In many cartoons, cats and dogs are sworn enemies. Fortunately, this is not often true in real life. In fact, when introduced properly, cats and dogs have the potential to become close friends and happy playmates. Follow these tips to ensure your cat-dog introduction goes as smoothly as possible for everyone involved.
In a perfect world, cats and dogs would meet one another when both were young. Puppies and kittens are much more receptive and open to new things than their older counterparts. Therefore, introductions at this stage are more likely to be positive than those that take place later in life. Unfortunately, introducing animals when they are young is not always a possibility; pet parents with older pets may simply need to exercise a bit more patience and empathy in their cat-dog introductions.
Let the Cat Set the Pace
Always put up a boundary between the cat and dog like a baby gate. Put a leash on the dog but never attempt to restrain your cat and do not put her into a crate or carrier during one of these primary interactions with your dog. If she doesn’t seem afraid of him, or if she tries to jump over the partition to see him, you can introduce them in your living room or another large room with your dog on leash. The cat should always have the freedom of the room.
Provide an Escape Route
In order to feel safe, both animals (especially cats) need to feel like they can escape the situation. To facilitate the best possible introduction, do it in a room where the cat has plenty of places to hide. If the cat shows any sign of fear or discomfort, give her a pat and allow her to retreat to a safe space. The introduction can be repeated in the following days. Although it may take some time for cats to become accustomed to dogs, cats that are allowed to move at their own pace and hide if need be will adjust much more readily than those that are forced.
Provide Plenty of Positive Reinforcement
The final step in any great introduction is to let both animals know that they are doing a great job. Provide each with food rewards, plenty of pats and ample praise during the introduction in order to boost confidence levels and promote positive association. Animals that are rewarded for good manners are much more likely to exhibit them during subsequent introductions as well.
When properly introduced, cats can easily become friends with their canine companions. Because cats are habitual animals that appreciate predictability and safety, it is vital that you move slowly and let the cat determine the pace of the introduction. When pet parents are respectful of their feline’s needs during cat-dog introductions, they may soon find that Kitty is more sociable, comfortable and well adjusted than they previously believed.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian.