Tips for a New Pet

August 21, 2018

Your four-legged bundle of joy: Best practices for bringing home a new pet

By Kassie Olmsted

The joy of bringing home a new pet is one of life’s most magical moments!   To help you along this journey of bringing a  new  furry family member into your home, we’ve gathered some tips to help make it positive and memorable.

“The most important tip to remember when bringing your new pet home is ‘time.’ You need to give your new pet, and any other pets in the home, time to acclimate to this huge change in their life,” said Natalie Smith, Director of Animal Welfare at Kitsap Humane Society.


It takes a cat several weeks to become fully acclimated to his or her new home life. During this time, introduce your cat to its new environment slowly. Give your new cat a safe place away from resident pets, with one room to explore. After a few days, once it is comfortable, allow it in another area of the home.

“Slowly increase your cat’s territory over several weeks until it is fully comfortable in its new home,” Smith said. “If your cat is shy or fearful, it may need more time to settle in to each space before exploring other areas of the house.”
When bringing a new cat home to meet your other pets, it’s imperative to make the introduction very slowly using these tips:

Confinement. Confine your new cat to one medium-sized room with his/her litter box, food, water, and a bed. Feed your resident pets and the newcomer on each side of the door to this room. This will help all of them to associate something enjoyable (eating!) with the other’s smells.

Swap scents and switch living areas. Switch sleeping blankets or beds between your new cat and your resident animals, so they have a chance to become accustomed to each other’s scents. After your new cat is using her litter box and eating regularly while confined, let her have free time in the house while confining your other animals to the new cat’s room.

Contact Stage. Begin short, supervised meetings through a barrier, such as a baby gate. Gradually increase the time the animals are allowed to interact, based on their behavior. If meets are going well, you can begin supervised meetings without a barrier. Have resident pets meet your new cat one at a time so the new cat isn’t overwhelmed. Cats should be allowed to roam freely (do not hold or retrain them) and should have an escape route to run away if frightened (such as out of the room or up a cat tree). Dogs should be kept on leash.
Avoid fearful and aggressive meetings. Avoid any interactions between your pets that result in either fearful or aggressive behavior. If these responses are allowed to become a habit, they can be difficult to change. It’s better to introduce your pets to each other gradually so that neither animal becomes afraid or aggressive.

Bringing home a new dog can be both an exciting and a stressful event. As excited as you might be to show off your new family member to the rest of your friends and family, it is best to keep the first few weeks calm and uneventful for your dog.

“On average, it takes a dog three to six months to become fully acclimated to life in a new home,” Smith said. “It will take time for you and your dog to adjust to life together. Some dogs may not have been in a home before and they will need patience and understanding.”

When introducing your newcomer to your dog at home keep an eye on the two dogs and manage their time together the first few weeks. Dogs build relationships similarly to people – it takes time. Over the first few weeks they are home together, give them plenty of time apart but also let them spend time together. Separate them for feeding time and when you are not home and therefore cannot monitor them. Times of high excitement – like when someone else is coming home – is also a good time to keep them apart while they work on building a relationship. However, let them spend time together as well so they get to know one another.
If you have cats in the home, please keep your new dog separated from the cats for several days, at least. Let your new dog settle into home life with you. Then, let your dog start seeing the cat (like through a baby gate or fence) and slowly get used to its presence.

We hope these tips will help you make the most of your experience of bringing home a new best friend. Here’s to a happy life and many years of love and companionship!