There are special challenges when introducing a puppy, kitten, or any young animal into an existing animal family. Every circumstance is unique and requires individualized solutions, and there are two recent client consultations which we can use as general examples.
A cat family is ready for a new kitty companion. The existing cats have been consulted before and during each foster experience which has helped the human to know what characteristics are most likely to work for all. Both existing cats have preferences: the younger of the two wants to be adored and in charge of the new addition; the elder prefers a female and needs his space. So now the human knows to focus more on female kittens, but how to assess if the kitten is capable of adoration of one and respect of the other? One of the existing cats has agreed to give a signal to his human when she returns from a kitten meet-and-greet. He’ll be able to pick up on scent and assess the kitten’s energy through his human. The human trusts her adult kitty and is grateful for his assistance.
A dog family has introduced a puppy to their two existing adult dogs with mixed results. The now “middle child” wants to get along with both, but seems to believe this will offend his existing companion. The other existing dog is feeling a bit put out and not appreciative of all the time the humans need to spend with the puppy. The family dynamic has shifted and this simply is not okay with her! After explanation and reassurance to both existing dogs that their place in the family has not changed, the family will be more conscious of spending individualized time with each dog in turn. Additionally, they will give supervised play time to the puppy and the middle child-dog separately when the offended one is out for a walk.
Whether the existing animals are feeling left out with less attention from their humans, are overwhelmed with all that never-ending youngster energy, and even for those who are thrilled with a new playmate/companion – reassurance of the existing animal’s place in the family is always helpful. Follow that up with the expectation that the routine and family dynamic WILL stabilize and become more predictable in time, and you are well on your way to a harmonious and happy animal family!