Thinking of bringing a second pet into your home? There are a number of things to consider if you want to make the transition a smooth one.
Much like parents worry that an only child might be lonely growing up without a sibling, many pet owners share the same concerns about their animals. But is getting a second pet the right answer?
Not necessarily, according to experts.
“There have not been any controlled studies to look at this issue since there is so much individual variation between dog personalities,” says Duffy Jones, DVM, founder of Peachtree Hills Animal Hospital in Atlanta. “Many dogs do great with having another dog around, and some are perfect being the only dog. It really depends on your particular dog and that dog’s personality and also its previous history — for example, if the dog has always had other dogs around or if it has been traumatized by another dog.”
Keep this in mind: There are other ways to get your pet to exercise and socialize besides bringing a second animal into your household. Dogs have many options, ranging from puppy classes and obedience training to dog parks, doggie playgroups, and even doggie daycare.
Cat owners can encourage activity by using toys to play with their pet at least 10 minutes (and ideally more) a day. This interaction not only helps with weight maintenance, but it can also assist in keeping their minds active, says Timnah Lee, DVM, an associate veterinarian at Tribeca Soho Animal Hospital in New York City.
What to Consider Before Bringing a Second Pet Home
There are a number of things to consider before adding a second pet to your household, whether it’s a dog and cat or two animals from the same species. “If you are interested in bringing a dog into a cat household or vice versa and adopt them from a shelter or a rescue, make sure they are cat- or dog-friendly before you bring them home,” advises Dr. Lee. “If you are planning to bring a cat into a cat household or a dog into a dog household, make sure you are ready for the commitment of two pets. That means two dogs on the leash, more litter boxes, more food, more vet bills, etc.”
In addition, consider a younger animal — puppies and kittens are often more adaptable. Introducing a new animal can also be easier when they are spayed or neutered. Ultimately there are no hard and fast rules, so be prepared for some trial and error.
Introducing the New Addition to the Family
Pet training before bringing in a new animal is crucial, says Dr. Jones, or the second pet will most likely make things worse. Also, be sure both animals are healthy and don’t carry any illnesses that could infect the other.
When it comes to the actual meeting, take your time. “Slow introductions are best for bringing a new animal into a house,” says Kenneth Porte, DVM, owner of Tri City Veterinary Clinic in Vista, Ca. “Initially, smelling each other under the door, then seeing each other in a neutral location, and finally supervised interaction.” Limit the time they are together at first, starting with 15-minute increments, and never leave the animals alone.
Finally, be sure each animal has its own food bowl — especially if you are bringing a dog and cat together — and sleeping area. Cats should also have their own personal litter boxes.