It’s not rare for dogs and cats to coexist harmoniously inside the same home. And it is reasonable to expect that if you gradually introduce them and raise them together, they will eventually become lifelong friends. So what do you do when the new dog is wearing out poor Fifi and you find yourself acting as referee in a furry game of war all the time?
Let’s begin by not presuming that everything will eventually stabilize on its own. Your cat shouldn’t have to suffer because of it, and no one wants a dog that is constantly pursuing and bothering smaller animals, right?
Whether your cat or dog are recent additions to the home, it’s crucial that they gradually and methodically get used to one other’s scent and presence. They can individually get acclimated to hearing and sensing another animal in the house by being kept apart for the first few days rather than having to come face to face with them.
Who then is confined and who is allowed to wander the house? The American Kennel Club (AKC) recommends allowing whoever is being introduced to the home to explore and become used to the new surroundings. You could also swap toys and blankets at this time so they may get a more in-depth sense of the other person’s fragrance.
Consider putting their feeding bowls on different sides of a locked door after the first day. A pet’s mealtime is a happy time of the day, and letting them smell and hear one another eat might make the unavoidable face-to-face interaction less tense and unpleasant.
Never imagine it will be as simple as opening the door and leaving when the time comes for them to meet. Be sure to take into account the personality of both pets before making that crucial introduction. Additionally, if your cat is particularly territorial, she might attack. Stressed-out cats can provide painful, hazardous scratches that can ruin previously hard-won introductions and send you and your dog to the doctor.
Plan to be very hands-on during this crucial stage if your new dog is a breed known to have a high prey drive, such as terriers, hounds, and herding breeds.
We’re presenting a few different strategies for effectively introducing a new pet to the group depending on your knowledge of your pets’ personalities, energy levels, breed features, and territorial inclinations because you know them best.
1) You might want to add a box or carrier to the meet-and-greet process if your dog or cat is already well-established in the house and you know they are confident and likely territorial. Bring them out and set them up in their carrier for 20 to 30 minutes following a two-day separation phase. Give the new pet a few of its favorite snacks and allow it to explore.
Each of them will have that crucial initial glimpse of the new member thanks to this, and they won’t have a chance to fight or pursue. Again, simply brief periods, a few times a day, with your established pet going back to its own room in between introductions. Open the carrier door eventually so they can leave if they choose to, but only if she is no longer acting aggressively against them, especially if they are cats.
An open introduction won’t be the best strategy for shy cats that run away from unfamiliar people. For more alternatives, keep reading.
2) For dogs who have mastered the fundamental commands, you might choose to use a “sit,” “stay,” “lay down,” or “leave it” strategy. This method allows both animals to travel freely but guarantees that your dog will stop right away if the cat starts to become nervous or scared.
This less-structured approach also necessitates that your cat have an easily accessible “escape area,” such as a place under a bed, atop a counter, or high up on a shelf, where she can feel safe if necessary. Cats who are naturally wary but interested are the perfect candidates for this approach. Once more, it would be employed after the initial two-day separation period. You would need to be present at all times, keep a close eye on the situation, and give your dog rewards when he obeys or ignores the cat.
Consider leashing your dog while you practice this form of introduction if he is still learning his commands or if you are unsure that he will obey you.
3) You might want to adopt a more proactive stance when dealing with a young, noisy pup that might injure a smaller or older feline even after the initial separation procedure. Use an open-air, basket-style muzzle as a stopgap measure while you teach the cat the advantages of being left alone.
The muzzle should only be used to teach your dog more polite conduct; it should not be used as a daily safety measure. You shouldn’t require the muzzle at all once his command training is finished and progresses over time.
A sweet treat or two should always be hidden within the muzzle for your dog to find and enjoy in order to prevent him from connecting it with punishment.
4) If you’ve never used clicker training, it’s a really successful approach to catch a distracted dog’s attention and get him to obey directions. A clicker can tell your dog to leave the cat alone even though it is normally intended to teach the five fundamental commands of sit, stay, lay down, heel, and leave it.
As with all other introduction techniques, you should give yourself a two or three-day separation window with increasing sensory awareness to make sure the presence of this new pet won’t come as a shock and lead to a bad face-to-face. Use clicker training to praise your dog each time you see him notice the cat but leave her alone after this is finished and all of your pets are moving around in the same area. Every time your dog indicates that he has observed the cat, you must click and reward him with a goodie.
The objective is for your dog to associate the cat with a treat, whether he is whining and enthusiastic or completely unimpressed. His tendency will therefore shift from chasing to staring at you in order to receive the reward he has just earned for not chasing. Be consistent and plan to work on this introductory technique for at least a week.
5) The effectiveness of this final technique will entirely depend on how much your dog lusts after his toys. Some dogs are made for a ball, frisbee, or squeaky toy. Not so much for some, like mine.
This method of introduction aims to provide a helpful diversion that will cause your dog to ignore the cat and refocus on his entertaining new toy. After that crucial separation period and cautious introduction, play a game with your cat nearby but out of harm’s way while interacting with your dog and his new toy.
To get his attention, throw a ball or hide a stuffed animal behind your back. Give him a treat for looking your way and re-engage him with the toy if he spots the cat or becomes distracted by her. Squeaky toys are excellent for doing this.
Your dog is now understanding that playing with you while enjoying some yummy goodies is far more intriguing than chasing the cat. The novelty of pursuing the cat will eventually fade.
The process of a cordial introduction might be brief and painless or stretched out and appear to go on forever. You must be aware of your pets’ triggers, keep an eye out for potential conflicts, and prepare to spend days or even weeks creating a secure, non-threatening environment for both in order to effectively integrate your family of pets. Keep in mind that your goal is inner peace, not international peace.