How to Introduce a Cat to the Family Dog

Dec_2013_3

Adding a cat to your pet family can be very rewarding. But pets, like humans, need time to get to know each other before becoming friends. Follow these tips when introducing a cat into a dog home:

  • Prepare your dog: A training refresher may be in order to help control your dog if he gets too excited. Focus on commands such as “come” and “down” or “heel.” You may also want to let him run off some energy first.
  • Give your cat her own room: Begin by keeping her in a separate room with her food, water and litter box. Let her explore that room first and keep the door closed or blocked with a dog gate.
  • A leashed introduction: Leash your dog and walk him by the gated doorway a few times each day for a few days. Make it a positive experience for both by praising your dog for his calmness and giving your cat a treat. If your dog can’t stay calm, try to distract him with a command and a treat, but don’t reprimand him. You want him to associate the cat with a positive experience.
  • Let your cat take the lead: Don’t try to force an introduction by holding your cat near the dog or putting her in a crate. Let her set the pace. If she hides when the dog approaches, it may take longer for her to accept him. But if she approaches him, she may be more accepting. You can then try introducing them in the same room, with your dog on a leash.
  • Keep them separate: Over a few days and at times when you’re away, rotate which animal is free to roam and which one is confined to a room. This will let each pet investigate and get used to the other’s scent.
  • Continue with leashed introductions: Allow them to meet while your dog is leashed and continue until both pets seem calm and relaxed with each other. Don’t let them spend unsupervised time together unless you’re sure one animal won’t harm the other.
  • Protect your cat’s food and litter box: To avoid stress for your cat, there are certain areas that should be off limits to your dog. Don’t let him have access to the litter box and keep him away from her food bowl, which can be kept in a high area.

What to expect

  • It may take weeks, months or even years for your cat and dog to accept each other.
  • There are no guarantees they will become best buddies. Some cats and dogs will always have a wary relationship.
  • Temperament and age are factors. Cats and dogs who are friendly or who are introduced when they’re young are more likely to become friends.