by Stacey Brecher
Are you considering adding a new pet to your family?
When choosing your new pet, look for traits that you and your other pet will want, says Abbi Collins, adoption manager at the Cat Care Society in Colorado. "Kittens are generally easier to introduce to new pets and new situations; however, pairing an energetic kitten with a sedate senior is likely a recipe for disaster," says Collins. "Try to find a cat with a history of getting along with the species (and maybe breed) you currently have." When in doubt, pick animals of opposite genders -- they are more likely to get along.
The key to introducing your existing cat to a new cat is patience. Collins suggests keeping your cats separated for at least a week to allow them to get used to the smell of each other before they see each other. A little hissing is normal, especially at first. Be sure to have extra litter boxes, food and toys for the new pet to help it acclimate.
If you are bringing home a new dog, begin with scent introduction, and allow your cat time to adjust. "Keep the dog tightly leashed and closely supervised until you are sure the two get along," says Collins. "Don't be afraid to let the cat take a swipe at your dog, since this can teach the dog a valuable lesson about personal space."
Be sure to monitor both pets during the introduction period. If it is hiding from the new pet -- or if it isn't eating or using the litter box -- then your cat could be distressed. You can give your old cat its own area with familiar toys and its own food dish and litter box to make it more comfortable during this transition period, as long as you slowly reintroduce your two pets. The desired acceptance will likely happen over time, and you will see your new and old pet playing, grooming and eating together.