How To Introduce Your Cat And Dog Without Causing A Scene
They’ll be friends in no time 👯♀️
If you’re a pet parent, you might be convinced there’s no such thing as too many pets.
So if you decide to get another (and we don’t blame you!), how can you make sure they get along? Especially if you’re considering introducing a cat to a dog, when the two don’t exactly have a reputation for being instant best friends?
To help you keep the peace in your house, The Dodo spoke to Mary Molloy, a behavior consultant at Behavior Vets of NYC, to find out how to safely introduce cats and dogs — with as little drama as possible.
Things to consider before getting a new dog or cat
If you already have a pet, whether he’s a dog or a cat, it’s important to think about how any potential new pets will interact with him.
“Before you add a new pet to your household, take into consideration their age, breed and past experiences,” Molloy told The Dodo. This can affect your choice of new pet, which in turn can make the friendship more likely to succeed.
Puppies and kittens, for example, tend to do well with new environments and experiences, but that can also depend on their temperament and what they’ve been exposed to in the past, Molloy said — so don’t just assume you can easily add a new pet to your home if your existing pet’s still young.
And if you’re adding a puppy or kitten to your already existing clan of pets, keep in mind they might be pretty hyper, which could be more challenging for some types of existing pets, especially senior dogs and cats, to deal with.
Look for animals who’ve had prior experience with the type of pet you already own. Many shelters and rescues can provide background information about their pets, so be sure to ask. “If you're adopting from a shelter, look for a dog who has lived harmoniously with a cat before (and vice versa),” Molloy said.
While personality always matters much more than breed, it’s worth noting that certain types of dogs are typically less friendly toward cats.
“Breed-wise, some working lines, such as herding, hunting or protection dogs, are more likely to display undesirable behavior toward a cat and see them as something to be herded or hunted,” Molloy said.
This doesn’t mean that a husky, for example, can’t be friends with a cat, but you should pay close attention to each animal’s individual temperament before moving forward with a new adoption.
Steps to introduce your cat and dog
Animals can get scared or aggressive if their territory’s threatened, so you’ll want to take careful steps to introduce your new pet to the household.
Get them used to each other’s scents
Keep your dog and cat separated before introducing them so the current pet doesn’t feel threatened and the new pet doesn’t get overwhelmed in his new environment.
“The resident pet should have the run of the house, while the newbie is in their own room, where they have their food, water [and a] soft bed, and, if the cat is the new pet, a litter box and scratching post,” Molloy said.
While they’re separated, let your pets get acquainted with each other by scent.
“While they're getting acclimated, put a towel where they sleep, and after a couple of nights, swap the towels — the one with the dog's scent goes to the cat and vice versa,” Molloy said. “Carefully observe the body language of each pet when they encounter the new scent. Is it positive, negative or neutral? Continue to swap the towels each day until both pets are reacting positively (or, at least, indifferently) to the scent of the other.”
Once they’re familiar with each other’s scents, it’s time for a face-to-face introduction — or almost face to face.
“Once both pets are comfortable with each others' scent, try conducting short sessions on either side of a closed door,” Molloy said.
You’ll want them to have positive associations with each other, so have treats, toys or food available while doing initial introductions.
“During these sessions, each pet is getting something wonderful,” Molloy said. “You can use their meals or treats or a play session — whatever is especially rewarding to them.”
Once both pets are comfortable being on either side of the door, you’ll repeat this process using a gate. Start with the gate covered with a blanket and eventually move it aside so they can see each other.
Once both animals are calm and familiar with each other, you can let them out in the same space together for a short amount of time while you supervise.
“This isn't forced in any way — it's just the two of them sharing a space. If they choose to interact, that's up to them,” Molloy said.
To have control over the situation, keep your dog on a leash and make sure your cat has lots of safe places to hide if he wants alone time.
“Start with five-minute sessions and gradually work up to longer and longer times,” Molloy said. “For the first month, at least, they should never be out together when you can't be there to supervise.”
Watch out for your pets’ body language, too, so you’ll know if it’s time to end an intro session.
“For dogs, be wary of a stiff stance, barking, growling, rigid tail, sustained gaze or a prey crouch,” Molloy said. “For cats, you don't want to see hair standing on end or an arched back (the standard ‘Halloween cat’), growling, hissing, swatting, hiding or a prey crouch.”
If everything goes according to plan and all the introductions go smoothly, you can start letting your cat and dog roam freely without supervision. Even if they don’t seem to be BFFs yet, as long as they’re comfortable with each other, they can learn to co-exist.
Once your pets are able to spend time together drama-free, it’s still a good idea to have separate spaces for each pet to go to if they need some alone time. Feed your dog and cat separately, and put their beds in different rooms so they can still have some privacy.
What to do after you introduce your dog and cat
Once you get your new pet settled in your home, be sure to still spend solo time with your current pet so he doesn’t feel left out.
“Make sure that in the excitement of getting a new pet, you don't ignore your current pet,” Molloy said. “It could already be tough for them to share you with another animal. Be sure you continue to give your current pet plenty of attention, and give them some one-on-one time with you.”
What to do when your pets don’t get along
In some cases, even if you follow all the right steps, your cat and dog might just not get along. Here are some things to do if you run into that issue.
Give your cat his own space
Make sure your cat has his own area to escape to when he needs some space. A cat tree is a great way to do that, since it’s high up to make your cat feel safe.
Don’t yell at either of your pets. Animals can easily pick up on humans’ emotions, so if you get angry, your pets can become more stressed or tense, which can make the situation worse.
Try calming products
Work with a trainer
If you’ve tried everything, and nothing seems to work, try working with a trainer or cat or dog behavior expert to get some advice.
So be patient and don’t hesitate to bring in professionals if you need some extra help. If you take the time to safely introduce your cat and dog, they’ll be friends in no time — or at least comfortably indifferent!
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