Guest post by Cynthia Garcia
Even though they are usually portrayed as adversaries, dogs and cats can get along well if introduced carefully. However, introducing them to each other can be an exciting yet stressful task; therefore, you should be cautious and take your time. Introducing your new dog to the family cat can take a few weeks, so you should not be in a hurry.
After all, a rushed introduction can be quite dangerous. Remember, a huge dog can quickly kill your cat. But, if your new dog has lived with cats in his previous home, the introduction process can be a bit easy and fun. So, here are 5 unique steps that can make the introduction process smooth.
5 Steps for Introducing Your New Dog to the Family Cat
1. Create the Right Environment
When introducing your new dog to your cat, you will have to prepare a safe place for the cat in the house where the dog can’t access. Make sure you choose a place where your house cat will feel safe and move all his essentials, including bed, litter box, water and food, to that place. Separating the dog food from the cat food is an excellent method of reducing conflicts between the two pets. Even if your cat is very confident, introducing him to your new dog can be unsettling at first, so take your time and allow them to get used to each other’s smell before introducing them physically.
Create a clutter-free and safe environment to introduce your cat to the new dog. Choose a place in your home with no item that your dog or cat might feel ownership over. Picking a neutral place will reduce the chances of having an aggressive first interaction. You can even erect a baby gate in the place where you want them to meet. The barrier will allow them to sniff each other. Remember, you don’t have to introduce them on the first day you bring your dog home.
Make sure you install a Feliway diffuser in the house a few days before bringing your new dog home, especially if your cat has never lived with a dog before. A Feliway diffuser emits some pheromones that can calm your cat down and make him feel safe again during the introduction phase. It’s also crucial that you ensure that your house has numerous high places that your cat can easily access.
2. Let Them Smell Each Other Without Necessarily Seeing Each Other
Once you bring your new dog home, you should keep them separated from each other for a few days. This will allow the new dog to get used to his new home without worrying about dealing with another animal in the house. Once the dog gets used to the new surroundings, you can allow them to smell each other under the door. And make sure you monitor your dog’s reaction to the cat’s smell. If he becomes aggressive, then you will have to make the introduction process gradually. You can even put the cat food and dog food on opposite sides of the door and let them eat. This will make them associate each other’s smell with pleasant situations. The face-to-face can wait until the day when your dog stops being aggressive every time he smells the cat.
3. Introduce the Pets to Each Other Face-to-Face
With the help of another family member, you can allow them to see each other for the first time. But, make sure you can restrain your dog during their first face-to-face meeting and let the cat walk freely. Restraining the cat can make him aggressive. Allow your cat to approach the dog if he wants to. Make sure they don’t have any physical contact during the first meeting; instead, they should just make eye contact and smell each other.
You can interrupt all unwanted behaviors by moving your canine pal away from the cat. If you feel like your cat won’t be safe, you can use a cat carrier. You should never give them treats if they still exhibit bad behaviors like hissing or growling every time you allow them to meet. However, you can distract them with new activities like allowing the cat to play with a toy as you play a game with your dog.
4. Teach Your Dogs Some New Commands That Will Help You Control His Behavior Around Your Feline Pal
You can teach him some simple commands like “leave alone” or leave it”. And make sure you use these commands every time you want your dog to leave the cat alone. These commands will help you control your dog every time he gets aggressive with the cat or when you fear that the cat might get aggressive. Proper training can help you control your dog’s behavior despite his impulses during the introduction phase. And most importantly, reward them with treats to reinforce good behavior.
5. Prevent Conflicts by Giving Your Cat Its Own Space
Even though they are already used to each other, you should give the cat its own space that is dog free. This will ensure that your cat will always be happy and comfortable. If you live in an apartment, you can give your cat an entire room where the dog cannot enter. And to make sure your dog never enters the cat’s space, you can put the baby gate permanently.
Another method of preventing conflicts is by keeping their feeding areas separate. Most conflicts that occur between these two pets start with food. The dog might want to eat the cat food, and your feline pal won’t like it. So instead of feeding them in the same room, you can feed your cat in its own space. Or, if you want them to eat in the same room, you can place the cat’s food in a high place where the dog can’t access.
As pet owners, we all want our pets to get along; therefore, we should be ready to introduce them to each other and make sure they can live together. But, the introduction phase can take a few weeks since it is a gradual process. And if you follow the above process, you will have your cat and dog living peacefully in the house. However, you should be ready to remove all the things that can ignite a conflict between the two pets, like separating their feeding areas.