Animal lovers often opt for the “potato chip” motto when it comes to adopting pets in that you “can’t stop at just Two Cats Loungingone!” This is good news for all the homeless animals hoping to find their forever families – having multiple pets not only gives you and your family a greater outlet for love and affection, but the right combination can provide companionship and playmates for your pets. Having a buddy or two can keep loneliness at bay, especially if they are home alone while adults are at work or children are at school.

It’s not always easy to introduce a new pet into a home with an existing pet. New and current pets can feel threatened or even show some aggression in order to “stake their territory.” Here are a few tips to help ease the stress so everyone can eventually co-exist in a happy home:

  •  Do some research before bringing a new pet into your household and consider your existing pet to make sure the new pet will be a good match. While you may not be able to truly predict how both pets will react until they are introduced, there are some basic points to consider. For example, introducing a new kitten to a home with a younger cat or kitten might be easier than if the resident cat is 15 and used to being a solitary pet. Or if your current dog is older and calmer, bringing a rambunctious puppy home might not be the best option!
  • The art of maintaining patience cannot be over-emphasized. Sometimes the main issue is that pets simply need some time to adjust, and to adjust slowly. For example, keeping two cats in separate rooms over a period of time is less stressful than setting two cats down right away in the same room.
  • Have pets become familiar with each other’s scent first before they actually see each other. Swap out blankets or sleeping mats if possible and have each pet use the other’s bedding for a day or two. This may make the eventual meeting less threatening.
  • Make sure the existing pet still gets plenty of attention during the transition process. It’s easy to want to spend time cuddling with a new kitten or puppy, but just make sure your other pet doesn’t feel neglected or forgotten!
  • Try to associate any type of interaction between the new and existing pet with positive behaviors or rewards. For example, when you are ready to bring them both into the same room or general area, incorporate feeding time if possible so there is a positive experience. You may find that either or both pets will feel uncomfortable eating right away. This isn’t unusual behavior, again with time and adjustment it should return to normal.
  • Closely monitor the first few interactions when the pets are meeting each other for the first time. Watch for body language (both aggressive and scared) and be ready to separate the pets at any needed moment.
  • Along those lines, over the course of the first few weeks, if possible keep the pets separated during times where no one is home to supervise their interactions. You’ll want to be sure they are fully adjusted before leaving them alone in the same room while you are away.

When in doubt, or if the pets still are not getting along after a month or two, contact your veterinarian or your local shelter for advice and further recommendations. With a little patience and the right amount of planning and care, you can have a wonderful and loving multi-pet home! – Emily Buser

Emily Buser is a public policy and research analyst by day, animal activist by night. She currently lives in Ohio where her two cats have graciously allowed her and her husband to co-exist in their house with them.