Bringing a new cat into a home that is already blessed with a family dog would be simple if all that was required was ordinary “people introductions,” such as a polite handshake and a “Hello, nice to meet you. My name is Fluffy.”
However, since cats and dogs are not people, it doesn’t work that way, of course.
Slow and Steady
According to the Human Society of the United States, the introduction process between a cat and a dog should be done slowly.
You can’t just throw them together and hope they form a strong liking to each other.
When deciding how to introduce a new cat to a dog, first make sure your dog responds well to commands (“sit,” “stay,” “come” and “down”) even when he is distracted. A few “leave it” commands will also be helpful in the introductory period.
Once your dog has these commands down pat, you will be able to better control his excited behavior around the new family member.
While it may take years for the cat and dog to reach a mutual understanding of each other, the younger and more energetic the cat is and the calmer, more obedient your dog is, the more likely they can become used to sharing a home and your love.
3 Typical Responses From Dogs
According to the ASPCA, dogs that have never had to share a home with a cat usually respond to this living arrangement in one of three ways:
- Play: The cat may be treated like just another dog — a welcome playmate. However, cats tend to go into defense mode when receiving an invitation to play from a strange canine.
- Prey: Dogs often look at cats as prey, with the urge to chase the cat when she takes off running.
- Wariness: Your dog may be intimidated by the new cat, approaching her with caution or peering at her from a distance. He may choose to just ignore her altogether, if possible.
The Nose Knows
When bringing your new cat home, be sure to have her new living quarters ready (litter box, food and water, and bed). Allow the two animals to get the scent of each other under the door. Swapping their bedding and other items back and forth over a few days will also help them become familiar with each other’s scent. Don’t even try feeding them together — that will be asking for disaster.
Let them interact only when someone is watching over them. This is an all-important rule in introducing a new cat to a dog: strict supervision. In fact, even when you feel certain they are on friendly terms, you may not want to leave them alone together. In any case, always make sure kitty has an escape route, along with a safe haven in which to hide.
Keep the first meetings short, then gradually increase the pets’ time together gradually, until they show no fear or aggression. Praise each of them for good behavior, especially your dog for “staying” when commanded to do so. If either party becomes aggressive, it’s time to slow down the process.
3 More Tips
Some helpful tips in making the introduction a success include:
- Trim your cat’s claws.
- Ask your dog to come to you or leave the cat alone, giving him a treat for proper obedience.
- Avoid scolding your dog. A positive approach will go a long way in encouraging him to form a friendship with the new cat.
Again, keep a careful eye on the pair. Although the cat may be smaller, an outstretched cat claw can cause serious injury to a dog. With that said, you may find that with the proper introduction methods, the two were meant to be together.
- Human Society of the United States: Introducing a new cat to other pets
- Sharon A. Harvey: How to introduce a new cat to your resident dog