Cats and dogs are notorious for not getting along with each other, but in actuality, there are many homes where the two have learned to get along with each other, and even love one another. If you already have a dog and are planning on bringing in a new cat, or vice versa, you have to approach the process of integrating your cat and dog with patience. Some introductions can be done within a week, while others can take a lot longer. It all depends on the personalities of your pets as well as the amount of time you can dedicate to the introductions every day. The following 7 tips for introducing a cat and a dog will help you develop a harmonious animal household.
Should you adopt a second pet?:
If you are planning on adding a second pet to your family, you should determine whether or not your current pet will do well with the addition. If you currently have a dog breed that is known for not getting along with cats (such as a high prey drive husky), then perhaps you should reconsider your decision to bring one into the family. Not all dogs and cats are meant to live with one another and, sometimes, a dog will like one cat but not another cat, and so on.
Choosing your new addition:
Once you are satisfied that your current pet shouldn’t have a problem successfully transitioning into an older brother or sister, you can look for your next pet. Some tips for this would be looking for pets that are up for adoption and listed as already having been socialized. If you are looking to introduce a new dog to your cat, then it helps if that dog has already lived with cats in the past.
Otherwise, you can adopt a younger animal. If you get a kitten or a puppy, they won’t have preconceived notions about dogs, and will be easier to train and socialize.
If you already have a dog and want to add a cat to your family, it is a good idea to make sure that your dog has already had some basic obedience training. They should be comfortable when leashed or crated, and be able to follow simple commands, such as “sit”, “down” and “stay”.
Consistent integration sessions:
When your new pet arrives, they should be kept separate from your original pet. Create two different spaces in your home so that they don’t have to interact with each other right away. Once your new pet has had some time to get used to your space, you can start introducing them to your original pet.
The first step is to let them smell and hear each other from either side of a solid door. You can feed them treats to make the introduction a pleasurable experience and use commands with your dog if they start scratching at the door.
Next, you can use a crate for your cat and a leash for your dog. Once your cat is used to being in their crate, you can let your leashed dog enter the room. If your cat is not comfortable with a crate, you can use an expen or baby gate to separate them. Have your dog practice their basic commands within sight of the cat. If your dog lunges toward the cat, give them a firm “No” and remove them from the room. Try this multiple times a day and slowly allow your dog to get closer to your cat.
Once they have been able to sniff each other through the crate or gate with no issue, you can start letting your cat out of the crate if they choose to. Keep your dog lying down in the room and have someone open the crate door or gate. Let your cat do what makes them comfortable and keep your dog leashed and lying down. Continue to do this multiple times a day, until your dog is able to stay relaxed with your cat in the same room. Eventually, you will be able to remove the leash from your dog and your pets will be able to coexist in the same room without issue.
Allow for space:
Your cat will most likely be the more nervous, at risk pet, and so it is important that, whether or not they are the newcomer, they have their own space to be able to escape. If your cat feels the need to get away, they should have a room, a perch, or any kind of quiet, out-of-the-way place that they know they can go to to avoid being around your dog. It is also possible that you might have a very confident and confrontational cat, with a meaker dog. If this is the case, then your dog should also have access to their own, cat-free space.
Don’t let them work it out on their own:
When introducing any new pets, but especially cats and dogs, it’s important to have a plan in place and to be involved in the introduction. You might be tempted to let the two pets get to know each other by letting them work out their differences, and their place in the household, on their own but that is a bad idea. This can be very dangerous, especially for your cat, as some dogs see cats as prey and will have the instinct to attack them. Even if your dog is generally mild-mannered, they might have a different reaction when put in this situation. And even if this method does work in some cases, it is far more stressful on both of your pets then it should be, and will start their relationship off on the wrong foot.
Special note for kittens:
It’s important to note that if you are introducing a kitten to a dog, you will have to be extra careful. Kittens are very tiny and fragile and can very easily be injured by your dog. They might not yet have developed a sense of fear towards dogs so they won’t know when they should protect themselves or hide. The kitten will likely also be very playful and energetic and they might excite a dog with a higher prey drive. Lastly, your kitten could be injured if your dog simply wants to play with them. Therefore, you will have to be vigilant and supervise every interaction more closely than you might have to with a fully grown cat.
Seek professional help:
Successfully integrating a new cat into life with your dog, or vice versa, can be a challenging process. Don’t be hesitant to seek professional help from trainers if you feel like you aren’t having success or are generally overwhelmed by the project. A trainer will much more easily be able to spot where you are going wrong with your pet integration, they will be able to help you correct the problems you’re having and set you on a smoother road for success.
It’s possible that your cat and dog will become best friends and they will play together, sleep together and generally spend time in each other’s company. If your pets develop this kind of friendship, then that’s great! But it can’t be expected or forced. They might bother each other and get on each other’s nerves once in a while. They might simply tolerate each other rather than develop a strong bond and that is normal. The goal when introducing your cat and dog to each other is for them to coexist peacefully under the same roof. If you put enough time, patience and effort into the process, that goal is certainly attainable.