10 Steps to Introducing a Baby to a Senior Citizen: Pet Edition

So, you’re thinking of bringing home a puppy. While your human members of the family may be excited about a new puppy or kitten, if you have elderly pets, they may not share your enthusiasm for your new arrival. Help keep things calm and troubleshoot potential issues before they start. 

  1. Don’t forget your senior pet’s needs and feelings. Whoever thinks dogs and cats don’t have feelings has clearly never spent time with dogs or cats. They feel stress and emotions, too. The reality is—if you have had an only-dog or only-cat for a while, and your current pet hasn’t had to share your affection, you may need to postpone your plans until the inevitable. It’s not worth disrupting your senior pet’s final years, especially after they’ve given you years of loyalty, for the sake of a new pet. But you know your pet best. Perhaps a “play date” with a friend’s pet may be a good way to gauge the potential reaction of a new addition to the family.
  2. Temperament and personalities matter. If you have a small or timid dog, introducing him or her to a fluffy ball of energy may cause undue stress. Consider whether your senior pet will do better with a Type B personality versus a Type A, so to speak.
  3. When it comes to cats, they may be less threatened by a dog. Cats just don’t always play nicely with others, and anyone who has had a cat knows—they can be vindictive. And a cat on a mission of vengeance usually involves inappropriate litter box habits that aren’t fun for anyone.
  4. Don’t expect them to be instant best friends. You don’t automatically like everyone you meet; your senior pets are the same. Expecting everyone to get along within a day or two is extremely unrealistic for everyone involved.
  5. For the first introduction of a dog, keep everyone on leashes. And outside, if possible. Otherwise, you’ll have the first meeting go awry and someone get too aggressive or hurt.
  6. Your kids share toys; your pets don’t have the same standards. Make sure your new pet gets their own toys and treats. Your senior may find a great deal of comfort in their squeaky toy and be very miffed if you give it to the new addition.
  7. If we can’t expect them to share toys, we also can’t expect them to share food. Feed your new furry pet in a separate place from your senior pet—at least for a while. It may be inconvenient for you, but it’s likely that you don’t like to eat when you’re stressed out…your pet feels the same way.
  8. Give everyone some space. While you can’t keep everyone separated forever, there needs to be some personal space given to senior pets. A new puppy’s or kitten’s curiosity may get them into trouble if they are wallowing all over a senior who simply wants to be left alone. Give your older pets breaks by removing the newcomer to a different space for a while.
  9. Gender can matter. Chances are good your senior pet will do better with a newcomer of the opposite gender. It’s not set in stone, but if you have a highly territorial male, you probably wouldn’t want to bring another boy in, even if both are fixed. And the same goes for girls, too.
  10. Lavish BOTH pets with your attention. It’s easy to love on a puppy or kitten. They are adorable. But don’t forget the bond long-established with your senior pet. Shower them with affection, too.