How to Introduce a Dog to a Cat
Cat and dog can get along just fine, if they have been properly introduced to each. There is a difference between introducing a dog to a cat and introducing a cat to a dog. You need to understand that one of them is the resident animal and the other is the newcomer. The resident animal will be defensive and jealously guards its territory if it views the newcomer as an invader.
There is also difference between how dog and cat sees each other. A larger dog will either treat the cat as a playmate like another dog or a prey and a toy. Conversely, a cat which is more often smaller will treat a dog as a potential aggressor. So the initial introduction of the animals is very important. It must set the right context for future interaction. So it must be stress free for the animals.
Do not inadvertently cause anxiety by making it an issue of competing for food/ territory or your attention. It will take time to introduce cat and dog to each other. It may be weeks before some animals can be trusted to interact by themselves. So be patient and take your time.
Some animals just cannot get along. You may need to careful about selecting the breed of dog and cat for co-habitation.
You should have a good idea of the character and inclination of the resident animal. With that in mind, think about whether it is a good idea to introduce another type of pet. A dog that is happiest chasing squirrels may be trained to accept a cat, eventually. But you will have your work cut out for you.
Your planning should also take into the living space available for each animal. Will it cause unnecessary stress because there is inadequate space for privacy and retreat?
You need to identify a suitable area for the first meeting where the animals can be separate by a barrier such as a gate or a fence. You can cordon off a room by installing a baby gate at the doorway. Make sure either animal cannot squeeze through the gap.
It is advisable to remove all house plants or at least keep them away from your cat. Cat seems to love chewing on plants. Some house plants are poisonous or they may have been sprayed with chemicals prior to your purchase. Cacti is a common source of injury to cats. Cat like to it its mission to seek out and destroy cactus. However, the spiky leaves can cause great harm to your pet cat.
If you need to travel anywhere and have to leave your pet cat with somebody. Do inform your helper about these precautions as well. Remind them to stow away electrical cables properly. Your cat may chew on them and harm itself.
Health Checks For Cats and Kittens
Once you have decided to introduce a new pet to your resident cat or dog, you need to prepare your home for the meeting. Your home should be the initial meeting place. Any other place is less than ideal.
Trim your catís claws to minimise their potential for causing harm.
Prepare plenty of cat and dog treats.
Rehearse basic obedience commands with your dog. You will need to be able to make the dog sit and keep down. For later introduction steps, your dog must obey your command to stop explore and return to your side. If your dog is an untrained puppy, do not fret. Just keep it on a leash throughout.
Train your cat to respond to you calling its name by praising and giving treats. Do this by calling its name when the cat is a distance away from you. This is to allow you to control the introduction by bringing the cat close to the dog later. If not, the cat may never want to get close to the dog in the first place.
Start by deliberately exposing the animals to each otherís scent. Give them time to adapt and investigate the new scent. You can simply bring an animal into a room where the other had been. Or simply use a blanket or rug with the animalsí scent.
The next phase is to allow the animal to glimpse each other across a barrier. It is important that the dog must be kept calm. An excited and braking dog is not likely to leave a good impression on the cat.
Walk your dog slowly by the door a few times a day for a couple of days. Praise and reward him for calm behaviour. Toss the cat a treat as well. Your cat should be free to approach the baby gate to investigate or to retreat. Reward the cat with extra treats whenever its approaches the baby gate.
If your dog barks or reacts excitedly to the cat, distract him and focus its attention on you. Avoid using the leash to yank and snap its attention. Instead, use firm basic obedience commands like sit and lie down.
Keep your dog on a leash during the initial introductions. This will allow you to control the situation before anything get out of hand.
For their first close encounter, get your dog to sit at your side while your cat is free to wander and investigate in the same room. Praise and reward both animals for their calm behaviour. Keep the encounter short to avoid stressing the animals. If your cat is obviously nervous, take a step back, reassess and repeat the previous introduction steps.
If the cat is comfortable being in the same room, bring the encounter closer by calling the cat nearer for a treat while you are at the dogís side. Praise and reward both animals if they do well.
Even after a good first introduction, you should keep your cat and dog separated if you are not around to supervise their encounters. Remember, be patient and take your time.
Continue supervised introductions until the animals interact calmly with each other. A cat may swipe gently at a dog that it accepts with its claws sheathed or rub itself against the dog. A friendly dog tends to gently nudge a cat.
Unsupervised encounters can be allowed after the cat and dog have been supervised around each other for a period of time and you can sure that they will not harm each other.
Be careful if your dog cannot break its stare at a cat or in its general direction. It can get aggressive easily. Likewise, a hissing cat is definitely not happy. Do not continue the introduction in such cases.
Watch the cat for sign of stress such as poor appetite and unusual toilet habit. Adjust the pace of introduction accordingly.
Keep cat food and litter box out of reach of the dog. Dog likes to eat cat food and will eat cat faeces too. Your cat will be upset to have its food and private space violated.
Reinforce Good Behaviours
Use the power of positive reinforcement to your advantage. Reward good behaviour promptly and often. Conversely, go easy on punishment as you do not want either of your pets to associate punishment with the other animal.
Be Extra Watchful Over Kitten and Puppy
Young animals may not have well developed survival instinct. So you have to be extra watchful during the introduction phase.
When to Get Professional Help
If your animals do not take kindly to each other after a few weeks, do consider getting professional help. Your pets can be severely injured if they get into fights. The longer they are hostile to each other, the harder it will to resolve the conflicts. Do not resort to punishment to force the issue. It can be counterproductive and make things worse.