Cats and dogs are often portrayed as enemies and animal owners are reluctant to mix them both. Both the cat and dog are able to live together in harmony if introduced properly. The introduction process should always be taken slowly, so both pets feel at ease. The result will hopefully be both pets becoming very good friends.
Listed below are some helpful tips on introducing a new cat to your dog or vice versa.
Preparation is key
Before introducing a new cat to your dog or vice versa, you will need to provide a safe area for your cat to have access to and your dog is unable to access. If you’re thinking of taking on a new cat, then you should allow them to live in the spare room for a while, or at least a separate room in the house, as they will need time to adjust to their new surroundings.
If you’re bringing a new dog into the home, then you must ensure you provide an area when your existing cat feels safe. You will need to move all of the cat's essentials to an area where they have easy access to and the dog can’t get to. Stair gates are invaluable to use when introducing both your cat and dog for the first time. The gate allows both pets to see each other without getting too close for a possible altercation. It also allows for both pets to smell each other and become familiar. The gate also allows for dog free areas.
Installing a pet diffuser a few days before bringing your new pet home, will help relax the new pet into the home and prevent them from becoming nervous. Pet diffusers can be purchased from a reliable pet store and its great way to help the pet feel safe and comfortable during the introduction process. You must also ensure your home has plenty of high places so your cat can climb if they need to. All cat breeds like to rest and hide in high places. This will be important during the introduction process.
The first few days
When your new cat or dog is home, you should aim to keep them separate at all times. If you’re bringing a new cat into the home, then you try and avoid the temptation of allowing them to explore their new home. Sticking to this strict rule will allow you plenty of time to carry out the scent swapping.
To do this, stroke one of your pets and don’t wash your hands. Then stroke the opposite pet and allow them to smell your hands. Repeat this for the other pet. You can also achieve scent swapping by gently stroking your pets with a cloth and then rubbing the cloth around your home to mix both pet scents.
Use a dog crate
If you’ve trained your dog to use a crate, then it’s a good idea to use their crate during the introduction process; when you’re unable to directly supervise your dog with your new cat. If your dog has never used a crate, then its worthwhile purchasing one and training your dog to use one before bringing the new cat home.
Using the power of scent
For the introduction of both the cat and dog, the use of scent is very powerful for communication. Using scent allows the integration of both pets to be easier and more successful. This process should be started before introducing both pets and can be easily achieved by exchanging the bedding for both pets. This allows both pets to get to know each other a bit better before they meet.
The very first introduction
The location for the first introduction depends on the layout of your home. You must always ensure that your cat has an easy route to their ‘safe area’. If your dog is prone to becoming easily excitable, then its best to give them plenty of exercise before the first introduction; so they’re calm. The most important rule when introducing both dog and cat is to ensure the dog doesn’t chase the cat and cause them to become scared. Even if your dog has no intention of hurting your new cat, the cat will be scared and feel threatened and will most likely avoid your dog in the future.
If your dog develops a habit of chasing the cat, this will be very hard to break and will cause lots of issues later on down the line. Put the lead on your dog and position them behind the stair gate. Make sure you have plenty of tasty treats to give them when they’ve shown good behaviour during the introduction. You should allow your cat to see your dog and let them take their time. Most cats will sit and watch for a while. It’s very important that they do this process in their own time and are not rushed as this will only backfire and make the cat scared of the dog. More than likely your dog will show lots of interest at this point; although this also depends on the dog breed. If they become too excited and start barking, then you must distract them or move them further away from the situation. It is important that you give your dog constant praise and recognition during the process for behaving well. Keep these first few interactions short at first and always try to end each introduction on a positive note.
Extra vigilant when introducing kittens
Kittens are more vulnerable than cats because of their size. They’re also more playful and active than an adult cat. It’s advised not to use a stair gate when introducing a kitten to a dog because they can easily slip through the bars. Instead, you should use a dog crate and place the kitten in there for their own safety. You should allow the kitten to become used to the crate before meeting the dog. Place their bed, water bowl and litter tray so they feel comfortable and have everything they need. The crate should be placed in a safe area away from where the dog rests and plays. Place a blanket over one side of the crate so they’re not visible to the dog. This will also help the kitten feel safe.
Finally, if the introductions are showing positive signs, you can allow more time for both the cat and dog to interact. This is important to ensure they both become very good friends and are at peace living together. Playtime should always be supervised and they should never be left alone together in the house. If your dog breed is a terrier or greyhound, you must ensure they do not chase the cat. If this becomes an issue, then place your dog on a lead in the house and secure it away from the cat, so they begin to understand that chasing the cat is naughty and will not be tolerated.
Cat food can be a temptation for your dog and you must always supervise feeding time. The cat’s food and litter tray should be kept out of the way of your dog. Cats need to do their business in private and if the dog is pestering them whilst they’re using their litter tray, then the cat will become stressed and most likely go elsewhere to do their business. All dog breeds and cat breeds are different and will work at their own pace. You must always remain patient and vigilant; to ensure both the cat and the dog are happy and safe. It’s important to remember not to rush the introductions as this can lead to further issues later on down the line. Hopefully, this will result in both the cat and dog living together in harmony.