Are you wondering how to introduce a dog to a cat for the first time? Or maybe you are thinking of how to introduce a dog to a scared cat? Well, buckle up as we take you through the best way to introduce a dog to a cat and ensure the two pets co-exist.
Cats and dogs are sworn, enemies?
That is one myth we all grew up believing, especially if you binge-watched Tom and Jerry as a child. Yet, this could not be far from the truth.
A new cat can learn to love your dog, just as a new dog can get accepted by your pet cat. The secret is in how you socialize the two animals, which we are going to discuss today.
Cats and dogs CAN get along.
Why? Because we all have been in homes where cats and dogs were the best of friends. The ancient feud between cats and dogs stems from a predator-prey point of view. Before dogs were domesticated, they lived in the wild hunting small furry animals; cats were no exception.
On the other hand, Cats have a fight or flight attitude towards big scary animals; dogs include. A cat that is not used to seeing dogs will misunderstand any dog’s intention. Even a canine greeting like sniffing the butt (which is a no-no in the feline world) will get a cat annoyed. While some cats defend themselves with some paw-slapping action, others choose to run in fright. And running is not good because it activates the dog’s instinct to chase.
Fortunately, we can iron out these instinctive tendencies with some bit of training.
When is the best time to introduce a dog to a cat?
A great time to introduce a dog to a cat is when they are kittens. At a young age, cats and dogs learn to co-exist as equals. The cat knows to put up with the dog’s communication (read sniffing) habits while the dog does not see the need to chase after an ‘old friend.’
What about introducing a full-grown cat or dog? We will cover all that in the next part. Also, the following tips will be handy when introducing a kitten to an older dog or a puppy to a grown cat
1. Create a Pet Sanctuary
A pet sanctuary is necessary for the new pet, be it a dog or a cat. It should be a secluded place where the new pet can retreat to should it feel overwhelmed. For a dog, a private room filled with its new toys, beddings, and feeding items is ideal. For cats, you can create an isolated room or high points (such as atop cabinets) where the cat can feel safer away from the dog. When you create a sanctuary for one pet, ensure the other pet has no access to it.
2. Isolate both pets
Keep both pets isolated for the first week. Take the new pet to a vet and have them screened for any potential diseases or physiological conditions. When both pets appear healthy, you can start familiarizing them with each other’s scents.
Keep the dog isolated while the new cat roams about the house. Do the same for the cat as the dog explores the new scent left behind by the cat. Keep switching between the two pets until they are okay with the other animal’s scent.
3. Feed them separately
This is the third phase of mild interaction. You are training the two pets to be okay with feeding next to each other. To do this, have the new pet feeding in its sanctuary room closer to the door. Bring your other pet’s bowl closer to the sanctuary room door. Although both pets cannot see each other, they can smell and acknowledge each other’s presence as they feed. You are still prepping the two fur babies for their official meet up soon.
4. Teach basic commands to the dog
Before you introduce a dog to a cat, teach the dog some basic commands. Dogs are easier to train than cats and will respond to verbal cues in specific situations; like say when you want to stop a brawl from happening between the two pets.
Two effective commands to start with are ‘sit’ and ‘stay’. Both commands foster obedience in your dog and tell your dog what to do during a situation. If the dog acts restless around the cat, the sit command immediately tells them to stay put and not do anything else. Use reward based training to motivate your dog towards obedience. For example, when the dog sits as commanded, give them their favorite doggy treat to appreciate them.
5. Let the pets meet each other
Finally the D-day is here when your cat and dog have their official meet up. Choose a neutral place where they can make each other’s acquaintance; it could be your backyard or on your patio. Introducing the pets on neutral grounds prevents any territorial behavior from one of them.
First, let the cat and dog spot each other and monitor their body language. If the cat has its ears slanting backwards and the tail switching, it is on defense mode. If the dog has its neck hair raised and its eyes trained on the cat, perhaps a slight growl even, it has its predator instincts activated. Take the two pets away from each other immediately.
Repeat instructions 1 to 4 again before the second meet up. On the second meet, watch how the two pets interact. If they appear relaxed and acknowledging each other, you have made some headway. Allow the two pets to draw closer to each other while safely restraining the dog with a dog harness. Do not use a leash on the dog as this will hurt the animal’s neck in case of an altercation with the cat.
6. Monitor the two pets
Repeat sessions 1 through 5 until you are confident that the two pets acknowledge each other’s presence. Yet, continue monitoring how each pet reacts to the other. Take them to different environments and observe how they behave. Your dog could be okay with the cat indoors but develop predatory instincts against the feline outdoors. Always monitor the two pets as they interact with each other until you are sure they are completely bonded.
That’s it, we hope this step by step procedure on how to introduce a dog to a cat helps you. If you do not get successful with repeated tries, it is a good idea to hire a professional animal behavior expert. As you raise these two champs in the same home, do not forget to give them the best diet, plenty of exercises, and perhaps some healthy vitamins for the dog.