In most cases where a pet parent has pets of different species, they’re often kept in separate corners of the house. But that can’t be said for Sarah who has a dog, a cat, a bird, and a snake living under the same roof.
Identifiable by her brightly coloured hair, Sarah’s love for animals started from a very young age as she shared that she’s always had a mix of pets at home. Besides the usual dogs and cats, she’s also had chipmunks, gerbils, budgerigars, chickens, ducks, snakes, rats, rabbits, and more.
She also shared that at one point she’s had prolly the weirdest pet which was a crow named Cincau. It had a slightly injured wing and so Sarah decided to foster him for a while and had a bit of a “Game of Thrones” moment.
But besides crows, a hawk is one of Sarah’s “fantasy” pets as it isn’t legal to own one in Malaysia.
“I’d love to have a hawk. Falconry is so fascinating! I think Hashbrown is a cute hawk name.”
Fast forward to today, Sarah is now the proud mother of 4 friendly and adorable pets.
Meet The Fam
Named after Sarah’s love for food, there’s a Mini Schnauzer, Sitas; a mix American Curl and Persian, Cookie; a cockatiel, Cashew; and a ball python, Basil.
The chosen names have matching consonants at the beginning of the words as she personally likes alliteration as a form of word play. Think Cookie the Cat, Cashew the Cockatiel, and Basil the Ball python.
Based on her experience, pets are more adaptable than you’d think and “they can easily learn to not just tolerate but also live peacefully with each other.”
But just like humans, pets can have very different personalities.
“Just because my cat, dog, and bird happen to get along, it doesn’t mean that any and every cat and dog can.
This isn’t something that can be forced and unlike all the heartwarming videos that you see on The Dodo, your pets won’t always immediately take a liking to each other. Usually it has to happen gradually over time as they slowly learn that there is no threat, then grow to be used to each other’s presence and build trust.”
With that said, here’s how Sarah maintains a peaceful relationship between her 3 pet kids (the dog, the cat, and the bird) and away from mischief.
Introducing New Pets And Maintaining Peace
Bringing home a new pet is an exciting experience for us. However, it could become a stressful experience for our existing and new pets as it’s a situation of uncertainty. Hence Sarah advises that it should be done carefully, with a lot of patience, in a controlled and quiet environment.
It will definitely help to know our own pets’ personalities, likes and dislikes very intimately so we’ll be able to assess and spontaneously act on the situation.
Introducing Cookie to Sitas
“When I first brought Cookie home, she was just a kitten so she was very intimidated by Sitas and would hiss. But I know Sitas’ character well, she isn’t aggressive at all and she wouldn’t act in an extreme playful way that would scare Cookie. Sitas is also quite cowardly so I know that she will stay her distance. So I took time to let them get used to each other’s scent by keeping Cookie in a cage where Sitas would usually hang around, just for the first few days.
Very quickly Cookie learnt that Sitas posed zero threat to her and with that gained confidence, we allowed her to be out of the cage and roam around. We made sure that we’re always present with them in the room until we were absolutely sure that they wouldn’t get in any trouble alone.“
Now that they’ve been together for almost 3 years, they still don’t play together but they are definitely not hostile, and both live in the same place peacefully. However, Cookie does sometimes playfully swipe Sitas’ leg and roll around near her.
Perhaps one day they might actually learn to entertain each other.“
Introducing Cashew to Cookie
“Cashew was introduced to Cookie initially with her in the cage and Cookie would watch from afar, figuring out what new animal this was.
I noticed that Cookie was curious, but she didn’t display any ‘hunting’ signs or hints of aggression. So the next step was to allow her to get up close and personal with Cashew, so that I can satisfy her curiosity with me present with her. This is much better than allowing her to experiment on her own when I’m not there.”
Disclaimer: Sarah is able to do this because she knows Cookie’s character very well, and because Cashew is quite calm and docile. In a controlled and safe environment, she introduces them very carefully and constantly talks to both of them in a clear and low voice, with no sudden movements.
“Now that Cookie has ‘met’ Cashew and sniffed him enough, her curiosity is satiated and she feels less the need to explore him on her own. After a few days I was confident enough to leave them alone, with Cashew in a sturdy cage that I knew Cookie wouldn’t be able to knock over. Cashew is never allowed alone with Cookie when she is out of her cage, I’m always with them.“
Sarah would also encourage Cookie to be curious in her own way and watch Cashew or Basil whenever she wants.
