If you’re looking to introduce a new dog to the home and already have a cat, or kitten, you will need to introduce both pets properly to ensure that they both form a strong bond and neither becomes stressed. This article explains the process in detail, whether you’re introducing a new cat, or dog. To understand more about this process, please read on.
Cats and dogs are known to not get along, but if they're introduced properly, they are able to form a close relationship. If either of the pets has lived in the home previously, this will make the introduction process easier. It’s recommended that this process is taken slowly to ensure both pets feel comfortable and happy.
Regardless if you’re introducing a new dog or cat to the home, you will need to have a safe, confined space for the cat, that the dog has no access to. If you’re bringing home a new cat, then the ideal situation would be to use the spare room as the “safe place”. If you’re bringing home a new dog, then you will need to have an area that your existing cat will feel safe. Whatever space you decide to use, you will need to have all the necessary essentials for this area, such as; bed, water, food and litter tray.
If your cat is confident by nature, they still may become unsettled with the introduction of a dog to the household. To enable a safe introduction, it's a good idea to use stair gates, as this will allow both pets to see each other whilst being safe and protected. As well as installing a stair gate to the home, it's worth looking into installing a Feliway diffuser a few days before you bring home your new pet. The diffuser releases pheromones that will help your cat feel safer and comfortable before and during the introduction process.
Cats like to climb, so it is important to that you have high places that your cat can have easy access to.
If you’re introducing a kitten to the household, you must be aware that a kitten is far more excitable than an adult cat. For this reason, you will need to use a crate to allow them to rest and play peacefully. In this situation, a stairgate won't be sufficient as a small kitten is able to get through the bars. The crate should be big enough to hold their litter tray, food, and water bowl. It's advisable to place a towel or blanket on one side for extra comfort and protection for the kitten. You will need to allow the kitten to become used to the crate before any introduction. The crate should also be placed in their safe place, or room, to allow them to freely walk in and out and become familiar.
The use of smell is an important way of communicating with cats and dogs. With this, you are able to introduce new pets to the home by allowing them the smell of ‘home’ before they are introduced. To do this by exchanging the bedding between the pets before the introduction. This allows them to become familiar with each other's scent before they meet.
When bringing home the pet, it's best to keep both pets separate to start off with. You must avoid allowing them to explore the house before they meet the other pet. Regardless of the pet, they will need a few days to adjust to their new surroundings. Starting off the process this way will allow you time to carry out the process of ‘scent swapping’. To carry out this process you will need to stroke between the pets and not wash your hands after to mix both scents.
The first introduction between the pets will need to take place in a designated area, preferably near the safe place for your cat or kitten to make an easy escape to if necessary. If your dog is prone to become very excited, then it's advisable to give your dog plenty of exercise beforehand so their calmer during the introduction.
The most important point to remember during the introduction process is not allowing your dog the opportunity to chase the cat or kitten. Even if your dog means no harm, the chase will prevent the cat or kitten from wanting to get to know the dog in the future. It's easy for the dog to develop the want to chase the cat, so this must be stopped straight away to prevent this from becoming a habit.
Firstly, you should place your dog on a lead and preferably behind a stair gate with some of his or hers favourite treats. You must ensure to reward them for their calm and good behaviour. Then, allow your cat to see the dog and approach if they chose to. Cats mostly likely to spend their time watching and will then decide if they want to approach. You must allow the cat to do this in their own time and not force them to move closer to the dog. If you push your cat or kitten they may become distressed and go to scratch or attack the dog.
At this stage, the dog should be showing some interest. If they become excited and bark, you must try to calm them down with a gentle telling off, or distract them with treats. If they do not calm down, you may need to move them temporarily and try the process again once they've calmed down. You must not forget to praise and reward your dog for their good behaviour. You should keep the introductions on short interactions to start off with and always try to end positively.
If your dog or cat shows nervous behaviour and they become frightened, you should make them take a few steps back and keep them apart for a little longer. Follow this with the continuation of scent swapping. If you keep the ‘meet-ups’ short and controlled, you should see more confidence in the cat wanting to get closer to the dog and reduced excitement in the dog's behaviour as they get used to each other.
During the introduction process, you should start to see some positive progression between both pets. Until both pets become very comfortable and familiar with one another, you must still keep them separate in your absence.
Dogs like to eat cat food, so it's worth keeping this out of the way. Same goes with the litter tray. Cats like to do their toilet business in private and your dog should be kept out of the way, if the dog pesters or wants to play with the cat whilst they're going to the toilet, this will cause them distress and may result in them doing their business in other parts of the house.
One last point to consider is; all pets are different and will work to their own pace. Try to be patient and not rush the process. This should result in both pets living in harmony.