Sticky Situations: Introducing a Pet

Pet introductions serve as a point of tension and caution regardless of an owner’s experience. Whether you’re moving in with a new roommate or adopting a new animal, proper introductions are necessary for peaceful and nonviolent cohabitation. These meetings must be carefully staged and planned; if poorly executed, the animals’ relationship may never recover.

What to do with toys: Toys and belongings play an important role in pet introductions, but they are a tricky variable to predict. Toys and supplies may be considered property or territory by an animal—if introduced to a stressful situation, the animal may lash out. Luckily, there are ways to assuage this potential tension.

If you can secure the other animal’s toys before the introduction, do so. Use this to introduce your pet to the other’s smell and instruct the other pet’s owner to do the same. Introducing a scent is like showing your animal a picture; it prepares for the encounter by priming them with the idea they’ve met before. Furthermore, swapping toys mitigates any feelings of attachment or possession over toys—the mixed scents will confuse ownership, allowing the animals to, after some time, share.

If you cannot secure the other animal’s toys before the introduction, remove all of your pet’s objects from the introduction space. If your pet feels as though his belongings are in danger, he may be uncharacteristically aggressive toward the other animal. Instead, purchase new toys to introduce to the common space. In providing neutral play, the animals can better focus on the introduction. Once the pets are accustomed to each other, reintroduce the old toys.

What to have on-hand: Though introducing pets is highly dependent on the animal’s attitude and disposition, owners can mitigate stress and anxiety with just a handful of useful supplies. Towels and blankets, for example, are incredibly helpful for both introducing scent and restraining a potentially violent dog. If possible, swap the pets’ bedding and blankets prior to the initial meeting. Additionally, if introducing dogs, keep both animals on a tight leash. Utilizing supplies such as a pheromone spray or diffuser can relieve stress, and purchasing new toys for the occasion is always a good idea.