Part 1: Other Animals
It can be a challenge meeting someone new at the best of times. But after 18 months of a global
pandemic that has completely changed the norms of society, socializing is a different beast for all of us –
and arguably more important than ever.
Those guidelines are pertinent to our beloved animal friends. The fortunate part is that dogs and cats are
unaware there’s a pandemic happening, so how they are introduced and interact with each other
shouldn’t really change.
There has been a huge influx of pets going to new homes during the pandemic. An intelligent owner can
make those socialization transitions with other pets easier by being prepared when the newcomer meets
another animal, whether that’s in their own household or out in public.
“Get yourself educated so you know what to expect,” says Dr. Dawn Spangler, a veterinarian, and
Associate Professor teaching clinical skills and shelter medicine at Lincoln Memorial University in
Harrogate, Tennessee. “You don’t just go to a pet store and buy a $3,000 Golden Doodle, bring it home
and say, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ Because I know people who do that.
“Before you make a decision to get a pet, start by consulting with a veterinarian and ask some specific
questions about health and behaviour, while also researching the specific breed you plan on owning.”
After your initial work is done and you’re ready to bring a new furry loved one home, consider the
following tips to ensure a smoother transition and positive experience. Most animals will take about
three weeks to adapt to their new surroundings and playmates. So be patient!
A New Leash on Life
Dr. Spangler says it’s never a good idea to just throw a couple of stranger dogs together and expect it to
go well. Introduce them on a leash. It gives the humans control, so the dogs don’t jump and hurt each
After the initial contact, look for signs that it’s going swimmingly.
“We want to see wiggly butts or them smelling each other and going around in circles,” says Dr. Spangler,
a veteran when it comes to having a multiple-pet home.
Treat them well
Having treats on hand is an important part of the socialization process. Dr. Spangler says that when one
pet meets another, a yummy reward can shape how they view each other.
“If you have your two dogs on leashes and they’re looking at each other, give them some treats,” she
says. “That way, they associate looking at the other dog as a positive thing. Use a high-value treat,
something really tasty and smelly rather than dry kibble. It can change that emotional response from
negative to a positive one.”
Do Not (Initially) Disturb
There’s been a lot of dog talk so far, but cats are important, too! Sure, they’re less dependent than
doggies, though cats can certainly be fickle in the presence of other animals. Dr. Spangler has a hard
time saying no when an animal needs a home. She has had several cats in her house at one time (not
always recommended) and knows what’s required to get them all on the same page. That process begins
with a little privacy.
“I always recommend to clients that a new cat should have its own room with a litter box and food,” says
Dr. Spangler. “I let them smell each other underneath the door at first. Then it’s good to swap them out
so that they can explore each other’s environment. Do that a few times before you just throw them
together so that at least they know something else is in the house. They will get to know those new
scents and aromas.
“There could still be some hair-raising stuff when they meet but it won’t be a complete surprise.”
Dr. Spangler says similar rules should apply when a cat and dog are introduced. Let them sniff each other
through a door and when it’s time for the cat to explore, crating the dog isn’t a bad idea. Any initial
contact should be well supervised so the dog, especially if it’s a big one, doesn’t hurt the cat.
“Monitor body language and give treats so again, they associate it with a good experience,” she says.
“Within a day or two, you will know if they are going to get along. If the dog is growling and the cat is
hissing or hiding, they’re struggling.”
Exercise plays a significant role in acclimating pets.
“The reason you play with animals and engage them is to wear them out physically and mentally,” says
Dr. Spangler. “That’s going to help reduce stress when you put an animal in a new situation. It can help
them acclimate better.”
With dogs, that can mean lots of walks and fetching. And for cats, scratch posts, toys, and interactive
feeding machines that require a little work for a treat can go a long way to keeping them busy.