Author: Victoria Smith
Plan for the First Meeting
The younger the dog, the better. Puppies are better at accepting a cat as part of their pack if they are introduced young. Be aware that puppies are chewers; like a child, they often judge the world around them by splitting it into what fits in their mouth and what doesn’t.
Take the dog out for a good walk and make sure they have eaten before introducing them to the house cat. Not only do they need to be comfortable on a leash, but walking and feeding are good ways for your dog to look to you for comfort and guidance. Meeting the cat is simply the next step in your relationship with your dog.
Make sure the cat is in its happy place or a safe spot before you bring the dog in. If your litter box lives in the utility room, shut the cat in there for just a bit while the dog roams the house, checking out the scents and sights. Keep the dog on its leash and open the door to the cat. Let them be around each other for a time, correcting the dog if they choose to lunge or chase.
Protect the Cat
Make sure the cat has an escape. Clip the dog leash to your belt so you can sense their urge to go for the cat. This may only be curiosity on the dog’s part, but the cat will likely see the danger.
Keep the dog away from
- cat food
- cat’s water dish
- litter box
Dogs often consider cat poop to be a delicacy, but the cat may panic at this invasion and stop using the litter box. Litter can be extremely dangerous to the digestive tract of your dog as well.
Protect the Dog
A curious puppy can actually take quite a beating at the hands of an older cat. While this may teach some breeds to respect the cat, other dogs can turn aggressive to cats or small animals in general. If you notice any interaction between dog and cat is getting nasty, separate them.
Get a modern cat litter box to keep your dog out of the cat waste. You don’t need the hassles of a cat that uses anything but the litter box as a bathroom, and you really don’t need a sick and constipated dog.
When using a crate to train your dog, remember that it is their safe spot. Cats are seldom so enamored of their crate. If at all possible, create a space with a door where your cat can escape the dog once you let the dog off leash in the house.
With any luck, your new dog and your established cat will get accustomed to each other. When you are ready to let the dog off leash, start over in terms of monitoring. Don’t leave the dog uncrated in a room with the cat unless you are in the room. Keep an eye out for
- lunging. Dogs often play with each other by lunging, but cats will see this as an attack and may go for the eyes.
- chewing. Puppies chew. Don’t let them chew on your old cat.
- cornering. A herding dog or a dog prone to snapping may corner a cat who is out of climbing options, which means a fight.
If you notice either animal getting agitated, call the dog back to you immediately and give treats or corrections as required.
It’s critically important that you get them to off-leash status as early as possible. If you are introducing a large breed pup to an existing cat, that puppy will get taller quickly. Being able to trust their behavior before the dog is big enough to do damage is critical to maintaining a happy household.
Your end goal is that your dog and cat will function together and, if nothing else, ignore each other. If your rule is no dogs on the couch but your cat likes to lay across the back, make sure your dog has a comfy bed on the floor in that space. Keep their food separate to keep everyone healthy.