By Emily Parker, Catological.com
If you’re like me, you can’t imagine living without your animals.
If you have a special place in your heart both for cats and dogs, sooner or later you’ll probably decide to have both as members of your family.
But once you decide to make this decision and become a multi-critter household, it’s important to have realistic expectations.
After all, if you’ve been around cats and dogs for any length of time, you know canines and felines can have very different personalities.
Because of this, there will be a period of adjustment for everyone, especially your dog.
Since it likely has had the run of your home for quite awhile, it may take a bit of time for it to discover the fun it can have with a new feline friend.
If you’re ready to accept the challenge of introducing your dog to a new cat, here are some tips I’ve found especially useful over the years.
Give the Cat its Own Room
When you bring your new kitty home, I’ve found it best to give your cat its own room for a period of time. By doing so, your cat can relax in a space of its own, where it can get to know its new home without having to be confronted by your dog.
To make the transition even easier, do like I’ve done and put a few toys and a comfortable bed in the room, and be sure to visit your new feline family member often, speaking softly and lovingly to it, so it won’t feel alone.
If there is one thing many animals rely on to give them an indication of how things are going in their new surroundings, it is the scents of other animals nearby.
Be sure that soon after your new cat arrives you swap scents between it and your resident dog.
For best results, I’ve often rubbed a towel on the new kitty, and then given the towel to the pup to smell and get to know. I’ll then repeat the process by rubbing the dog with a different clean towel to give to the cat.
Confine the Dog
Once you think your cat has started to feel comfortable in your home, switch the living areas of your dog and cat.
By this, I mean let your cat have some free time to roam about the house, while you put your dog in the room where kitty has been staying.
Not only will this allow them to continue getting used to each other’s scent, but it will also let the cat get used to other parts of the house before having a face-to-face meeting with your dog.
Getting a Look at One Another
As both your dog and cat get accustomed to one another’s scent, this will be an excellent time to let them start having a look at each other.
But rather than doing this in a face-to-face meeting where things could go wrong in a hurry, do like I have and instead use a baby gate at the door to the kitty’s room.
By doing this, you will not only create a situation where everyone can look at each other all they want, but you’ll also have a safe environment for them to do so.
Once you think the time has come for the inevitable face-to-face meeting in the same room, make sure you do so under very controlled conditions.
For starters, always have your dog on a short leash, since this will allow you to keep the dog under control at all times.
Along with this, make sure the setting you select for this initial meeting has places the cat can retreat to if it feels threatened, such as high shelves or bookcases.
Keep Food Bowls and the Litter Box Separate
Once doggy and kitty have decided they can indeed live with one another, always keep their food bowls separate.
Not only will this allow everyone to eat in a stress-free environment, but it will also keep your dog from eating the cat’s food, which it will likely do if given the chance.
While this sounds harmless, cat food and dog food are quite different regarding vitamins and nutrients, so it is best to keep this separate. It can also be traumatizing to your new kitty!
Also, keep your cat’s litter box in a place where your dog cannot gain access.
Otherwise, you may start finding your cat using the bathroom in various spots throughout your house, which will indicate it is feeling stressed.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Like people, cats and dogs respond very well to positive reinforcement. Because of this, I have always made it a point to pet my cats and dogs as much as possible, give them treats for displaying good behavior, and speak to them in a calm, comforting manner.
When you do, I guarantee you will not only have very happy pets, but also ones that will likely behave very well together.
Note Their Body Language
Even after you introduce your dog to a new cat and everything seems to be going well, always take note of the body language of both animals.
For example, if your cat’s ears are pinned back, or if it is swishing its tail back and forth, chances are it is not very happy about something.
Likewise, if your dog starts staring at the cat and maybe begins to growl under its breath, it is a good idea to separate everyone before chaos erupts.
Have Plenty of Patience
Perhaps most of all, I’ve learned that whenever you bring a new pet into your home, plan on being very patient with everyone until they get adjusted to their new surroundings.
If you think you will simply bring a new kitty into your home and your dog will automatically love it, you may be setting everyone up for failure. While this can certainly happen, it is best to plan for a period of adjustment.
Emily’s got two black cats – Gus and Louis. Gus only has one eye, but that’s part of the reason she adopted him!
She’s been with Catological since the beginning, bringing life to the ideas and information that she and Curt Storring – Founder & Editor have found along the way to help cat parents love their kitties better.