My Meridian Star Column: Introducing New Pets

I write a weekly Pet Column for my local newspaper, The Meridian Star. This week's topic: How to introduce your new pet to your existing family pets. I get a lot of questions about this subject, so I hope this info helps!

Furry Friends… Or Enemies
By: Ashley Owen Hill, guest columnist
Introducing a new dog or cat to your current pets is not always easy. In your head, you picture a fun meet-and-greet, full of laughter and joy. In reality, this introduction often becomes a chaos-filled, fur-flying, blood bath. Well now, that went worse than expected…

So why does this happen? Animals can be very territorial over their homes and families, especially when they’ve never had to share. Your current pet will likely see the new guy as a threat, and may try to dominate by saying, “Step off, buddy. I’ve put in years at this joint.”

Dominance is a natural part of the canine and feline worlds. Animals feel the need to assert a claim over their territory and establish themselves as the ‘top dog’ (or cat). Pets may often attempt to achieve their ranking through physical and mental dominance of another. I think we all know people like this as well…

Dominating behavior is especially true for pets of the same sex. In their natural order, males are inherently more dominant (or higher ranking) than females. But within the same sex, animals try to establish a ranking order by showing the other who’s boss.

When bringing home a new pet, the right approach must be used. If possible, introduce your pets on neutral ground, so the existing pet feels no sense of ownership over the space. For dogs, try taking them on a leashed walk together. It’s important to keep them focused on enjoying the walk, rather than on killing each other. You can allow them to sniff, but correct them if growling begins. If one or both pets have exhibited aggressive behaviors in the past, muzzles may be needed in the early stages to protect everyone involved.

Back at home, temporarily confine existing pets to one area, while allowing the adopted pet to check out their new digs. This is essential in making the new pet feel comfortable with their surroundings and keeping them safe from any attacks as they explore this strange new world.

When introducing dogs and cats, confine the cat to a pet carrier, place your dog on a leash, and allow the dog to approach the kitty’s crate. If your pup becomes overly excited or aggressive, correct him with the leash. Give praise for calm behavior and friendly interest. When they’ve accepted each other, try supervised visits, but ensure that the cat has a safe place to hide if things get hairy.

Don’t force things. Allow your pets to adjust at their own pace. Give praise for friendly behavior, and correct when they get snippy. Until your pets are BFFs, do not leave them together unsupervised. Even after they start feeling the love, it may still be a good idea to keep them separated while you are away.

Inviting a new pet into your home can bring joy… or limb-loss. The outcome depends on how you handle it.  Start things off on the right paw, and everyone’s limbs should remain intact.

Ashley Owen Hill is the owner of Lucky Dog Retreat, 8659 Hillview Dr, Meridian. Email her at Ashley@luckydogretreatmeridian.com. Follow her blog at www.luckydogrescueblog.blogspot.com or www.facebook.com/luckydogrescueblog.


  1. This is the first time i have ever seen anyone write about this issue and it is a very important issue that ALL pet owners need to understand as the effects of doing these introductions incorrectly can last a lifetime. Good work Missy!

  2. Very good suggestions. I have multiple new dogs coming and going here at sanctuary as you do in your rescue. Someone once suggested when you introduce two new dogs, the opposite person hold the leash i.e. I would hold the leash on the new or visiting dog and the potential adopter would hold the leash on the dog to be adopted....this way the dog who knows me knows I am ok with the new dog. Neutral territory is crucial - so many people forget that. Silverwalk is part of Safe Harbor, which has over 200 cats. If an adopter wants a dog "cat-scanned," I take them to Safe Harbor and walk them first outside, then inside; if they seem ok, we go into the free roam area. Most of the cats are accustomed to small dogs and puppies running around...it is a good test. Thanks for all the work and sharing you do!

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