Q: We just brought home a new kitten, and everything in our household has been turned upside down by his arrival. I thought a kitten would be easy, but both our dog and especially our cat are freaked out by the new baby. Help!
A: You can be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed after bringing home a new pet. Even if you’ve done everything right to integrate your new kitten into the household, new pet stress is inevitable. Be they newborn kittens, breeder-sourced babies, juvenile foundlings or adult rescues, it’s clear that any newbie has the power to wreak havoc on even the most organized household.
Luckily, there are ways to mitigate the stress of bringing home baby. Here’s my checklist of to-dos so you’re as prepared as possible to handle the onslaught of new pet craziness:
▪ Consider taking in a pet when your household is as stable as possible (never take on a new pet at the beginning of the school year, for example). Vacation time is an excellent time to take in a newbie.
▪ Make your first vet appointment very soon after you bring baby home and be sure to bring a list of important topics to cover. This way you get as much veterinary advice as possible early on.
▪ Ask the vet, breeder, rescue or shelter for advice on what to have on hand ahead of time so you’re not scrambling at the pet supply store with a new pet dangling from your arm.
▪ For cats in particular, consider that integrating them into the household requires a prudent period of physical separation and gradual introduction. Multiple litterboxes and separate feeding spaces are extremely helpful. Cats are so territorial that this period may take several weeks or even months in some cases. You may even find that some cats will never warm up to each other.
▪ Similarly, dogs and cats may not mix. But that typically depends on the dog’s attitude toward cats. Kittens, especially, can be surprisingly tolerant of dogs –– that is, as long as they’re not aggressive.
▪ For introducing dogs to dogs, the issue is typically far simpler as long as neither dog suffers from a tendency to display severe inter-dog aggression.
▪ Younger pets tend to mesh more readily. Older ones may be more resistant.
▪ Enlist a credentialed pet behaviorist or trainer if any aggression is evident.
▪ Have patience! Knowing you’ll need it is half the battle. Good luck!
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.