Ask the Vet
Dr. Kristine Young of HopeVet Clinic answers your questions on your animal families
My girlfriend and I are planning to move in together. She has two cats, Oscar and Isadora, who have never known dogs, and I have a lab mix, Chloe, who adores everyone! We love our pets more than anything. What’s the best way to introduce them so everyone gets along?
Congratulations on moving in together and also for preparing yourselves to combine your families. The most important thing to remember is to give everyone time to adjust—like Rome, families are not built in a day. Time is critical, but there are a number of things that you can do to encourage integration.
I’m assuming that your respective pets know both of you? If not, that’s the first place to start. You should give Oscar and Isadora as much attention as you can. Let them get to know your voice, your body language, your smells. Pay attention to their body language, their routines, the ways they communicate their needs, how they like to be petted, what treats they like. Your girlfriend should do the same for Chloe.
When you move in together, practice lots of positive reinforcement. Although you will be very excited by this move, remember that change is stressful for pets—especially cats who usually aren’t used to environments other than their own. This means that you both need to have lots of patience, healthy treats, toys, love and encouragement. Usually, dogs are ready to make friends quicker than cats. If you can, keep them in separate rooms for a few days, then begin to introduce them slowly. Decrease tension by doing something casual like watching a movie together. For the first meeting, keep Chloe on a leash and let Oscar and Isadora observe her and begin to move around her. If Chloe wants to romp with them before they are ready, distract her, give her treats, go out for a walk while the cats take a break, and try again.
Every animal is different, but with enough time, love, patience and commitment, I am confident that Oscar, Isadora and Chloe will become the loving family that you hope for. n
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*This column is not a consultation with a veterinarian and should in no way be construed as such or as a substitute for such consultation. Anyone with veterinary issues or concerns should seek the advice of her own veterinarian.