Although we’re used to the old stereotype of cats and dogs being enemies, they can live together. However, you do need to be careful with how you introduce a cat to a dog. You’ll need to be patient and not skip any steps.
Each animal has its own personality so every introduction is different. You should go through this process even if your dog has lived with cats in the past and vice-versa.
When bringing home a new pet, you need to set realistic expectations. Some pets are more social than others and may adapt quicker than others.
Before you start to introduce a cat to a dog
When introducing a cat to a dog they should have access to their own cat-free or dog-free sanctuary at all times. You can use any room for this purpose as long as it has a door. Place all the essentials for each one of your pets in this room. Things like their food, bed, toys, and litter box. Have some high areas around your living spaces so that your cat can easily move away from your dog if it needs to.
This introduction process can take several weeks. Take some time in your schedule to watch your pets’ interactions closely. Pay attention to your pet’s body language and only progress to the next step whenever you see your pets are calm.
1. Keep them separated
When you bring your new pet home, you’ll need to keep it isolated in the room mentioned before for the first 3 to 4 days. Don’t allow any contact before the vet says it’s alright and that your new pet is free of any illness.
Although they can’t see each other, they can still hear and smell one another. They’ll start to get used to each other’s presence without going straight for the visual contact.
At this stage, you can take it a step further and feed your pets close to the door. This way, they can start associating each other’s presence with something good. Do this until both your pets are able to eat calmly next to the door.
2. Swap scents
Grab your pets’ beds and blankets and swap them so they can start getting accustomed to each other’s scent. At first, place them away from your pets’ valued items like their food or toys to prevent any anxiety. After they start to get used to each other’s scent, place the blanket underneath their food dishes. This will also allow them to associate a good experience with the other pet’s scent.
When you see that your pets look interested but calm, you can move to the next step.
3. Swap living areas
When you see your new pet is comfortable in its sanctuary and eating regularly, it’s time for another switch. This time, let your new pet explore your house while confining your other pet in the sanctuary room.
This also allows your pets to feel each other’s scent without any visual contact. And your new pet will be able to explore its new home without being afraid of your other pet’s presence.
4. Visual contact
Before moving on to this step, your pets need to be able to escape whenever they want. They can’t be able to either get close to the other pet, feel trapped, or have the access to their sanctuary blocked. You want to avoid them associating any negative feeling like fear or anxiety to the other pet’s presence.
Use a baby gate or a glass door to allow your pets to see each other without allowing them to touch. Meanwhile, grab some treats and reward them for their calm behavior. Use positive reinforcement so they understand what behavior you want them to repeat.
5. Physical contact
The final stage of introducing a cat to a go is to allow some quick and positive physical greetings. Keep your dog on a leash in case you need to control your dog’s behavior at any time.
While you’re at home and able to supervise them, allow your pets to have access to the whole house. When you’re not, use baby gates again or close doors to keep them apart.
As mentioned before, your cat should always have some high areas to escape your dog when needed.
Making sense of it all
If your pets have a good past experience, this process may be a lot quicker than expected. But never take it for granted and skip any of the steps mentioned above. The goal is to only progress to the next stage when both your pets feel calm and safe. You want to create a positive experience for them as much as possible.
When introducing a cat to a dog, avoid any interactions that can result in any of them becoming afraid or aggressive. This is especially true if your dog is showing signs that it’s getting ready for a chase. If you see this behavior, do not let your dog near your cat. If this behavior isn’t corrected from the start, it can become a habit that may be more difficult to change.
Remember to never use punishment. They may associate that punishment with your other pet’s presence. And finally, don’t be afraid to seek professional help whenever needed.