“If I were to always chase her away from Cashew or Basil, it would just make her even more frustrated and she may end up being very desperate to get what she wants, especially when I am not home. So she’s allowed to watch Cashew or Basil whenever she feels like it, and after a while she just got so used to it that it got boring and no longer excited her.“
When living in a space with human or animal kids, it’s crucial that each child gets their own little area. Perhaps for human kids it’s a way to nurture them to be responsible in keeping their play area and bedrooms neat and tidy, but for pets it’s for them to feel safe and comfortable.
Hence while the house isn’t really segregated for each pet, Sarah gives each of her pets their own personal space that they’re most comfortable in.
“I have also prepped rooms whereby if needed, I can easily separate them for certain activities. For example Cashew’s cage isn’t in the main living area, he’s in a room so if he needs to preen in peace, I will just close the door and keep the other pets out.“
“To me, it’s about giving them little ‘territories’ to call their own. Sitas loves her bed, cushion, and tepee because they’re all places where she feels safe and comfy.“
These little rules means that the cat isn’t encouraged to lie on them. This then reduces Sitas’ need to feel like she has to “defend” it and be unfriendly.
“This would be an example of a ‘no’ situation, poor Sitas looks so sad that Cookie is occupying her bed and she wants her space back.“
“Cookie on the other hand loves her hammock, the sink, the arm of the couch, and boxes; so any box on the floor is automatically hers to claim.“
Plus, the hammock only costs about RM33 from Shopee, making building these spaces rather affordable.
Sarah shared that she feeds Cookie, Sitas and Cashew at the same time every morning and every night before bedtime but Basil only eats once every 2 to 3 months. They’re also fed at their respective eating places.
“Cookie used to come very close to Sitas’ food and that made her feel a bit anxious. So feeding Cookie in a totally separate room, and on a specific feeding table helped. Putting the bowl on a higher ground is necessary for Cookie so that Sitas can’t get to it,“ said Sarah.
“Sitas is currently on the pollock fish meals from Petchef. She’s a very greedy eater, meaning she will eat anything and everything, at a go.
So I have to be very strict when it comes to her feeding, or she will just simply eat unhealthy food and snacks with no self control at all. I also have to control her food intake and meal quality so that she maintains a healthy weight.”
As Petchef meals are individually packed for ease of storage in the freezer, here’s how Sarah prepares Sitas’ meals:
- On the day before, a package is defrosted in the fridge
- The next morning, the packaged meal is soaked in a bowl of water for 2 minutes
- Then the contents in the package is served into Sitas’ dog bowl
With it being really simple and straightforward, there’s really little to no preparation involved.
Cleaning and Hygiene Management
Sarah’s secret to ensure a smell-free and mess-free home?
“A very good, strong vacuum cleaner! Plus a lint roller.”
A basic cleaning list includes:
- Vacuuming the home about once every 2 days (sometimes daily if it needs a quick clean)
- Clearing any pee/stool from Cookie’s litter box twice a day (morning and night)
- Changing Cashew’s litter tray once a week
- Replacing Basil’s bedding whenever she excretes or defecates
- Other than daily spraying with water, Sitas’ peeing area is scrubbed with detergent every two weeks
It’s also good to be well familiarised with your furkid’s toilet schedule.
“Sitas has a very consistent pee and poop schedule. So the moment she pees, I spray it away; and the moment she poops, I pick it up with tissue paper and flush it down the toilet.”
Sarah’s Final Tips
If you’re thinking of introducing a new pet to your current pet, here are 3 things to keep in mind:
- Do not force the process and want get it over with in a day
- Plan and prepare in advance for things such as getting a cage for physical separation for the first few days, separate food and drinking bowls, different beds if you’re worried about them getting territorial, etc.
- Do this over the weekend or when you’re able to be home for a few days consecutively
While your pets are getting acquainted, you should watch for aggressive, non-aggressive and territorial behaviors such as:
- Aggressive behavior: Hair-raising on their back, hissing and snarling
- Non-aggressive behavior: Backing away to hide, cowering, whimpering and pawing at you
- Territorial behavior: Guarding their food bowl, male dogs peeing more to mark their territories
All of these signs are to be expected and completely normal because your existing pets are having to deal with a new animal entering their territory.
Hence do stay patient and not give up on them! Show them more love and they will in turn learn to show love (or at least tolerance) to their pet siblings too.
In short, living with more than one pet (same or different species) is not an impossible feat. All it takes is some planning and patience to get them all well acquainted!
PS: If you’d like your dog and cat’s fresh meals sorted so that they won’t fight over it, we’ve got your back. All you’ll have to do is tell us all about your pet and we’ll deliver a free sample of some fresh human grade pet food right to your doorstep.
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