You and your cats have had a peaceful home. As a matter of fact, the cats have ruled the roost! So, now you decide to get a new dog. Is this going to cause trouble or will everyone just learn to get along? Well, introducing a new dog to cats might be a challenge depending on the temperament of each individual. So, read on to see what you can do to make the best of this new situation.
Get to know the dog before bringing him home
The best possible scenario for a new dog is a puppy. A puppy who grows up with a cat is likely to see her as part of the pack. But, what if you’re adopting an adult dog? Ask yourself, “Does this dog have a predatory nature?’ If the answer is yes, they may not be a fit. For example, we were planning to adopt a Chihuahua and gave him a try in our house with our cats. But he was too aggressive and he was constantly fixated on chasing the cats. So, what happened? All the cats became nervous and either hid or peed on the furniture in protest. Ultimately, this dog didn’t work out but fortunately there was another person standing by ready to take him. I learned a lesson!
Make sure your new dog knows basic commands. Especially important are “sit” and “leave.” Hopefully, he will know these before actually stepping foot in the house.
If you are adopting an adult dog, say from a shelter, perhaps you can find out the experiences the particular dog has had living with cats. Remember, some dogs just can’t live harmoniously with cats.
Prepare your cat
- Create a safe place for your cat where a new dog can’t get to her. She should have a “safe” location in every room even if its on top on a bookcase.
- Put the litter boxes in a safe area. Many dogs eat feces (pretty gross – I will likely write about this at some point). After all, you don’t want your dog to ambush your cat in this situation. One of the ways that cats protest is by peeing and pooping on furniture. I’m guessing you’d like to avoid this.
- Keep the cat’s water and food dishes in a safe place.
Pre-introduction and introduction
Before bringing your new dog home make sure he has a nice meal and exercise so he will relax. Remember, not only will you introduce him to your cats but he is coming into a completely new environment and may be nervous as well. Another way to help your dog relax is to purchase dog appeasing pheromones. These products release a scent similar to the scent mother dogs release to calm their pups. There are sprays, collars and difusers.
So, when you are ready to bring your new dog to the house, put your cats in their safe place. Then let the dog roam the house without seeing the cats so he can get used to the new environment. In this manner he is introduced to the cats by smell. Then take your dog outside, let the cats out and they will be introduced to the dog by smell.
Next, bring your dog into the house on a short leash . In case he darts at the cat you can make a quick correction with the leash and use the commands “stay” and “leave it.” This will also allow you to bond more closely with your new dog.
Now, bring out your cat. If she is especially nervous, you can have her out in her carrier. If not, just let her roam.
Your cat’s first reaction will likely be a hiss and she might also run away. This is normal. Let them check each other out from a distance. Pet and talk to them gently. If either shows no aggression, reward each with treats.
You might need to go through this process several times until you are satisfied they are showing no aggression. Each time, you can give your dog a little more leash.
Now it’s time to let go of the leash but have it close enough that you can grab or step on it if your dog is aggressive. If your cat swats the dog’s nose, distract the dog with a treat. It’s possible that this one swat will teach the dog about territorial boundaries.
At this time, be sure to speak in a soft calm voice. Pay close attention to any signs of aggression. If you can’t resolve the aggression with a few voice commands, go back to the previous step for a while. Don’t leave the dog and cat unattended until you are satisfied there is no aggression. Remember to praise and give treats to all during the training!
If you are bringing your new dog into a household with a kitten, be extra cautious as a kitten is easier to injure.
Hopefully, introductions have gone well. If not, it might be time to seek professional help.
Other introduction ideas
Here’s another idea to help your cat and dog get to know each other. They call this “The scent handshake.” Get a couple rags or old washcloths. Next, rub one of the cloths on your cat’s chin and the sides of her face and the other on your dog’s back and rear end.
Now you swap the cloths so each animal gets used to the scent of the other. Allow them to spend a few days doing this before the introduction.
Here’s one more idea. Before you introduce them, feed them on opposite sides of a closed door. This teaches them to associate the presence of the other pet with something pleasant, like food.
Introducing a new dog to cats can be tricky business. After all, you want everyone to get along so you and your pets can have a harmonious, peaceful household!
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