You may want to celebrate the arrival of your new cat or kitten, but all family members may not be as eager to welcome a new pet. Resident cats and dogs could need some coaxing to welcome a new fur friend into the household.
Dogs especially need a slow and careful introductionto a cat in order to avoid getting everyone started off on the wrong foot. What's the best way to introduce a dog to a cat?
1. Keep your animals in separate rooms at first. As soon as you bring the cat home, put him in a room and shut the door. Leave food, water, a toy, and a litterbox in the room for your pet's comfort. It may take a while before the animal gets used to his new home, so you'll want to help him not to feel overwhelmed when he first arrives.
2. Let them get used to each other's scents before a face-to-face introduction. The dog and cat will smell each other's presence in the house before they meet. You can help them get used to the new scents by swapping their blankets while the cat is still chilling in the safe room.
3. Restrain your dog on a leash at the first meeting. A leash allows the cat to get as close to the dog as she's comfortable or to stay far away for a while without the dog interfering. Leashing your dog also prevents her from playing too roughly with the cat. Most importantly, keeping your dog on the leash helps you, the pet parent, to stay in control of the situation.
4. Take it slow. Don't give up if the first meeting feels like a disaster. Many households around the world house both dogs and cats in relative harmony. Just patiently try again another day.
5. Never allow your dog to chase a cat. The most consistent behavioral issue in dog-cat households arises from the dog chasing the cat. You can put a stop to chasing by never letting it get started. Praise and reward the dog with treats for being calm around the kitty, and redirect any early efforts at chasing. It's important to get a handle on this behavior right away since it can turn predatory and even deadly very, very fast.
Advice for special circumstances:
What if my dog is hyper? When you're introducing a new kitten to a hyper dog, it's best if you've already tried out the dog with some exercise. Then, follow the tips above. If you are bringing a fragile kitten or an older cat into your home, it may be best to keep them separate from an overly excitable dog or at least to supervise them carefully when they're together.
What if my dog is older? Older dogs can be more chill and laid back than their younger counterparts, but they can also be more protective of their territory and less willing to welcome a new competitor for your attention. If you think your older dog won't get along with a new cat, consider waiting until your current pet has passed on before adding a kitty to the household.
What if my dog gets obsessed with my new kitten? Some dogs absolutely love cats! And as dogs are prone to do, they'll smother the ones they love with attention, affection, and offers to play. This enthusiasm can eventually wear out a cat's nerves. So make sure your cat has an escape route to a place your dog can't follow.
What if my kitten is hissing at my dog? Cats hiss when they are annoyed, fearful, or otherwise uncomfortable, so it's likely your kitten feels threatened by the dog. The cat's hissing may also threaten the dog who starts to bark, which further inflames the cat and so on. If hissing begins, it's probably time to end the get-to-know-you session right then. You can try again at another time when the cat is feeling more relaxed and curious.
What if my dog hates cats? You can try working with a dog trainer to help a dog that already shows aggression, but our best advice is simple: don't get a cat. You're putting your cat's health and life in jeopardy, denying your dog full access to his home, and creating a stressful situation for yourself. It's not worth it. Simply enjoy the pet you have, and volunteer at a cat shelter when you need kitty snuggles.
Dogs and cats can both make loving, engaging pets, and millions of homes include at least one of both kinds of animals. With patience and a plan, you can help your new cat and resident dog learn to share their space in peace, helping keep everyone healthy and happy.
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