For families with fur babies, bringing a new member home is meant to be a happy time. However, when mixing dogs and cats it can also be a bit tense at first. For those wondering how to introduce a dog to a cat, we have put together the 4 key steps to take in order to ensure a smooth welcome for a new, four-legged family member. Each step has a brief explanation, followed by key dos and don’ts for each step.
Step 1: Make Sure Your Dog Has Been Trained
Before introducing a new member to the family, especially when it is a cat, it is important to make sure that your dog(s) can understand and obey basic commands such as “leave it”, “sit”, and “stay”. These will be necessary later on in steps 3 and 4 when your pets are introduced and supervised. When approaching how to introduce a dog to a cat it is critical that your dog is well-behaved.
- Do consider taking your dog to train if they are more on the unruly side
- Do consult with your vet regarding introducing a cat to your dog if he/she is still a puppy
- Don’t be inconsistent with your commands and the expectation of behavior
- Don’t punish your dog as this often has a negative impact (rewards for good behavior are much more effective)
Step 2: Evaluate the Character of Your Dog and Cat
As you consider how to introduce a dog to a cat, the personalities of both pets should be evaluated. With your dog being the first one at home, you can start by assessing his/her behavior. Negative characteristics such as aggression, temper, consistent irritability and/or lack of discipline are all things to consider and if your dog tends to have a combination of these it may not be a good idea to bring a cat into the home.
On the flip side, if your dog is easy-going and enjoys the company of others, dogs or otherwise, if he/she is obedient and/or if your dog is receptive to change then bringing a cat to the home shouldn’t be a problem if the rest of the steps are followed.
If your dog has ‘passed’ a loose evaluation, the next furry baby to consider if the potential cat. Cats who have been around dogs before and/or who are confident and not shy around other animals (dogs, cats, or otherwise) will adjust to their new home and playmate better than cats who are timid and grow defensive around others (both people & animals).
- Do an honest evaluation of your dog’s personality
- Create an ‘ideal’ profile for your future cat
- Do engage friends or family members for an unbiased evaluation of your dog
- Don’t downplay your dog’s negative characteristics
- Don’t assume your dog will change when he/she meets the cat
- Do not be afraid to consult with your vet regarding your dog and how they may react to a cat
Step 3: Make Sure to Keep Both Pets Separate Initially
Yay! The first day you bring your newest furry family member home is exciting. To keep it from being nerve-wracking at the same time, it’s important to give both of your pets plenty of personal space. Ideally, you can set aside a spare room, basement, or office area and keep your new cat there. Make sure to set them up comfortably and ensure that under no circumstances your dog can enter.
This is your cat’s new personal space and he/she can stay there happily for as long as it takes your dog and cat to familiarize themselves with each other. For the best, smoothest transitions, place items from your dog (e.g. blankets, toys, etc) in the room with your cat and vice versa. This will help both animals grow comfortable with each other’s scents and promote familiarity.
- Do place items from both pets in the others’ space to promote familiarity
- Give time to both your dog and your new cat
- Do feed them at the same time, on opposite sides of the door
- Don’t rush this stage, timing is how to introduce a dog to a cat
- Don’t use a child gate initially, most dogs are strong enough to break them if they want
Step 4: Slowly And Steadily Allow Your Pets to Engage One Another
This step is the most critical and timing is everything. Some animals can adjust to each other within a few weeks, but others may take several months before they can safely stay alone unsupervised. When considering how to introduce a dog to a cat, wait until the cat is ready – signs your cat is ready include: he/she is eating readily, using the litter box regularly, and is calm with you and the scents of your dog.
Before the first meeting it is always recommended that you take your dog on a long walk. If walks are not a viable option (weather, health, etc) spend some time playing with your dog so he/she is a bit tired and mellow. Always keep your dog on a leash during the first few times (or longer) so that you have full control over their access to the cat.
Bring the cat into the room with your dog on a leash (if you have a friend or family member, you can stay with your dog while they bring the cat in. Let the cat lead the meetings and allow them free range of the room. This first meeting usually only should be about 10 minutes. Have these meetings daily and/or as consistently as possible and slowing increase the time your pets are together. As your dog responds favorably, lengthen the leash but do not let him/her off the leash until you are certain they will cause no harm (even accidentally). Reward your dog for engaging the cat in a friendly manner and/or when your dog ignores the cat. If done properly, in time you will be able to let both pets engage each other freely and won’t have to worry about their safety.
- Do reward your dog whenever he/she ignores or plays nicely with your cat
- Provide your cat a ‘dog free’ zone in the house and/or tall area he/she can run too if they want to stay away from the dog for a bit
- Do give both equal amounts of attention and affection
- Don’t rush to leave both animals unattended. It may result in the harm of one pet or both
- Don’t punish either pet for not actively engaging the other in a timely manner, let both adjust at their own pace
When learning how to introduce a dog to a cat the most important thing to keep in mind is time. By following the 4 steps above, you will save yourself time and ensure the safety and happiness of both of your pets. If you have other tips or tricks that have worked when introducing your pets to each other share below! Each pet has their own unique personality and your feedback is always welcome.
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