Welcoming another animal into your home to be part of the family can be a hugely rewarding experience. However it’s a move that needs careful consideration and planning, no matter what type of pet you’re bringing home.
Many of our multi-pet insurance policy holders know this already, but we’ve put together a quick guide to help you make sure no-one gets rubbed the wrong way. We’ve top tips for dogs, cats and rabbits – simply scroll down to find advice for the pet you’re bringing into the family.
Introducing a second dog to your home
Thinking about introducing a new dog to the family? Before you do, you might want to consider what sort of breed would make a good match for your current dog’s personality. For example, a shy dog might come out of its shell more with a confident companion. Or, an older dog might find the seemingly limitless energy of a puppy too annoying. It might help to think about what type of dogs yours gets on with while at the park.
Whatever your choice, you’ll need to keep them apart for at least 24 hours at first. This will help them get used to each other’s scent in the house but allowing enough space to ease the transition. When it’s time to let them bond, do it outside on a long walk. This way they’ll have enough space to get to know each other. It’ll also mean you can safely separate them if you notice any warning signs such as teeth baring, raised hackles, or their ears folding back.
Resource guarding can become an issue when introducing a new dog. That’s a term for territorial behaviour over things like food, space or water that they’re not used to sharing. Resource guarding isn’t always a problem from the start of their introduction but it’s something to watch out for.
How to introduce a puppy to a dog
Wondering how to best socialise your dog with a new puppy? One of the key factors to remember is that puppies don’t yet have boundaries as they may only know their siblings and mother’s company.
They may help themselves to food that isn’t theirs, nip while playing and generally have much more energy than older dogs. This isn’t always an issue but if you do notice they aren’t getting along, having a separate space such as a kennel can help.
How to introduce a cat to a dog
The best way to approach introducing your dog to a cat (or vice versa) is by a well-controlled first meeting. If your dog is the excitable type you might want to put him on a lead. Be sure to keep a close eye out for any body language ‘warning signs’ with both animals.
For your dog these might be fairly obvious: hackles, ears back, growling, baring teeth. Dogs with a high ‘prey drive’ may fixate on the cat, stiffen, as well as bark and/or whine. Some signs your cat is uncomfortable might be that its ears pin back, and its tail is swishing. One tip to bear in mind is that indoor and outdoor behaviour may differ. So be sure to pay close attention to their body language when you first take them outdoors as well. Dogs especially can become much more excitable.
But back to that gradual first meeting. Exposing your dog and cat bit by bit will ease any initial simmering tension. You can even use a baby gate to keep them physically separated, while still able to suss each other out. Once they seem comfortable, they may well be ready to properly share the same space. You’ll need to be on your guard of course (especially with kittens who may not know their play limitations with larger animals).
How to introduce a rabbit to a dog
Rabbits, especially young bunnies can scare easily – particularly when it comes to larger, more confident animals such as dogs. Some, unfortunately, are known to die from shock. Even if your dog doesn’t mean any harm, you’ll need to take a softly approach when introducing a rabbit to a dog.
If you already have a dog who is very established in the home, consider its personality. Do they chase rabbits while out on walks? Are they hard to control on the leash? As with our other animal introductions a gradual approach is the best one. Begin by letting your rabbit stay in its hutch. It’ll feel secure there and can hide if it needs to while your dog has a sniff around outside. You may want to do this a number of times until you’re sure both animals are comfortable.
You could progress to having the rabbit on your lap at eye level with your dog, eventually allowing them to both be in an open space (with your dog on a lead and another set of human hands available if you need to hold them apart).
How to introduce your cat to a new cat
Cats can seem like complicated creatures at times! But when it comes down to it, they just need the same fundamentals as most other animals – having enough food for themselves and their own space.
That’s why introducing a new cat can make your existing one territorial. You can slowly let them get to know each other by allowing your new cat to settle in a separate space. Ideally, this will be a room of their own. A large dog crate will do for a kitten. Then give each cat something of the other’s so they get used to their new companion’s scent, eventually progressing to a brief meeting, maybe through a crack in the door. ‘Scent soakers’ can really help establish territory and quickly let each animal know the lay of the land.
When they’re ready to be properly introduced, be sure to keep things relaxed. If you can, try to have a friend there who can help separate them if necessary. Start by allowing your ‘first’ cat into the new cat’s room and keep careful watch over their behaviour. If all goes well reward them with a treat.
How to introduce a kitten to a cat? Well, you might not have to take such an involved approach when introducing a kitten to an older cat. Yes, they may annoy your older cat with their energetic style of play but generally they won’t be viewed as a threat if there’s a significant age gap.
How to introduce a cat to a rabbit
Cats and rabbits can get on but they’re not always instinctively friendly. Our suggestion for introducing a cat to a rabbit is to allow the smaller (or newer) animal to get used to their new home before to meeting. That means giving your new pet a safe space to retreat to if it all gets too much. This is important for whichever animal is the newcomer as kittens may feel threatened by larger rabbits.
A rabbit cage is perfect for this and will serve as protection once they’re ready for a face-to-face. The last thing you want is any sudden startles, clawing or bites. As with any other pairing, never leave your animals unsupervised unless you’re sure they’re comfortable with each other. This can take a matter of months - so be patient.
Remember, each animal can ‘forget’ their closeness to the other animal when they feel out of their depth or threatened. For example, rabbits that are used to being outside can take some time to transition to an indoor environment and can feel a bit disorientated and vulnerable as a result.
Introducing a rabbit to another rabbit
Great news if you’re introducing a new rabbit to an existing rabbit... they’re naturally social animals. So, in theory, the more the merrier. That said, rabbits that are new to each other should ideally be neutered and introduced gently, as you would with any other combination of animal. As with other species it’s worth matching their personalities. They can also get territorial when there’s not enough food, space or toys to go round. So, make sure they’ve got enough of everything – and neither will feel left out.
Don’t be disappointed if your rabbits ignore each other at first. Although they’re generally friendly and sociable animals, they can sometimes take some time to get properly comfortable. A good sign that they’ve made friends is any nuzzling, sniffing or grooming you notice. Do watch out for scuffling and make sure to separate them if they get irritable (a piece of cardboard should do for a short term fix). Of course, it’s always worth being prepared so rabbit owners might be interested to know that we now offer cover for their long-eared friends.
General tips when introducing animals
The common thread between each of these combinations of animals is taking time to properly consider the chemistry before you decide on a new pet. Not to mention a well-planned, very gradual, safe and carefully observed introduction. If in doubt always consult a professional such as your breeder, a vet or other relevant professional. Good luck!
Unsure what furry friend is right for you? Try our Pawfect Match tool to see what cat or dog might be best suited to your family.
This Money Matters post aims to be informative and engaging. Though it may include tips and information, it does not constitute advice and should not be used as a basis for any financial decisions. Sainsbury's Bank accepts no responsibility for the opinions and views of external contributors and the content of external websites included within this post. Some links may take you to another Sainsbury's Bank page. All information in this post was correct at date of publication.