Adding a New Pet to the Home
Something funny happened last week. In talking with a client after finishing her pet’s exam, we got to talking about my family of pets…currently numbered at 2 dogs, 3 cats, 2 horses, and 1 rat. She asked if we were starting a farm and if we were planning on adding another pet to the house. She was also thinking about starting a farm and had a bunch of questions on her mind such as “Are slow feeders bad for horses’ teeth?” and if there were any unexpected costs involved in starting off. I’m just waiting for her to say she wants an aviary and something like a cape parrot (super-interesting bird, you can find out more about them at https://petvblog.com/cape-parrot/) outside. In the end, I told her I’m not adding another pet to the house, but boy was I wrong!
That night on my deck, I saw the domestic rabbit that had been loose in our yard or the neighbor’s for the past 2 weeks. We suspected this bunny had gotten loose or dumped and had been trying to catch it. Long story short, we caught this scared rabbit and took her (yes, we checked!) into our home for the night. We had checked with our neighbors and the Kingston Community Lost Pets forum but nobody has yet to claim her as their own. Even after the first hour of her being in my home, my wife was convinced that we should add her to our family.
Henrietta is the third animal to join our family in 7 months after Sherman the rat and Rudy, our younger dog. Not surprisingly, adding all these pets wasn’t an easy transition for the people or the pets. There are pitfalls that can occur and other aspects that need to be considered when deciding to bring a new pet into the family.
How will the pets get along (if there are others)?
I think this is probably a larger issue for the already established residents in the home. They have a routine and a new pet might mess that up. Cats & dogs may become destructive eating furniture, soiling in the house, or act out of sorts (changes in appetite, less social behavior). When we adopted Rudy, we had some concerns over whether or not Rudy was going to eat our cat Louie. As he was a rescue dog, we didn’t know how he would be with cats and those kitties are fast!! So naturally, Rudy took chase. Fortunately, we did not experience any other issues. I suggest a slow introduction of the pets. New cats can be kept in the bathroom for a few days to allow scents to be traded but it’s also good to monitor for any signs of infectious disease. New dogs can be kept on leash and sit with you. It’s helpful to have one person per dog for introductions so that fights can be avoided. For dogs, consider meeting at a neutral site so that you can minimize territorial issues. It’s best to not leave pets alone with the new pet as you won’t be able to monitor or control any scuffles that take place.
How will your new pet fit in to the routine?
Even if your pet is the first pet at home, there are some challenges that can be faced; maybe even more so if they are older or from a rescue situation. Younger pets may experience some separation anxiety when you leave home. Others will find their way into your bed instead of their own. Rescue pets may have some habits that you find endearing but others that are frustrating to home life. Crate training is highly recommended to give your new pet a safe place to stay when you’re not home and a place of their own. This ensures they have a space where they can have time away from the other pets. It’s important to spend time with a new pet in order to bond but it’s just as important to let them have some alone time to establish independence. This is key time to re-bond with your other pets so they do not feel forgotten. Feeding time can be another issue. Are your current pet(s) meal fed or free fed? Free feeding can not only lead to obesity but in an environment with multiple pets can lead to potential fights or food aggression if they feel resources are limited. For this reason (and many others), I always recommend meal feeding in separate locations.
Who is caring for the new pet?
If you live on your own, this is a no-brainer. It’s when you have a family involved that things get more complicated. Are your kids begging for a pet? But are they truly old enough and are they going to be the ones responsible for walking or cleaning the litterbox? Setting guidelines before you add a new pet is important as no matter what happens, that animal is dependent on others for it’s care. Deciding on socialization or training classes is also important to help avoid unwanted behaviors. Back to the feeding point; let’s make sure that multiple people aren’t feeding pets and over doing it…your pets most likely won’t admit they’ve already had dinner!
Are costs being considered?
Admit it…aside from giving a cute animal a loving home, you want to spoil them. Aside from the typical care costs of food, collar, or litterbox, there are toys, beds, treats, etc. Another aspect when considering care is preparing for veterinary costs. For kittens & puppies, this can include their initial vaccine series and spaying/neutering. For senior pets, this might involve semi-annual exams, wellness blood tests, or special needs medications. It’s also important to prepare for emergencies. Animals eat strange things. Sometimes they fight with each other and sometimes injuries happen during playtime. Nobody wants accidents to happen but they do. I implore you, be ready to care for your pets and if this will be immensely difficult financially then consider waiting until the time is better.
What about non-traditional pets?
For some people, cats and dogs just don’t do it. Many other types of animals have become pets over the years including snakes, various lizards, birds, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, and rats to name a few. All of these animals are quite different not just in appearance but also in terms of body systems and the care required to keep them healthy. Many of these exotic pets who present to the veterinary clinic have problems that can be avoided with proper husbandry or care. Too often, these pets are bought or adopted without proper research beforehand with regards to diet, housing, and environmental enrichment.
It’s a big commitment to expand your family. Take some time to prepare beforehand and it can make life that much better for everyone involved. Are you growing your pet family soon? Do you have anything to add from past experience? Let us know in the comments!
Disclaimer: All blog posts may contain opinions which do not reflect those of my current or any former employers.