Integrating a Younger Pet With an Older Pet

Shared Resources

One of the main concerns of living with multiple pets is making sure they all get their fair shares of the good stuff: food, toys, treats and, most important, time with you. Chewers should each have their own assortment of Kongs, rope toys or stuffed animals to eviscerate. If you live with Retrievers or other ball-crazy dogs, you’ll need an ample supply of tennis balls.

Feed pets in their crates or in separate areas, so you know that they’re each getting an appropriate amount of food. It’s all too easy for a bigger or younger pet to muscle aside an older one and take his dinner. Or sometimes the opposite happens! I’ve seen a little old dog push a bigger, younger one aside to steal his meal.

With cats, give each one plenty of space and possessions. I always say — and other experts agree — that cat owners should have one litter box per cat, plus one more. So if you have two cats, you need three litter boxes. You should also provide individual food and water dishes, toys and beds. Cats don’t learn to share in kitty-garden.

For many pets, the most important resource is you: your time, your lap, your attention. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring your senior pet as you play with and train your new puppy or kitten. You never want him to feel neglected or forgotten. Give him first dibs on lap time or petting, and don’t let the newcomer shove him aside. Enlist other family members if necessary to help you make sure everyone gets plenty of hands-on attention and play.

Finally, keep in mind that it’s never a good idea to just throw pets together and hope for the best. Making introductions between animals calls for the skills of a diplomat. Take things slowly, make sure you have a way to restrain pets in the event of sudden lunges, and hand out treats liberally when they’re being polite, so they come to associate each other with good things.

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