Chances are if you’re bringing home a new pup, you’re an animal lover all around. Your new furry friend may be sharing their new home with one or more already-established pet. Introducing a new pet to a resident one is always a delicate process, especially when it comes to cats and dogs.
In time, they may be the best of friends, or they may simply share a mutual tolerance and respect; it all comes down to individual personalities, and how their relationship develops from the start. Set up your new pooch and your beloved cat for success by following these helpful tips!
Give your cat a safe space.
Don’t try to force your animals into a situation that makes them scared and uncomfortable, as this will obviously not bode well for their pending relationship. Your cat has already been living in your home, probably for most of her life, and has established a sense of security there—don’t take that away from her, especially in association with the arrival of your new dog.
Separate their food areas and your cat’s litter box so neither feels threatened when they let their guard down. Keep them in separate rooms for the first few days, or at least separated with a barrier like a baby gate. Allow your dog to become familiar with the scent of your cat and vise versa; this will help them get used to one another.
Let your dog wander around and smell your cat; then take the dog for a walk and let your cat roam, becoming familiar with the scent of the dog. You can try exchanging their bedding or toys, or even let them get close to one another on opposite sides of a door or other boundary.
Ensuring your cat feels secure in their own space will make the transition into a multi-pet household much easier and much more positive, and gives them the freedom to get to know your new puppy at their own pace.
Introduce them slowly.
More than likely your cat and your new dog are going to be initially cautious of one another, and at least a little bit afraid. A puppy might be more curious and energetic than a cat is okay with—so it’s important to present them to one another gradually.
Once they’ve come to recognize each other’s scent, put them together in the same room but in a controlled situation. Keep your dog on a short leash or put your cat in her carrier and let them interact at their own pace. Let them get used to each other from a distance. Feel out the situation—if they’re curious let them get closer or give them more freedom; if one seems afraid, ensure you maintain an appropriate level of separation until they grow more comfortable.
Proceed this way for the first several days or the first couple of visits. This will allow your pets to get to know one another and develop their relationship in a safe environment, and a calm and reassuring atmosphere.
Bribe them! Have toys ready to distract an overly-playful dog so your cat isn’t overwhelmed. Use treats as positive reinforcement for good behavior and productive interactions. Was your dog calm and gentle when your cat approached and sniffed him? Toss him a treat! Did your cat walk up and lick your puppy? Treat! Rewarding positive gestures toward one another will create positive association between them.
Give your cat and dog verbal and physical praise as well as treats so they feel good about their progress. Be generous with pets and ear scratches for both of your babies and be sure to throw in a lot of “good boys.” If you can, try to train your pup with some basic commands like “sit” and “come,” to control excitability that might frighten your cat.
Observe and respond to body language.
Your cat and dog will tell you how they’re feeling with their body language; make sure you’re listening.
A happy or excited dog will relax his body, wag his tail, pant or grin, and have his ears perked up. If he’s feeling playful, you’ll see him jump around or stretch out his front legs and stick his butt in the air. If you see him with his tail between his legs and his ears lowered, avoiding eye contact, he’s probably scared, and you should either reassure him or remove him from the situation. An angry or aggressive dog will try to make himself look bigger and more intimidating by tensing his muscles and snarling or barking.
Cats usually give themselves away with their tails. A tail sticking straight up in the air, or with a slight hook at the end, indicates happiness or interest. Ears forward and eyes blinking slowly, or that are half closed, are other signs of trust and contentment. A cat with its tail down and ears back is scared or in distress. If you see a tail that’s puffed up and sticking up in the air or curled, or ears flat against the head and pupils constricted like sticks, your cat is feeling agitated and aggressive.
Responding accordingly to the body language of your pets will give both you and them the best opportunity to foster a comfortable and positive relationship.
When you’re introducing a new dog and a cat, remember to be patient above all else. It takes animals time to get to know and love one another, just like it does for us.
If you’re looking for a new pup and already have a cat at home, consider getting a Havanese! They tend to get along well with other animals because of their naturally social and playful personalities. Being similar in size, your cat is also less likely to be intimidated by a Havanese dog; and since they can adapt easily to different situations, they’ll have no trouble responding to a cat’s distinct personality.
Call Susie’s Quality K9’s so we can set up you and your cat with a new furrever friend as soon as possible!