New Year, New Pet: 5 Steps for a Happy Transition


New Year, New Pet:

5 Steps for a Happy Transition

By Ashlee Verba


With Christmas behind us and 2018 coming to a close, you may have recently welcomed (or been thinking of welcoming) a new pet to your household, which is a very exciting way to start the new year. But if you think bringing a new animal home is as easy as adopting it and bringing it through the door, you’re unfortunately mistaken. Whether you’re a first-time pet owner or welcoming a new addition to your existing brood, here are five necessary steps toward preparing yourself and your household for a new year with a new pet.


Step 1: Research

Thank goodness for the internet! If you’re considering a new pet, hop online and research the best breed for your lifestyle. It’s important to consider things like how big they’ll get, their temperament and energy levels, food intake, grooming needs, and common health issues. If you’ve already gotten the new addition, conduct the same research specific to their respective breed (or breeds, if they’re mixed) so you know how best to prepare for a life together. Be realistic in what you’re able to provide for the animal and know that it’s ok to take your time in finding what you want.


Step 2: Prepare

Once you’ve found the perfect new addition for your household, it’s time to prep the space and buy what’s needed. Of course, there are the usual things like bowls, a bed and a leash or litter box, but you’ll likely need a few more things.  You don’t need to go overboard, but a few chew or scratch toys should be there upon arrival to help your pet learn what’s theirs and avoid nuisance destruction. If you’ll be crate training, have the appropriate-sized crate waiting for them and begin training their first night home, for consistency. You may also need to prepare a meeting space for existing animals, be it a separate room or outdoor space (see step 3 for more introduction tips). And, of course, prep your new buddy with the necessary vaccines before exposing them to your existing brood.



Step 3: Introducing New Pets

If you already have a pet and are brining a new little friend into its world, it can be nerve-wracking.  As long as your current animals don’t have a history of serious aggression, it’s totally doable. The most important thing to do is remain calm.


There are a few ways you can accomplish the meet and greet. One option is to bring your existing animal(s) to the shelter prior to adoption to see how they get along, which avoids the heartbreak of bringing the new pet home only to learn it won’t work. This option can be stressful for your current pet(s), as they are out of their element and surrounded by new smells and unknown barking dogs, so you may not get the same results you would if they were in a less taxing environment.


The second, and most commonly recommended way, is to introduce the new buddies on neutral territory, like a park, and let them get to know each other the best way dogs know how: sniffing and chasing. Keep the leashes handy in case you need to intervene but, so long as the space is enclosed, it’s best to allow an off-leash introduction, as leashes can sometimes amplify pets’ anxiety. As an added bonus, this also burns excess energy so that everyone’s not wound up upon arriving home where the real coexisting starts.


The third way, which is likely best for introducing a new cat, is to designate a space for your existing animal and allow the new pet to roam the home and get acquainted. Once that happens, switch the pets’ spaces so that they can essentially sniff each other out. It’s recommended to let the animals see one another prior to meeting, either through the back door or a baby gate, but it’s up to you, as that will depend a lot on your current pet’s temperament and excitability. The most important thing with this method is to be present and proactive; don’t allow any aggression or bullying from either side and let your pets know you’re there for them by soothing them as best you can.


Step 4: Training

Just like parenting children, training your pet educates them and helps them to be more confident and amicable companions while also enhancing your bond. For cats, training may only go as far as establishing boundaries of where they are allowed and where they’re not, such as kitchen counters and tabletops, but if you’ve got an apt kitty on your hands, train away! (You can even toilet train a cat, for those who loathe the litter box.) For dogs, common commands such as sit, stay, wait and come should be practiced regularly; not only will it reiterate your role as pack leader but it makes your life easier to have a well-behaved pet. It could even save their life in certain situations. Training, of course, can go much further than sit and stay, but it’s certainly recommended to practice the fundamentals regularly. Always remember: the trick to effective training is treats!


Step 5: Managing Expectations

Bringing a new pet home can be hard. If things don’t go exactly as you imagined (and, let’s be honest, they likely won’t), it’s hard to stay positive and think things will change for the better. Sometimes it can take months for the sand to settle and pets to peacefully coexist, so be patient with yourself and your animals, as everyone is acclimating to the new presence. The best thing to do is to be present and diligent in establishing acceptable behaviors.


It’s also important to know that, while utterly adorable, young animals pose their own set of challenges. If you’ve never raised a puppy or kitten before, be prepared for biting, chewing, scratching, peeing and endless energy at seemingly inconvenient times (here’s looking at you, sunrise.) It can be especially hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel with young pets. It’s easy to think they’ll never grow out of these horrible habits, but with the right combination of love, training, and consistency, your young animal will turn into a tailor-made companion who only has eyes for you.


There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to bringing a new pet home, especially with existing animals, so modify these steps to fit your situation and do what’s best for your household. Remember to be patient and present, and that things will likely change with consistency and time. Here’s to a wonderful 2019 filled with a whole lot of four-legged love!