Animal Adoption: Introducing New Animals

Introducing New Animals

Roommates can be tricky things. I’ve had rather good luck with them in my life. I recently got back in touch with one of my old roommates and we chatted about what we have been up to and looked back on shared laughs.

Her words were, “Man, life was a trip back then.”

I couldn’t agree more. We had our share of angst, but we had a pretty good time while we were going through it.

Nothing at all like that move from years ago, “Single White Female.” Man, did you see that flick? Crazy stuff. Now every time I see a stiletto heel, I think of the dude from “Wings” who had one shoved in his eye. Just watch the movie. I guarantee you will never place an ad for a roommate in the paper again. Yikes.

I’m certain many folks out there have interesting tales of roommates from the animal kingdom.

Some people have more than one pet in their home and therefore have to be certain that not only all the humans in the home are okay, but all the animals have to get along as well.  

I was reminded this morning of the importance of introducing animals before taking them home.

READ: CVAS pets of the week: Meet Vespa and Mako

Introducing new animals to potential new roommates

At the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter, we strongly recommend bringing animals that will be sharing a home into the shelter to meet any prospective new family members. In other words, if you have a dog at home and are looking to adopt another canine, we would like the two to meet on neutral territory (that being our bonding room or outside run) to be sure they will get along.

I have heard tales of the sweetest pets not taking well at all to another animal. And by “not taking well,” I mean refusing to ever allow that animal within two feet of them. Seriously. We have a surprising number of animals at the shelter – both cats and dogs – who simply cannot stand other animals.

Sometimes all you need to do is carry a cat past the cages where other cats are resting and the cat in your arms will hiss and spit. I will typically say to the cat, “Give me a break, you nut, the other cats are just sleeping.”

But that’s how much some animals just don’t like their own kind.

Dogs can be even worse. And sometimes much scarier. Bared teeth and snarls, even through a cage, can be freaky when you first witness it.

Therefore, it’s quite critical to introduce two dogs (especially with or near people who know how to handle a situation that could get slightly out of control) before throwing them into your living room.

What we do at CVAS

We actually have a procedure we go through to introduce new animals. It involves taking the dogs on leashes outside the building. First, it’s a good idea just to take them on a walk together so they get used to each other’s presence. As you walk, watch for the signs of tail wagging or upright tails. Those are usually good signals and typically mean the dogs are OK with each other. Raised hackles, tucked tails and growling are not a good signs.

If possible, allow the canines to perform the sometimes-required sniff of each other’s posteriors. What can I say? They really can’t just shake hands. It’s good to allow the dog you feel is more dominant to take the first whiff. 

After that, if the situation still seems relatively harmless, try taking the animals into a fenced in area and drop one of the leashes (probably the one least interested in the other dog). Then as long as there are no signs of aggression, drop the second dog’s leash, but keep a close eye on the two to be certain order is maintained.

Never actually take the leashes off unless you are quite certain all will be OK. That way, if the leashes are still on the dogs and the worst does happen, you can pull them back. It’s incredibly difficult and not advisable to try to step between two snarling, fighting dogs.

And it’s never a good idea to allow dogs to come face to face right off the bat. Give them some time to get used to each other.

For dogs that are overly aggressive or extremely shy, you may want to keep them separated for the first few days and perform this procedure each evening until they get used to one another.

As for cats, they can be a bit tougher. Some of my cats to this day still snarl and hiss at each other. (Big surprise I’m a middle-aged, menopausal, single cat-lady. Sigh.)

Some cats can be quite vocal – and quite violent – about a new roommate. For felines, often times the owners are the best judges.

If your cat hisses at anything he or she catches a glimpse of outside the window or on the television, you may be a one-cat family. You have spent the most time around your feline, so you’d be the best person to decide whether or not an addition to your home would be a good idea.

Animals are 100 percent dependent on us for their well-being and happiness. They don’t get to choose to have a roommate; many times the situation is simply presented to them. It’s best to remember if you do want to add a new pet to your home, take your cues from Fido or Fluffy and act accordingly.

That way, you won’t find yourself in the middle of a four-legged version of “Single White Female.”


Jennifer Vanderau is the Publications and Promotions Consultant for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter and can be reached at The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at 263-5791 or visit the website CVAS also operates a thrift store in Chambersburg. Help support the animals at the shelter by donating to or shopping at the store.