Despite the urban myth that cats and dogs hate each other, many cats and dogs live together happily and are great companions. If you’re considering bringing a dog into your home and you already have a cat, it’s important to try your best to make the introduction a success.
Before you choose a dog, think about the personality and temperament of your cat, and try to make a good match. There are certain breeds of dog for example, which are bred specifically to chase smaller animals, so they may not be a good choice as a new addition to your furry family!
Puppy or Adult Dog?
A puppy is likely to be more flexible and easier to ‘train’ to be around a cat, but they’re also going to be more lively and boisterous than an older dog especially in the first year, which is something to keep in mind.
An older rescue dog may have been part of a family with cats previously and tolerate them well. Older dogs are also generally going to be calmer and more relaxed.
If you’re introducing a new dog to a kitten, don’t forget that kittens are smaller and easily injured; so be careful with unsupervised contact between them. If your older cat is introduced to a new dog and gets scared, she’ll hiss and spit but she might also lash out with her claws – so make sure they’re trimmed.
How to Prepare for Your New Dog
Make sure your home has plenty of ‘safe’ spots that a dog won’t be able to get to, so that your cat has escape routes if it all gets too much for her. Think about hiding places, shelving high up on the walls, and tall cat trees that a dog can’t jump up at. If you have an upstairs and downstairs in your home consider putting a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs so your cat can escape upstairs in peace.
The Introduction Process
- Before you introduce them, make sure that you’ve trained your dog to sit and stay. Keep the dog in a set location to start off with (as you would with a new cat), so the introductions are on your terms, and make sure it’s well away from the route your cat has to take to get to her food, litter tray etc. Make sure you’ve exercised your dog before every meeting to get rid of any excess energy.
- Keep your dog on a leash for initial introductions, even if you’ve been successful in obedience training him – better safe than sorry! Keep introductions short, and be aware of both your cat and your dog’s reactions. It’s natural for your cat to run away scared at first, especially if she’s never encountered dogs before. Repeat as many times as you need until they both seem calm in each other’s presence.
- Once you’re happy with their reactions to each other, do the same again but without the leash.
- Move onto unsupervised contact only when you’re 100% comfortable but continue to keep a watchful eye to ensure the safety of both pets.
- Watch out for warning signs from your dog. If he seems aggressive or you can’t control him it’s time to reassess the situation. You may need to make environmental modifications within your home so that your cat and dog have separate living areas, or seek help from your vet or an animal behaviourist until they learn to become friends or at least don’t hate each other.
Have you welcomed a new dog into your family? How did you introduce your dog to your cat? Are your cat and dog friends now?
Top image: Eli Duke via Flickr