When it comes to introducing a new pet to a resident pet, it’s important to have realistic expectations and introduce them to each other slowly. This is especially true when introducing cats to dogs as some cats are more social than others. Take for instance an eight year old cat that has never been around other cats.
Such a cat may never learn to share their territory, as compared to an eight week old kitten that has been separated from its littermates or mom for the first time. It’s important that the process of introducing a kitten to a dog go slowly as cats attend to be territorial. Such slow introductions help prevent aggression and fear issues from arising from both sides.
When you introduce pets, one may send ‘play’ signals that may be misinterpreted by the other as ‘aggression’ signals. In such cases, you should handle the issue as aggressive and act as a protective barrier between both animals to show that the area is safe and protected.
There are many ways to introduce your kitty to your dog and all of the ones described below have proven successful in our tests.
A slow introduction can take anywhere between one week to a month’s in extreme cases. Some may wonder why all the caution? Why all these steps? Why not just put your doggy on a leash or on a crate and let your kitty loose? That can work sometimes, but it’s risky.
A cat’s claws and paws go through crate openings and the friendliest cats can attack dogs they perceive as a threat.
There is also the fact that dogs can kill a kitten with one shake. Reading the body language of both pets are important. Is the cat hissing? Is the dogs hairs on edge? Does something not look right? Err on the side of caution and give both sides a break before introducing again later on.
Basic pet-to-pet introduction pointers
While there are specific rules that apply to introducing a cat to a dog, there are general pet-to-pet introductory pointers that have to be taken into account. Such include:
Confinement: Try confiding your new pet in a medium sized room with food, water and a bed then feed the resident pets on opposite sides of the room. This teaches your pets to associate happy occasions (feeding) with each other’s smells. Gradually move their dishes closer to the door until there comes a time when they can eat calmly on either side of the door.
Switch living areas: Once your new pet gets used to eating while confined, consider letting it roam freely while confining the resident pets in the new pet’s room. In addition to experiencing each other’s scents, this allows the new member of the family to familiarize with the new surrounding without being afraid.
Swap scents: Switching beds or sleeping blankets between new and resident pets is an effective way of giving them a chance to become used to one another’s scent.
Avoid aggressive or fearful meetings: Any interactions between your pets that may lead to aggressive behavior should be avoided. This is because if allowed to become a habit, it can be difficult to change or manage.
Cat to dog introductions
Whether or not they are just playing, dogs can very easily kill cats. Some dogs have so big a prey drive that it’s never a good idea to leave them alone with a cat. Dogs often want to chase after cats and the cats end up being afraid and vulnerable. The following steps will help you slowly and safely introduce a kitten to a dog.
Preparing your dog and new cat for their first meeting can take a while depending on their prior training and capabilities. Their respective personalities are also a determining factor. If you are going to get your doggy ready, make sure that they know and understand basic commands before the first introduction.
Such include sit, stay and more. In the case of your kitten, you will need to settle her into a new isolation room along with food, water, bed and litterbox. Give them a chance to get used to the new surroundings. This process can take anything from a few days to several weeks, depending on the nature of their personalities. You can spend time with her in the room but your dog shouldn’t on his own with her.
Opposite sides of the door
The next step is to start feeding your resident dog and new kitten on opposite sides of the door. The door should be a solid one and not a glass, see-through or screen door. Do this for a minimum period of one week.
This will teach them to associate each other’s presence i.e. sounds and smells with a pleasurable experience. If the dog starts to bark, paw or whine at the door, calm them with a firm but gentle ‘No’ then move the bowls further apart.
Try keeping the dog on a leash and gradually moving the bowls closer every feeding time. When they are finally able to eat closely to each other calmly, expose them to each other’s scents by rubbing them with a towel and placing it down with their food.
Get the cat used to a crate
It’s important that your kitty get used to spending time in a big molded plastic pet carrier or wire crate. It should be big enough to accommodate her while standing upright. Put the dog on a leash or locked away and lure the cat into the crate with tiny canned food or cat treat. Once in the crate, lock it for at least five minutes before letting her out. Consider doing this 2-3 times every day until she gets used to it. You may have to use a treat trail or pick her up if she won’t go into the crate. Again, your dog shouldn’t be anywhere in sight when conducting this exercise.
Cat in crate, dog on leash
This helps your resident pet and cat see each other while eliminating any form of physical contact. Put the dog on a leash and bring him into the cat’s room, and ensure that the cat is in a crate. Have the dog practice basic commands like sit, stay and down for five minutes and in a location of the room where he can see the cat.
Use a firm ‘no’ when he barks, lunges or growls and ignores your command because he’s more interested in the cat then walk him out of the room. Repeat the process for as long as it takes to have both in the same room without vocalizing, aggression, fear or tension.
Gradually shorten the distance between them with each visit. With time, lengthen the duration of each session until it gets to a place where they can sniff each other through the crate calmly.
Cat loose, dog leashed
With the doggy on a leash at the far end of the room, have someone open the door of the crate. Keep the dog focused on you with treats and training commands. If your kitten hesitates to come out of the crate, encourage them by tossing treats just outside the door of the crate.
Conduct the training exercises in step 4 until the dog gets to a point where he ignores the cat on the loose instead of chasing or barking after her.
Continue this process for at least two weeks, gradually increasing the session durations and reducing the distance between them.
Finally, Both loose together
It’s been a few weeks with Rover hanging out and simply watching your kitten run around and jump. They haven’t always gotten along but lately, things have been better. They mostly ignore one another. Congratulations!
You can now let them loose together.
The two have successfully been introduced. And while that’s the case, it’s always important to keep a physical barrier between them when you aren’t home. We have heard of some horrible stories when dogs and cats have been left alone together whilst the owners have been out. Better safe than sorry.
Important precautions to keep in mind
Be sure to keep your kitty’s food out of the dog’s reach because, needless to say, dogs like a kitty snack. This doesn’t lead to any health hazards but it is a distasteful and hard habit to manage.
Place the litterbox at a location that’s easy for your cat to access but impossible for the dog to achieve the same.
The most important thing to remember when introducing your cat to the resident dog is that the older pet needs assurance that its territory won’t be taken over. Each of your pets needs their own personal space.
Remember to take it slow. Take signals from your pets when the ideal time is for you to move faster or make changes. Rather than work on your time, work with their schedule. As long as you do so, your experience will be very rewarding.
When it comes to pet-to-pet introductions, there is no great competition and as such, dog and cat introductions may be a lot smoother compared to dog and dog or cat and cat introductions.
There are several aspects that will affect the success of introductions including the age and breed of the pet as well as the control you have over the process.
It is a delicate procedure that can go south quickly, hence the importance of the above steps in ensuring that everything goes smoothly.