Introducing Your Dog to Your Cat
In a perfect world we’d all get along and play nicely together without any disagreements or quarrels. In reality, this is but a pipe dream for humanity but often in the animal world there is a greater chance to achieve world peace. Introducing a new animal to your household when there is already one there that has ruled the roost exclusively can be very challenging.
More often than not, bringing home a second dog as a playmate for your first one can work out quite well. Things can get a little dicey, however, if a feline was there first when the puppy arrives or the opposite, a new kitty comes home to join Rover’s family. You don’t just toss them together and hope for the best or fur may start flying just like a Tasmanian Devil cartoon!
If introductions are not made correctly, it can lead to lasting hostilities and a stressful household environment for you and your pets. Patience is key as it can take weeks to months for the process to be complete. Many integrations are problem free, but for those who are encountering problems, these steps may help you to bring peace to the home again:
- Ask your vet about anti-anxiety nutritional supplements or pheromone products to help soothe both cats and dogs.
- Create a safe space for your cat. This room must be off limits to your dog and have everything your cat needs, including food, water and clean litter. It should be completely secure so unanticipated dogs cannot burst in. You can then feed your dog and cat on opposite sides of the door. This will start a positive association as they will be able to smell each other through the door.
- Do a scent exchange. Rub one towel or cloth or your dog and another on your cat. Give them the opposite towel or cloth to smell while still in their separate spaces. Leave the towel or cloth under each pet’s food dish to promote further positive association.
- Train your dog to sit and focus on you and then introduce the cat in a carrier. Keep your dog on a leash in case things don’t go well and keep your cat in the carrier as it will be safe there. Feed both pets treats and slowly move them closer together. Ensure that your dog stays calm throughout this process. Slowly progress to having both pets in the same room but the dog on a leash and the cat in a carrier or the cat walking freely and the dog in a carrier. Practice sitting and focusing with your dog and should either pet become anxious or stressed, slow it down and move them further apart.
- Once they are both comfortable, let your cat out of the carrier and keep your dog on a short leash. Continue the sit and focus routine with your dog, giving it treats as your cat freely explores. If your dog is too distracted by the cat, move them further away and continue the training exercise.
- Repeat the above until your dog is routinely ignoring the cat. This may take time as a moving cat is much more interesting to a dog than one that is not moving or is in a carrier.
- Take the leash off your dog but only after it has been consistently behaving and ignoring your cat. Have both pets in the same room, leash and carrier free. Put up a baby gate in case your cat needs to get away quickly. Your first attempt at doing this should be for only a short period of time.
- Gradually increase their time together all the while supervising their interactions. If, after several months, they are not peacefully cohabitating, especially if your dog is obsessively pursuing your cat, you may need to call in a professional animal behavioural specialist or dog trainer to help you.
If you are about to embark on this journey, I wish you smooth sailing ahead. May your household remain harmonious and peaceful.