Midge Grinstead has some advice for pet owners who are considering adding another animal to their household.
Think it through carefully, said Grinstead, executive director of the Lawrence Humane Society, 1805 E. 19th St.
Introducing a new animal to a home with pets is a delicate business. If not handled with expert diplomacy, the fur can fly.
But done with proper care and forethought bringing a new pet into the household can be beneficial for everyone, including the animals who were there first.
It's essential to prepare for the new pet's arrival, Grinstead said.
Buy a separate set of bowls, bedding and toys for the newcomer before introducing it to the home. Doing so will help avoid a territorial conflict among animals.
After picking up the new pet, take it right home skip the trip to Grandma's to show it off or the pet supply store to buy special treats.
"This animal doesn't know you yet, and you need time to bond with it," Grinstead said. "It needs to go home and feel comfortable."
When introducing a cat into a household with other cats, it's best to place the incoming feline in its own room for a day or two with a blanket to sleep on.
After that, take the blanket and let the resident cats sniff the new cat's scent and get used to its odor.
The next step is to place the newcomer in a pet carrier, and let the other cats into the same room. They'll probably hiss and bat at each other for a while, then with luck settle down, Grinstead said.
When introducing a dog into a household with cats or other dogs, be sure to put the canines on a leash so they can't lunge or attack the recent arrival or vice versa.
"Think safety first," Grinstead said. "Watch the animals closely, watch what they're doing. There's a difference between establishing dominance and real aggression. You don't want your animals to get hurt."
Dogs usually take about a week to get used to each other, while cats typically take as long as six to eight weeks to acclimate to new felines.
Aside from considering possible behavioral problems posed by new pets, it's essential to think about health issues.
"You need to evaluate the health of the pets that are currently in the household. And you need to evaluate the health of the pet that's being introduced," said Mark Marks, owner of Wakarusa Veterinary Hospital, 1825 Wakarusa Drive.
"If a pet is sick, you don't want to bring it home. You have to consider those illnesses that are contagious, as well as the vaccination status of your pets."
Any animal a pet owner is considering bringing home should be fully examined by a veterinarian. That includes testing a stool sample for internal parasites like hookworm, roundworm and heartworm, and checking for external parasites like fleas, ticks and ear mites.
And while you're at it, you might want to examine your financial status, too.
"Don't add another pet to the household on impulse it's a bad move," Marks said. "And the bigger the pet, the bigger the expense will be."