How To Introduce A Cat To A Dog

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How To Introduce A Cat To A Dog

Many families end up wanting both cats and dogs, but don’t necessarily make this decision simultaneously. So you go out, find a puppy, and bring him/her home. Maybe a couple years go by and you have a little one that is begging you for a kitty! So, naturally, you have to get a cat. Great. You’re probably thinking that it’s hard to get cats and dogs to get along, which it can be. But it is possible! How do you introduce a cat to a dog you ask? Well, we’ll outline the most critical steps for you to take to ensure that Whiskers and Fido become best friends…or at least tolerate each other!

The (perhaps) boring part: prepare and educate yourself

Grab your little ones (children) and take this time to do some learning. Before you begin any sort of introduction, you must take the time to completely educate yourself on the best approach.

Hopefully this post serves as a great foundation for your learning.

We’ll expand on these points below, but here are a few quick bits of important info:

  • It’s important to note that this is a process; it isn’t something that can be done in 30 minutes.
  • You have to make sure you are prepared to be patient, because the last thing you want is to introduce your new cat too quickly.
  • If the introduction is done too quickly, there could be problems for the rest of their lives- dramatic, we know, but it’s the unfortunate truth.
  • Your cat will need his/her own room to begin with. And ideally, somewhere where he/she can go that your dog can’t get to.
  • Baby gates will be your best friend.
  • Don’t just confine your new cat. Let him/her roam the new home, while your dog is confined.
  • The face to face interaction, without a room, or baby gate separating your furry babies takes a minute (aka several days) to work up to. Be patient.
  • Before getting your cat, make sure your dog knows simple commands such as, “sit” and “stay.” These commands will come in handy.
  • Positive reinforcement for your pup is crucial.
  • Avoid fearful meetings. This is a tricky one, but the last thing you want to do is scare one of your animals. To reduce the amount of fear be sure to take all of the below steps, and really try to read your animals. Are they ready? Don’t just go for it.

A couple other notes on how to introduce a cat to a dog from paws.org:

Precautions

“If one of your pets has a medical problem or is injured, this could stall the introduction process. Check with your veterinarian to be sure that all of your pets are healthy. You'll also want to have at least one litter box per cat, and you'll probably need to clean all of the litter boxes more frequently. Make sure that none of the cats are being "ambushed" by another while trying to use the litter box. Try to keep your resident pets' schedule as close as possible to what it was before the newcomer's appearance. Cats can make lots of noise, pull each other's hair, and roll around quite dramatically without either cat being injured. If small spats do occur between your cats, you shouldn't attempt to intervene directly to separate the cats. Instead, make a loud noise, throw a pillow, or use a squirt bottle with water and vinegar to separate the cats. Give them a chance to calm down before re-introducing them to each other. Be sure each cat has a safe hiding place.”

A word about kittens and puppies

“Because they're so much smaller, kittens are in more danger of being injured, of being killed by a young energetic dog, or by a predatory dog. A kitten will need to be kept separate from an especially energetic dog until she is fully grown, and even then she should never be left alone with the dog. Usually, a well-socialized cat will be able to keep a puppy in its place, but some cats don't have enough confidence to do this. If you have an especially shy cat, you might need to keep her separated from your puppy until he matures enough to have more self-control.”

When to get help

“If introductions don't go smoothly, seek professional help immediately. Animals can be severely injured in fights, and the longer the problem continues, the harder it can be to resolve. Conflicts between pets in the same family can often be resolved with professional help. Punishment won't work, though, and could make things worse.”


Step 1: Find Your Cat His/Her Own Room

Once you bring your cat home, make sure you have a room set up that will be exclusively for your cat. Bring your cat inside using a carrier and go directly to this room.  You should have this room setup with everything he/she cat is going to need: food, water, litter box, toys and anything else you think your cat may need.

The room you decide to use should be one that the dog doesn’t have to use or doesn’t use much.

For example, if your dog always sleeps with you at night, you don’t want to choose to put your new cat in your bedroom. Allow your dog and cat to sniff each other under the door, but keep the door closed and make sure your cat cannot get out of the room. It is important to let your dog get a chance to smell your cat before you fully introduce the new siblings.

Step 2: Swap Scents

You’re going to want to switch scents. This can be switching sleeping blankets between your cat and dog so that way they can be accustomed to each other’s smell. Paws.org suggests rubbing a towel on one animal and putting it underneath the food dish of another animal. You should do this with each animal in the house.

Step 3: Switch living areas

Paws.org says, “once your new cat is using her litter box and eating regularly while confined, let her have free time in the house while confining your other animals to the new cat's room. This switch provides another way for the animals to experience each other's scents without a face-to-face meeting. It also allows the newcomer to become familiar with her new surroundings without being frightened by the other animals.”

Step 4: Put up a baby gate. It’s time for your fur babies to see each other.

The next step when learning how to introduce a cat to a dog is the face-to-face introduction, not out in the open. Put up some sort of tall gate in the doorway of the room that you choose for your new cat, and open the door. Again, the goal of this is to let them both get a sense of each other and let them adjust to their new surroundings, which of course includes adjusting to the presence of each other.

Moving on to the next step is going to depend on how your dog and cat reacts. If you open the door and your dog is overly excited or becomes agitated or upset, you want to limit the exposure; shut the door and try again a little bit later.  

When you first open the door, you should try to get your dog to focus on something other than the cat.  Get out your dog’s favorite toy, feed your dog as you are opening the door or do something else that he/she enjoys.  

The purpose of this is twofold: first, we want your dog to adjust to the cat gradually, not get so excited that he/she can’t behave.

Second, this associates the presence of your cat with something positive: food, playtime or treats. If you do this enough times, your dog will learn that the cat’s presence is a good thing, not a bad thing; he/she won’t stop getting food, treats or playtime just because you’ve introduced another being into the household.

The goal is to have your dog eventually lose interest in your cat anytime you open the door and they can see each other face to face. This part of the introduction could take days or weeks. And if it just isn’t working, then it’s time to consult a vet for expert advice. Again, the outcome and quickness of this process is fully dependent on your dog and your new cat.

Real face to face introduction with your dog on a leash.

The next step is to actually let your cat out into the rest of the house, while your dog is on a leash. It’s time for little Whiskers to explore your dog, while he/she feels safe. This can be a scary thing, so take your time and only do this once you’re comfortable and confident that your dog is ready. Give your dog lots of attention during this phase, have your dog do simple commands like sit and stay, and then reward him/her with treats. This again helps show your dog that the new member of your family is not a threat.

Once your dog is calm and realizes that nothing bad is happening, you can decide to take the leash off of your dog. Only do this when your dog is calm and you’re comfortable that both your dog and cat are ready for this type of introduction.

The most important thing to remember is to be patient; this introduction can take a lot of time to do properly. You want to make sure that both your dog and cat are happy and comfortable with each other. We hope this post on how to introduce a cat to a dog was helpful for you! If you have any other tips or tricks please let us know in the comments section!


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