cats, put them in separate rooms and let them get used to each other’s scents. When they’re ready to be in a room together, consider having your pup on a leash so you have more control over the meeting.
When bringing two cats together, go even slower. To help reduce stress, consider using a pheromone spray or diffuser such as Feliway®. Give each cat a designated room with blankets or towels that they can snuggle. After a few hours, swap the blankets in their rooms (thus swapping scents as well). The next day, swap their food dishes. You can even try feeding the cats on opposite sides of a closed door so they associate something pleasant (eating!!) with their new feline friend. Start by putting the food bowls a few feet from the door and move them closer to the door each day. Once they’re used to each other’s scent, allow them to see each other through a baby gate or glass door. If they can do this without hissing or growling, they can try meeting face-to-face.
In all cases, watch their reactions and praise them for good behavior. And most importantly, don’t leave pets alone together until you’re sure they’re comfortable together.
- Pay attention to body language. Familiarize yourself with common dog and cat body language so you can recognize signs that one or both of your pets is feeling nervous, fearful, playful, etc. Knowing how your pets are reacting to each other will help you determine how fast or slow to take things and how closely you need to monitor their time together.
- Give everyone space. To help avoid conflicts, give pets their own food dish, bed, and toys. It’s best not to test their willingness to share right out of the gate. Each pet should also have a quiet, safe space to retreat if they need time alone to decompress.
- Be patient. Sometimes, a new pet will slip seamlessly into the family. But often, it takes time for everyone to adjust and feel comfortable. Don’t worry. It will be worth the wait.
- Ask for help. Don’t be shy about getting advice from a veterinarian, animal behaviorist, or certified pet trainer if you hit a bump in the road. They’re there to help you navigate any challenges as you all get used to your new life together.