You have adopted a new pet—congratulations! The team at Gentle Touch Animal Hospital wants to help you provide your new furry family member with a wonderful home. Many people have the best intentions for new pets, yet one in 10 return their adopted pet within the first few months. Ensure that your new pet does not become a statistic by following our suggestions.

#1: Take your new pet for a veterinary checkup

The first step in caring for your new pet is to make an appointment with your veterinarian. Bring all of your pet’s paperwork so your veterinarian can establish a health care plan for them. Keep in mind that if a new pet was exposed to an infectious disease before adoption, you may notice problems within the first two weeks such as coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, or a runny nose. Ensure all pets in your household are up to date with their vaccinations and preventive care. Your new pet’s health care plan will include regular physical exams, vaccinations, parasite prevention, and body condition scoring. In addition, the plan will include indicated screening tests to provide the foundation for their health and guidelines for diet and feeding. Toothbrushing, microchipping, and spaying or neutering also will be key to your new pet’s health. 

#2: Prepare your home before a new pet’s arrival

Prepare a separate, quiet, safe space for your new pet with food, water, and bedding. It is helpful to feed them the same food they are accustomed to at first, then gradually switch to a new food. If your new pet is young, it is important to puppy- and kitten-proof your home before their arrival. Keep the new pet area off limits to your current pets before your new pet arrives. Allow your pets to inspect any new pet gear that may be around the house. Having everything in place before your new pet arrives allows you to focus on what’s important.

#3: Plan a gradual pet introduction

First let all your pets get to know each other by scent through a closed door. Then allow your pets to be in the same room while you sit on the floor and hold your new pet in your lap, especially if it is a puppy or kitten. Allow visual interaction first, such as from across the room. Then plan limited interaction times. Keep toys and feeding separate until all of your pets are comfortable around each other. Don’t leave your pets alone with each other until it is clear they get along in all circumstances. If any signs of aggression or fear arise, go back to separation and proceed more slowly with introductions. Gradually invite family members and friends to meet your new pet, but never force an unwanted interaction. Learn to read your pets’ body language, so you can nip anxiety and behavior problems in the bud.

#4: Supervise play with new pet housemates

Pets often exhibit a “honeymoon period” when a new pet arrives. Once they are more comfortable around each other, new behaviors and tendencies may come to the surface. For this reason, be vigilant and continue to monitor your pets’ interaction. The goal is to intercept negative interactions before they escalate. Notice raised hackles and puffed tails, and calmly separate pets before posturing and growling start. The signs of trouble may not be as obvious as fighting. Watch for subtle indications and consult with your veterinarian about the best way to intervene, so problems such as chasing, hiding, and inappropriate elimination don’t become ingrained. Remember to spend plenty of one-on-one time with each of your pets daily. Discover your new pet’s favorite activities. Some prefer to fetch, some to run, and some to “hunt” the goodies in a food puzzle. Be active with your pets, which benefits you both and helps build a strong bond. 

#5: Watch for warning signs with puppies and kittens

Puppies and kittens between 6 and 14 weeks of age are still in the socialization period, which means they are learning how to interact with other pets. Older pets may appear to be annoyed with a young newcomer, when they are actually teaching them “manners.” Supervise their interactions closely. If a young pet comes up to an older pet who then gets up and walks away, the young pet begins to learn not to initiate unwanted interactions. Often, however, the young pet continues to pursue the housemate, sometimes trying to play by jumping on them and tugging at their ears. The older pet may growl or raise their lip at the younger pet. Resist scolding either pet, as these interactions are normal. Ideally, if the young pet still doesn’t get the message, the adult pet will come to you for help. Encourage this behavior—praising the older pet often helps.

Gentle Touch Animal Hospital wants your new pet to mesh seamlessly into their new forever home with you. It is important to be realistic, however. There will be an adjustment period. Bear in mind that some dogs and cats aren’t capable of getting along with other pets, and some have a strong prey drive, which means they won’t mix with pocket pets. Follow our suggestions so your pet won’t become a statistic, but instead will have a 10 out of 10 chance at a successful transition into a wonderful life with you.