Introducing cat and dog in 7 steps
Cats and dogs are often thought to be natural enemies and can sometimes fight like… well, the proverbial cat and dog. They don’t understand each other's body language correctly, which can lead to miscommunication, 'hunting', squabbling and even aggression as a result. Nevertheless, well-socialised cats and dogs can live together in harmony and ultimately become good friends. Do you wish to home a dog with a resident cat or vice versa? Or are you a pet sitter and want to be able to accommodate other animals in addition to your own cat or dog? Then you must ensure a safe and responsible introduction between your furry companions.
Make sure that your dog is nice and tired before introducing to the cat. Take your dog out for a long walk beforehand and play fetch. This will satisfy your dog's chase instinct and generally wear them out, so that they are in a calm state of mind for the introduction. And make sure that your cat is equally relaxed and happy. Introduce them in the cat’s own home wherever possible: cats typically find new environments stressful and the idea is to make both pets feel comfortable and relaxed. Remember that the house is the cat’s private domain. Make a quiet 'cat corner' with your cat's litter box, and be sure that the dog has no access to this private space.
The first whiff of friendship
>Sniffing is an excellent, low-key way of getting your cat and dog used to each other. Don’t introduce the pets at this point, but rather stroke them yourself and subsequently allow them to sniff each other's scent via your hands. This is their first encounter.
Once both pets are in the same home, place them in different rooms so that they are not yet able to see each other, but can explore the space. If that goes well, then swap their rooms to enable them to sniff each other's scent. If this goes satisfactorily, then reward your pets with a treat so that they associate the new scent with something positive.
Are both pets calm and inquisitive? Then it’s time to introduce them to one another. The safest method is to pop your cat in a cat carrier and place this somewhere elevated. Make sure that the cat is familiar with the cat carrier and feels comfortable being inside it. Keep the dog on a leash and allow the pets to observe each other from a distance. If this goes well, then give them both a tasty treat as a reward. You’re now ready to proceed to the next step:
>Keep the dog on a loose leash and allow your cat to go where they wish. Make sure that your cat has several escape routes and elevated points of 'refuge' from which they can safely survey the surroundings. Don’t force the pets to greet each other. Let them determine their own pace. If they remain calm and friendly, then shower them with praise and treat them to a tasty reward.
Keep a close eye on both pets’ body language, as this will reveal any brewing irritation or aggression.
If the cat’s ears are pinned back with their tail swishing vigorously, then they are clearly irritated. If your dog visibly stiffens, points their ears upwards and fixes their gaze on the cat, then they are undoubtedly in 'hunt' mode. If your dog licks their lips or yawns, then they are likely feeling stressed and uncomfortable.
As soon as either pet shows any such signs of aggravation, entice them away with a treat and take them to another room. Try the introduction again at a later time.
Pay attention to your own body language too: are you calm and relaxed or afraid that something might happen? Try to minimize any tension, your own included.
Patience and supervision
Start the introduction slowly by exposing the pets to one another for a just a few minutes at a time and repeat this daily. If, after a few days, all appears to be going well, then release both pets and allow them to become better acquainted. Some cats and dogs never become friends, others simply take longer (weeks, sometimes months) to learn to tolerate each other. Allow them to take that time, and in the meantime, only allow them together under supervision. Leave them together for a few minutes each day, before setting them apart again. If things don’t improve after a few weeks and the relationship remains dismissive or aggressive, then stop the contact. Give the pets a break or consider engaging a behavioral therapist.
Kittens and puppies
The advantage of introducing kittens and puppies to one another is that young pets haven't yet had a bad experience with the other species. Kittens, in particular, tend to be extremely inquisitive and unafraid of dogs. And many adult dogs are instinctively friendly towards young animals. The danger however of introducing young pets to one another is that they can be slightly brazen. Kittens often don’t realize when a dog wants to chase them and ignore all the warning signals. Puppies tend to engage in rowdy play and can be on the receiving end of an unexpected scratch from a cat who simply wishes to snooze. So, always ensure extra vigilant supervision when introducing kittens and puppies.
Are you a dog or cat sitter and wish to introduce a cat or dog to your resident pet? Then only do this with a guest pet that is accustomed to other cats or dogs. And always consult with the owner that you wish to introduce their pet to your cat or dog in advance.
The basic rules at a glance:
- Prevent ‘hunting’ behavior
- Reward calm and friendly conduct
- Don’t force the pets to do anything that they don’t want
- Avoid stress and irritation: distract your four-legged friends
- Let the cat determine their own escape route
- Never allow the dog near the cat litter tray
Do you have a sweet dog and cat at your home that are friends with each other? Share your most beautiful and cutest pictures on your Pawshake profile or tag Pawshake on Instagram. And we might soon share your photo with our community!