When I was a young kid, we had a cat for about ten years before we brought in a second pet. Having to share her territory completely changed our cat. Her temperament was never the same for the rest of her life. She seemed angry a lot. She growled at almost anything. In her eyes, the new pet had invaded her territory. Our old cat was a Siamese cat who is known for being more territorial than most cats. Looking back, I realize we shouldn’t have done this. I was young and didn’t understand. However, we also didn’t do anything to adapt our old cat to our new pet. We didn’t do anything to make the process go a little smoother for her.
I get a asked a lot about bringing a new pet, such as a puppy, into a cat’s established home. I know that not all experience the same situation that I did as a kid. There are many tactics that cat owners can use to help their cat accept their new pet or puppy. In fact, cats and dogs can live quite harmoniously with each other. It takes a lot of patience, guidance, and planning. Some blended families find that their cat and dog end up being the best of friends. However, be aware some types of dogs have a high “prey” drive. These dogs should never be left alone with your cat. A dog is much stronger than a cat, and it doesn’t take much for the dog to hurt your cat.
That said, before you bring a new dog into your home, you should make sure you take a few steps to ensure its success.
- Make sure that you set a safe place for your cat, a place that the new dog cannot get to. You can use a baby gate or a cat door. Every room should have an area where your cat can escape to. If they feel the need to get away from the dog, they should have access to that.
- The litter box should be in a safe area for your cat. Dogs eat cat feces, and if the cat notices that the dog is going into their litter box, then the cat may use the bathroom elsewhere in the house. Also, it is not healthy for your dog to be eating out of the litter box!
- Keep the cat’s food and water in a safe area. The dog should not eat the cat food, as the cat’s food is too rich and is only for the health needs of your cat. Likewise, the cat should not eat dog food.
- Teach your new dog commands such as “sit”, “stay”, and “leave it” as soon as possible.
- Introduction To Your Cat
- Before you introduce your new dog to your cat, make sure to give him/her some exercise and feed him/her. Your dog needs to be as relaxed as possible when he/she meets your cat.
- Lock your cat in a safe place in your house. Let the dog walk around the house for about half of an hour. This allows your dog to meet your cat’s scent. Then leave with the dog and let your cat out during that time. This way, your cat can meet your new dog by smell.
- While at home, out your dog on a short leash and attach it to you. This way, they will not chase the cat. If they do try to chase the cat, you can correct it right away. This is also a great way to bond with your new dog.
- If necessary, put your cat in the carrier. This is sometimes a good idea for more skittish cats. If you have more of an outgoing cat, then they can walk around. Make sure you have treats available for their excellent behavior. However, be aware that your cat’s natural reaction will be to hiss or run. This is normal.
- Let your dog and cat watch each other from a distance. Pet your dog and cat soothingly. It is not the time for your dog and cat to approach each other. Be sure to be generous with treats.
- If your dog tries to chase the cat, you can use sit and leave it commands. If your dog gets overexcited, try to soothe your dog. Give him a reward when he complies and stops trying to chase the cat.
When your leashed visits go well for a few days, then you can move to the following step. You can start letting go of the leash, but make sure to you have access to it if he/she starts to chase the cat. If the cat swats or tries to scratch the dog, don’t scold the cat. Sometimes, this is all that it takes for the dog to learn. Make sure you always speak in a calm and soothing voice.
When in this phase, you will need to supervise carefully. If there are issues that voice commands do not fix, then you need to try the previous phase once again (leased visits). Make sure you don’t leave the two animals alone until they are completely comfortable with each other. Slowly make the unleashed visits longer.
During this phase, you can:
- Feed each animal on one side of the door. This way they associate a positive experience with each other.
- Swap their bedding, so they get used to scents
This is a very brief outline of some tips that you can use when you are introducing your new dog or puppy to your cat. The more tips that you have, the better off that you will be. All animals have different personalities and so some techniques will work better than others. You need to figure which ones work best for your fur babies. Also, make sure that you do properly introduce your cat and dog because then manner in which you introduce them can set the foundation for their relationship. Cats are very territorial by nature and it is extremely important that they don’t feel as if their territory is being taken over.