While having a new animal join your family is fun and exciting, if you don't do it correctly, it could end poorly. In fact, there are a few things you really need to consider. This is especially true when it comes to introducing a dog and a cat.
Sure, it is possible for dogs and cats to harmoniously live together. You just need to know how to introduce them properly. In this guide, we will take a look at some tips to introduce your canine and feline companions.
7. Start Slowly
First things first: you need to begin the introduction slowly to help your pets adapt to each other. You should begin by keeping the dog and cat separate in different areas of the house. This allows both of your companions to become familiar with and sniff out each other’s scent.
You could even consider swapping their bedding or toys and offering them to one another for scent exchange. If you can allow them to see each other without being able to interact, this is another helpful thing to do. It will allow them to investigate each other without direct interaction.
6. Create Positive Associations
Animals thrive off positive association. You can easily associate positive experiences for your dog and cat just by rewarding them for their presence. You can do this by rewarding both your dog and cat with treats and over-the-top praise when they are calm, relaxed, and kind when near each other.
By doing this, you will be fostering positive associations with your cat and dog's new companion. This small and very simple step will help build a loving and non-competitive relationship between your feline and canine.
5. Allow Controlled Visual Introductions
When you have a few hours of spare time, you can allow your pets to have some controlled visual contact. You can do this by allowing your cat and dog to see each other through a baby gate or cracked door. They will be able to clearly see each other, smell each other, and touch slightly.
This way, even if things go south and they don’t get along at first, no pet is in harm’s way. While it may only seem like a small step, this is actually a huge one in the grand scheme of things, as it will give you an idea of how this relationship could go.
4. Allow Gradual Physical Introductions
Once you have allowed a few visual interactions (and they are all positive), it is time to allow controlled physical introductions. You can put both animals on a leash or just your dog. Then, let your cat approach your dog at a nice, slow, self-assured pace.
Your cat will walk toward your dog when it is ready. If either your cat or dog shows signs of anxiety, stress, or aggression, be prepared to intervene and remove the animals. If you have a very excitable dog, it is perhaps a good idea to take them on a run to tire them out. This could make them more relaxed during the introduction.
3. Observe Body Language
During controlled physical introductions, make sure you pay close attention to the body language of your cat and dog. If you observe signs of playfulness, curiosity, affection, and relaxation, this is a very positive thing. However, if you observe signs of aggression, fear, or prey-driven behaviors (such as your dog chasing your cat), you may need to intervene.
In this instance, you must take it back to the beginning and continue the introduction process at a slower pace. This allows both pets to feel comfortable. It will also allow you to gain more of an idea of how they will be together in the future.
2. Create a Safe Ongoing Space
Now that your pets are happy during visual and physical interactions, you need to move on to putting them together more often. However, before you allow them together in a more permanent setup, you should ensure that you have set up the space to be safe for both animals.
Both of your pets will need to have their own areas set up and safe spaces to leave if things get rough between them. For example, you will need to ensure that your cat has access to hiding spots and high perches where the dog cannot reach. This way, your cat will feel a strong sense of security in their environment if they need to retreat.
1. Supervise Your Pets
Once your pets are content living together, you will just need to provide ongoing supervision. Even after your pets have been successfully introduced, keep an eye on them, as things can go south fast! Monitor their interactions and ensure that they are coexisting peacefully.
Make sure you are patient, as it may be a period of adjustment for you all. If you’re anxious or nervous, your pets will know. After all, dogs have a sixth sense, and they feed off their owners’ nervous energy.
It is also a good idea to allow your pets to set their boundaries. If your animals prefer to keep a distance every now and then, respect their choice. This will lead to better relationships between you, your cat, and your dog.
Sometimes, Having a Dog and Cat Isn’t a Good Idea
While many households around the world do successfully foster companionship between dogs and cats, it is important that you understand that this is not always the case. Sometimes, no matter how much you want it, your pets just won’t get along. If your dog or cat is exhibiting aggressive behavior for prolonged periods, you either need to start the process again, or rethink the living arrangements.
If at any time you notice either pet showing extreme stress or fear over time, it is an indicator that these pets may not work well together. Pets with previous trauma or negative experiences with other animals likely won’t be suitable for multi-pet households.
If you’ve tried everything and it isn’t working, speak to your veterinarian or another professional experienced in introducing different animal species, such as a dog trainer. They can offer specialized insight into animal psychology that could help you create a happy home.