Introducing your dog to a new cat is an exciting experience, but it can also be a difficult one. While dogs and cats are capable of becoming fast friends, the introduction process is often rocky. In addition to the fact that dogs are natural predators and may feel inclined to chase cats, felines can also become spooked and claw a dog, creating a poor first interaction for both parties. Fortunately, there are some easy tricks pet parents can try to ensure that the introduction goes as smoothly as possible.
- Ensure that the Dog is Well-Controlled
While first impressions are important for both parties, a negative one is more likely to stick for the cat, creating future aggression and fear in both animals. It is therefore important to make sure that the dog is well-controlled before the introduction takes place. Make sure your dog knows the commands “Stay” and “Leave it” before introducing the two animals. If these two commands are still shaky, restrain the dog using a leash. This will help you control the dog should he or she become overly excited during the introduction.
- Introduce smells first
If possible, it is a good idea to allow each pet to get accustomed to the smells of the other. If for example you are moving in with your partner, a few weeks before the move, take a piece of bedding from each pet. Place the foreign-smelling bedding in and around an area of comfort for the dog or cat to allow them to become familiar with the smell. This helps to reduce the sensory overload when the first meeting happens.
- Conduct the First Meeting through a Gate
Allow the new cat to become comfortable in one room of the house before initiating the introduction. When the introduction takes place, it should occur in the doorway of the cat’s room. Leave the door open but block the entrance with a baby gate. Allow both animals to sniff through the gate and reward both with treats in order to reinforce a positive, pleasant meeting experience.
- Supervise All Meetings
As the dog and new cat are getting used to one another, it is important that their interactions be carefully monitored. If you must leave the house or cannot actively supervise them for a time, make sure that both animals are confined in separate rooms. This ensures the safety of both pets and prevents a negative or frightening interaction from taking place in your absence.
- Allow the Cat to Call the Shot
While dogs are generally happy to meet cats, that feeling is not always reciprocated by the cat, and it is important that she does not feel rushed, forced, or afraid. If the cat hides beneath furniture or leaves the room when the dog is around, allow it to happen. The cat will eventually warm up to the dog, but it is not uncommon for the process to take many weeks. Allow ample time for the animals to get used to one another and don’t be surprised if the cat seems disinterested or hostile at first.
By following these tips, you can help ensure that the first meetings between your dog and new cat are as positive, safe, and comfortable as possible. In addition to ensuring everyone’s safety, these tricks also ensure that negative interactions, which can cause long-standing negative associations between the two animals, do not occur. Although some friendships may take a while to build, cats and dogs can easily become best buddies when they are allowed to adjust to one another at their own rate.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian