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Introducing your new dog to your cat

If you are thinking of adding a dog to your household you should always think of your cat first, if you know your cat dislikes or is frightened of dogs it is recommended you do not re-home a dog as it is not fair to put your cat through this stress.

Historically, cats and dogs are considered to not prefer each other’s company, although they can form close relationships. However, the behaviour of both cats and dogs is extremely complex. For example, some cats do not cope well with change in their environment and many cats are happier living without other pets in the house. How you introduce dogs and cats can make a difference. Once a relationship becomes violent or fearful and one of the animals feels threatened, it is difficult to change behaviour patterns. Even if your dog has lived with a cat before, new cats may not necessarily be tolerated. If they are to become friends, it is essential that the dog is not allowed to frighten the cat. Taking things slowly with careful introduction is vital to prevent excessive reactions.

 

Before the dog even steps foot through the front door some helpful changes can be put in place to ease the transition. These include:

 

  • Moving your cats’ food, litter tray and sleeping areas to a higher position where a dog would not be able to get to or reach.
  • Purchase a child gate or pet gate to keep the dog from going certain places where the cat can.
  • Asking for some of the dogs bedding so you can introduce your cat to the smell of the new dog could help when they eventually meet. You can integrate the new pet into your home better by ensuring that they smell of “home” before being introduced as scent is an important communication method for both species. Gather scents from the new pet’s head by gently stroking with a soft cloth and dabbing this around your home and furniture to mix and spread the scents.
  • Planning where the dog will be sleeping will help; somewhere where the cat does not regularly go would be ideal.

 

DO NOT INTRODUCE YOUR NEW DOG TO THE CAT IN THE GARDEN

Before introducing your new dog to the cat, make sure you have exercised your dog calmly first as it will be very excited about being out of the kennels and in a new environment. Refrain from playing any chase like games or tug of war until you are happy that they are comfortable in each other’s company.

 

USING A CAT CARRIER FOR INTRODUCTIONS

 

Problems can arise if initial meetings are allowed to deteriorate into a chase. The best way to avoid this is to use a cat carrier or indoor kennel.

 

  • Make sure that this area is large enough for your cat to stand up (including fully on hind legs), turn around and stretch out fully. Only use this method if your cat is happy to be inside the carrier or he/she may become more stressed and actually associate the unpleasant experience with the dog.
  • Put a blanket over the top initially for more security – but allow for viewing out of one side at least.
  • The pen allows the pets to see each other, sniff through the bars and interact without any attack or intimidation. The bars allow them to be close together but provide protection at the same time.
  • Place the cat or kitten in the pen/carrier and let the dog come into the room. If using a cat carrier, place it above ground level so the pets are not forced into direct eye contact with each other (which can cause aggression). Let the dog come into the room and give both animals’ attention and calm reassurance.
  • Keep your dog on his/her lead to control any interactions. The dog should be kept as calm as possible on the lead and asked to sit quietly - reward your dog for behaving well. Do not force a meeting and remove your dog if he/she becomes too excitable.
  • If both your cat and dog appear to be relaxed and comfortable, with your dog still on the lead, allow your dog to approach the cat. If both still happy and safe to do so, allow them to meet one another very briefly and then calmly call your dog away whilst you reward and praise.
  • This procedure will need repeating every day to be fully effective until you are confident that they will tolerate one another.

 

FACE TO FACE…

 

When the time is right to let your pets meet without the kennel/ carrier, choose a room where the cat can escape behind furniture, jump up high, or hide if necessary. The cat should be given a safe position in the room, and the animals should be allowed to get used to each other gradually. This will take patience.

 

  • Keep your dog calm and under control to avoid it chasing the cat as this will upset the relationship and it is likely that it will then take much longer before they become used to each other.
  • Again, associate the presence of the cat with reward for your dog’s calm behaviour. Praise your dog for calm interactions, and use suitable treats to reward the dog for good behaviour.
  • Once you are sure they are not going to fight or chase, then start to use the whole house – the pets will probably find places to sleep and routines which allow them to live peacefully in the same house while gradually becoming used to and accepting one another. However, never leave the dog and cat together unattended until you are happy that they are safe together

Please take into consideration that however well the sessions maybe going not to become complacent and do not under any circumstances leave your dogs and get together unsupervised. The main reason for problems between cats and dogs is that cats may become frightened and will run. The sight of a cat running will almost certainly excite your dog and they will chase. Hopefully this information will help get your cat to become relaxed within your dog’s company so that it won’t run away when your dog is around.

 

PLEASE NOTE THAT IF YOUR DOG IS BARKING OR STARING INTENTLY AT YOUR CAT, THIS IS GOING TO TAKE A BIT LONGER!

 

Once you are sure they are not going to fight or chase, then start to use the whole house – the pets will probably find places to sleep and routines which allow them to live peacefully in the same house while gradually becoming used to and accepting one another. However, never leave the dog and cat together unattended until you are happy that they are safe together.

Although your dog may eventually accept your cat in the house it is still likely that if your dogs sees your cat in the garden or out on the street your dog may well want to give chase. Make sure if letting your dog into the garden that your cat is out of sight.

Lastly, remember that just because your dog and your cat maybe the best of friends now, your dog may well still give chase to unknown cats on the street or that come into your garden.