Despite the cliché of the fighting cat and dog, these two very different creatures can get along happily in the same home. It just requires some planning, patience and, in the beginning, a watchful eye.
Before introducing a new family pet to your established four-legged friend, create a safe place for your current pet. This is an area of the home where the new pet can’t enter. If you have a cat, put her litter tray where the new dog cannot find it, and if you have a dog, keep his drink and feed bowl and any toys he might feel possessive about in a room where the cat can’t go.
When making the first introduction, be sure both animals are calm. Exercise your dog beforehand, and give your cat plenty of cuddles (if that’s what she likes).
Bring your new pet into the home and let him roam around, checking out the new space and smells. Your new pet will definitely smell your current pet. It’s best if at least two people are present for the introductions, but keep young children out of the room. Their energy might add to the stress of your animals. Pop your dog on a lead and then bring your cat and dog together, allowing them to get a sense of each other from a safe distance.
If your cat hisses at the dog, don’t worry. This is perfectly normal. Just give both pets lots of calm reassurances. And if they like treats, keep them handy to reward calm, quiet behaviour. Your dog might try to run for the cat, which is what the lead is for, so just pull him away and use commands such as “sit” to keep him well back. Praise him when he calms down, and he’ll soon learn that running for the cat is not okay.
Keep this introduction short. You will want to reintroduce your pets this way dozens of times over the course of the first week or so.
Once they enter these meetings calmly, and you feel comfortable they’re getting along, you can then start these meetings by placing the cat on the floor or the furniture and letting go of the dog’s lead. Keep the lead on, though, in case he makes a run for it and you have to restrain him.
When they start getting close to each other, you might find your cat swipes at your dog. This is normal and you shouldn’t punish your cat for it. Your dog will soon learn to read her signals and keep his distance if he needs to. Stay calm during these meetings and speak in a gentle voice.
When you feel confident they are making friends with each other, take off your dog’s lead, but watch their interactions carefully. Dogs can kill cats, even just during play. Be wary about leaving the two alone together until they have established a very strong bond.
- Swap blankets on their bedding so they get used to the smell of the other.
- Remember, food can bring out the possessive worst in your pets, so when feeding, separate them initially. A good trick is to have them on either side of a door. That way they can sense and smell each other while they eat but still be safe.
- Dogs like cat food and cat poo, so watch your dog at meal time and keep the litter tray where he can’t access it.
- Seek your vet’s advice before introducing animals who have medical or behavioural problems.
- Remember, there might be further challenges when introducing pups to cats and kittens to dogs. Excitable pups just won’t be able to read the signals of an older cat and young kittens can be very vulnerable with bigger dogs.
- If the introductions aren’t going well, seek some professional advice. Don’t persevere for too long, because the longer the problems continue, the harder they can be to solve. Also, you don’t want to risk having one of your pets injured by the other during a fight.