Me: “What should I write about today? How vet care is expensive or integrating animals?”
Turtle: “Write about integrating animals! And how it’s not that different from integrating family!”
Me: “Uh, yeah, except I think they generally frown on locking your family in one room for a week.”
Good morning, folks! Raise your hand if you have more than one pet at home. And by raise your hand, I mean leave me a comment, preferably linking to an adorable picture of your animals. Thanks.
Today’s topic, which I am an expert on, is integrating your animals. The reason I am an expert is 1. I work at an animal hospital, and I have worked in veterinary medicine for over 10 years now, so I know what I’m talking about, and 2. I have a household of animals, and we all live quietly, and peacefully. You can often find the cats cuddling together on the bed while the dog and kitten sleep peacefully at our feet.
I just made myself laugh out loud. That last part is completely untrue.
Here’s the thing about integrating animals: some people are lucky and bring together two cats that end up loving each other; many people are not lucky. What I want to tell you about is less, “Here’s absolutely how you should do it and it will definitely turn out well,” and more, “Here are some tips so that you all retain at least a portion of your sanity, neurotic cat probably included.” Most of these are thoughts I have on mixing dogs and cats; I think if you’re blending a two-dog family it’s all a little different.
First, introductions: introductions should happen slowly and over at least a week or so. Give a new cat one room that she can stay in, and where she has everything she needs (food, litter, bed). The bathroom is NOT big enough to serve this purpose; usually a bedroom works well. Every so often during the week, swap your animals, so that Newbie gets the run of the house while EstablishedAnimal (EA) hangs out in the room, and they can get used to each other’s smells. Sometimes it helps to feed them in the other area so that something good is happening and associated with the scent of the other animal.
The next step here is sort of personal preference: one of our clients had really good luck putting a screen door up in her bedroom so her cats could meet through the screen door. Generally, our family is not equipped for that, so we just throw them together and trust the cats to put everyone else in their place. Cats should always be in charge.
Second, give each pet their own space. They need to know that there is a place that they are safe from the other pets. Right now, we have a crate for Truman (the kitten) where he stays for a portion of the day; that’s the time of the day when Piper can come out of hiding. We also don’t let Daphne in half the house, so the cats know that they can be in the other half of the house. It was actually the easiest thing we ever taught Daphne – we just walk toward her while saying “Get out!” and stop walking when she crossed the door threshold. Now that she learns it, she will sit right at the threshold waiting for us. Smart pup.
Oh, and remember that sentence up there where I talked about our cats cuddling and dog and kitten sleeping at our feet? Well, the real story is more like, “And then our cats were swatting at each other while the dog chased the kitten around the room and then the kitten jumped on Piper who screamed like she was being murdered and then the dog barked and Jake ran up and hit her on the head.” Far from peaceful, but usually entertaining, if a little nutty. And the moral of that story? Third, keep your fingers crossed and your camera handy.
Finally, remember that cats and dogs speak opposite languages. Example: a dog lifting its paw is trying to play; a cat lifting its paw is trying to claw your eyes out. Example 2: a dog wagging its tail is happy and wants to play; a cat wagging its tail is plotting your demise.
And because I took lots of videos of our cats and dog, I bring you an integration montage:
If you have more than one animal, how did your introductions go? Are you one of the families whose pets are definitely not best friends, or did they take to each other immediately?
Addendum: as I write this, the dog is wrestling with the kitten on my feet, and then the kitten is taking a break to chase the cats around the house, and the cats are running while hissing, which makes for pretty good entertainment. Folks, it often is a good idea to put a kitten down for a nap. Not only does he need it, we all need it.