Friends Or Enemies
The innate dislike between cats and dogs is a well-established stereotype, but that doesn’t mean the two species cannot get along.
There are countless multi-pet homes where felines and canines live in harmony and sometimes even as best friends.
If you’ve set your sights on getting a dog, it’s essential to do your research beforehand. Learning how to properly introduce a cat to a dog will allow you to better prep for their first meeting and hopefully make it a success.
Cat’s are territorial and do not like to share their space with other animals. Moreover, kitties in particular do not react well to change and can get stressed or anxious rather quickly. Because of this, you should always introduce a cat to a dog slowly and gradually. Patience is key!
Here are 8 ways to create a stress-free meeting between your beloved fur baby and your cute new pup.
1. Keep them in separate rooms at the beginning
Before bringing your new dog home:
- Prepare a room for your kitty with sufficient space and everything they need.
- Create a cozy sleeping space and fill the room with their toys and plenty of stimulation.
- Move their litter box and food and water bowls into this room as well.
- Confine your cat in this room before going to pick up your dog to avoid any unprepared confrontation.
Once you have brought the new pup home, keep your kitty in their room while your dog gets to know its new owners and settles into their new environment. Your cat could become anxious or even act out if the introduction is too abrupt which can also make for a stressful situation for a dog that's adjusting.
2. Exchange their scents
With both pets in separate rooms, let them get used to each other’s scents before meeting face to face. One way to do this is to feed them on each side of a door.
For the first time, make sure their bowls are not too close to run into territorial issues over food. If they both can eat calmly in this way, you can gradually move the dishes closer to the door. You can also swap their scent by switching their blankets or comfort furniture.
3. Introduce them first without physical contact
Once your two pets have gotten used to each other’s smell, they can see each other for the first time. However, this first meeting should not make them feel unsafe, and there should be no possibility of physical contact or a premature encounter.
If you’ve been feeding them on opposite sides of a door, you can slightly prop open the door as they are eating. Open it just enough to see each other but not enough that they could touch or perceive each other as a threat.
Next, bring your cat into the same room as your dog, keeping your cat in a carrier and your dog on a leash. Keep your new pup a reasonable distance away from your cat so your kitty can relax and your dog and allow the initial excitement to pass. If your dog gets too excited or aggressive, end the meeting and try again later.
4. Keep your dog on a leash
At this point, if your dog is behaving well and your kitty doesn’t appear too fearful, let them out of their carrier while keeping the dog on the leash and at a distance.
If your kitty is unsure about coming out, you can try to tempt them with a treat. Let them explore at their own pace while keeping your dog under your control at all times.
If your cat runs off or starts to hiss, put them back in the carrier, and allow the process to happen at a slower pace.
5. Use treats to train and reward your dog
Dogs can become aggressive towards cats for a multitude of reasons. Moreover, they can seriously hurt them either through aggression or even just excitement and playfulness. Therefore, when introducing a cat to a dog, use treats to train your dog on good behavior, getting them to sit and stay and use positive reinforcement.
If your pup is showing good behavior and remains calm through the experience, make sure to reward that!
6. Supervise all interactions
If the new pup is obeying you well and staying calm, you can attempt to let him off the leash. Only do this if your cat is also relaxed and feeling ready for the encounter.
Once your dog is off the leash:
- Observe them both and stay close to your dog with a leash in hand should he get too excited or become aggressive.
- You may want to keep your dog on a leash while cooking, cleaning, or any time you cannot supervise them fully in the beginning.
- Do not leave both pets alone during the first few weeks together. Keep them separated when you go out until you’re sure they can cohabit comfortably.
7. Give your cat lots of attention and affection
While getting a new pet is exciting, make sure your cat does not feel neglected or less important than the new arrival. A new addition to the household is one of the most common causes of feline stress and anxiety since it disrupts their routine. Cat's are creatures of habit and adhere to their rituals and routines.
Because of this, give your kitty some extra cuddles, treats, and playtime to show them they are still loved.
8. Be patient
The key to successfully introducing a cat to a dog is to take it very slowly. It’s impossible to say how long it will take for your two pets to get along. In general, dogs adjust to another pet easier than cats do. Furthermore, some cats are naturally confident and comfortable around dogs, while others may be timid and fearful.
Many factors can determine this, but if your cat is older and has not been around dogs or animals much before, it may take a bit of work to make sure everything is settled.
Generally, kittens will feel comfortable much quicker, but they cannot defend themselves against even a smaller dog showing aggression.
Therefore, if you introduce an energetic pup to a little kitten, you should be extra cautious throughout the process.
If the two are still not getting on after trying the above advice, do not hesitate to seek professional help. This is especially important if they keep fighting during introductory encounters. Animal fights can all too frequently result in injuries.
By choosing to be both a cat and dog owner, it is your responsibility to keep both pets safe. Luckily, you can often resolve pet conflicts with the help of a professional.