How to Introduce a New Dog to Your Cat
Have you adopted a new dog or gotten a new puppy, and your resident cat is freaking out? Getting them acquainted isn’t as straightforward as just putting them in the same room together. There are some simple ways you can make the assimilation of your new dog to your cat, and a lot easier.
Keep them separate at first
Until you know the demeanor of the dog, it’s best to keep them separated from your kitty. Put the cat in another room with the door closed and allow the dog to enter the house. This will give the dog the opportunity to ‘meet’ your cat by smell. Then, sequester the dog and allow the cat to roam the house and ‘meet’ the dog by their smell as well. You can also swap out items such as blankets they lay on regularly, and their beds. This will get each of them more familiar and more comfortable with each other’s scent.
Keep the dog on a leash
But this is only a temporary measure until there’s a proven track record that the two can coexist peacefully. You’ll want to keep your pup on a short leash even when in the house, and then allow the cat into the room. The leash will keep you in control and prevent the dog from lunging or jumping at the cat. You can also immediately correct any aggressive or overly playful behaviors using commands such as ‘sit’ or ‘no’. When the dog obeys the command, make sure you reinforce the good behavior with a treat. If the bad behavior continues, minimize the dog’s time with the cat until the behavior is controlled.
Do not move on to the following step without being confident that the previous steps were completed successfully, and that both animals are moderately calm in each other’s presence.
After you’re certain the animals are comfortable around each other, you can move on to “off-leash” visits. This doesn’t mean you should remove the leash entirely, simply let it lay close by and allow the animals to be in the same room. Ensure that the leash is close by enough that should the dog try to chase or lunge at the cat, you can quickly and easily grab it or step on it. Continue this way as long as necessary. Every animal is different, and how long it takes for the cat and dog to be comfortable around each other will vary based on their own unique personalities. If off leash visits are not going well, revert back to the first steps until positive progression is made.
NEVER leave the animals alone with each other until you are 100% certain they are relaxed and comfortable in each other’s presence!
Things to Remember (and other tips)
- Make sure the dog has a full belly and has had plenty of exercise before meeting the cat. This will help the dog to be in a more relaxed state.
- The cat will probably hiss at the dog and run. This a perfectly normal reaction.
- Do not punish the cat if they swat the dog on the nose, just distract the dog with a toy or treat. Most of the time one swat from a cat is all it takes for the dog to learn it’s lesson.
- Speak in a calm and soothing voice and use both animals’ names when introducing them.
- If introducing the dog to a kitten, use extra caution. Kittens are much smaller and can be injured more easily.
- If the dog digs at the separation barrier, barks at the cat excessively for more than a couple days, or consistently lunges at or chases a calm and still cat, you may need to seek professional training and guidance.