Tips for Introducing a new Cat to the Family Dog

Here is a post with Tips for Introducing a new Cat to the Family Dog. This is a subject that most of us dog lovers have had to address sometimes more than once. This, in my opinion, is the right way to do the introduction of dogs and cats, if you have the time.

My cat has never given any new dogs a problem unless they deserved it. As you know, sometimes they do deserve it. My cat even leaves the bird alone. It’s like she knows these new pets are part of her family and gives them a pass. I think it’s great but, many of you may not be so lucky.

This post is for you.

They’re fighting like cats and dogs! HELP!

Dear SPCA – Do you have some tips for introducing our new cat to our current dog (a one-year old lab mix)? I’d really like everyone to have free run of the house instead of housing them in separate rooms all the time. I’ve run out of bedrooms. Thanks! R.

Dear R.,

It’s important to have realistic expectations when introducing a new pet to a resident pet. Cats are territorial and need to be introduced to other animals very slowly in order to give them time to get used to each other before there is a fact-to-face confrontation. Slow introductions help prevent fearful and aggressive problems from developing.

Confine your new cat to one medium-sized room with her litter-box, food, water and bed. Feed your resident pets and the newcomer on each side of the door to this room. This will help all of them associate something enjoyable (eating) with each others’ smells. Don’t push the food so close to the door that the animals are too upset by each other’ presence to eat. Gradually move the dishes closer to the door until your pets can eat calmly, directly on either side of the door. Next, use two doorstops to prop open the door just enough to allow the animals to see each other, and repeat the whole process. Barriers such as a screen door or baby gates stacked on top of each other so that the cats can see each other, but not reach each other, are also recommended in the slow introduction process.

Switch sleeping blankets or beds between your new cat and your resident animals so they have a chance to become accustomed to each others’ scent. Rub a towel on one animal and put it underneath the food dish of another animal. You should do this with each animal in the house.

Once your new cat is using the litter box and eating regularly while confined, let her have free time in the house while confining your other animals to the new cat’s room. This switch provides another way to experience each others’ scents without a face-to-face meeting. It also allows the newcomer to become familiar with her new surroundings without being frightened by the other animals.

Avoid any interactions between your pets that result in either fearful or aggressive behavior. If these responses are allowed to become a habit, they can be difficult to change. It’s better to introduce your pets to each other so gradually that neither animal becomes afraid or aggressive. You can expect mild forms of these behaviors, but don’t give them the opportunity to intensify. If either animal becomes fearful or aggressive, separate them immediately and start over with the introduction process in a series of very small, gradual steps, as outlined above.

Always remember that your dog can kill a cat very easily, even if they’re only playing. All it takes one shake and the cat’s neck can break. Some dogs have such a high prey drive they should never be left alone with a cat. Dogs usually want to chase and play with cats, and cats usually become afraid and defensive. Use the techniques described above to begin introducing your new cat to your resident dog. In addition:

Practice Obedience

If your dog doesn’t already know the commands “sit,” “down,””come,” and “stay,” you should be working on them. Small pieces of high value food, like boiled chicken or hot dog pieces, will increase your dog’s motivation to perform, which will be necessary in the presence of such a strong distraction as a new cat. Even if your dog already knows these commands, work with obeying commands in return for a tidbit.

Controlled Meeting

After your new cat and resident dog have become comfortable eating on opposite sides of the door, and have been exposed to each others’ scents as described above, you can attempt a face-to-face introduction in a controlled manner. Have a family member or friend sit quietly next to your new cat, but don’t have them physically restrain her. Enter the room with your dog on leash and have him stand quietly, giving him high value treats steadily the whole time. The helper person should simultaneously offer your cat some special pieces of food. At first, the cat and dog should be on opposite sides of the room. Several very short visits are better then fewer long ones. Don’t drag out the visit so long that the dog becomes uncontrollable or the cat becomes fearful and attempts to escape. Repeat this step several times until both the cat and dog are tolerating each others’ presence without fear, aggression or other undesirable behavior.

Finally, allow your cat freedom to explore your dog at her own pace, with the dog still on-leash and receiving extra special dog treats and praise for his calm behavior. If your dog gets excited and tries to chase the cat or if your cat runs away or becomes aggressive, you’re progressing too fast. Go back to the previous introduction steps.

If you need additional assistance, please call our free Behavior Helpline at 713.869.7722 x190.

Please remember that dog crates and pet carriers work well for both dogs and cats when needed. Always use a pet carrier when transporting your cat.

Some of us just have dogs. Some of us just have cats but there are millions of us that have both. Mixing the two can sometimes be a problem. I hope that these Tips for Introducing a new Cat to the Family Dog will help you do that with safety and without worry for either the dog or the cat. Just throwing the two together and letting nature take its’ course is not always the best thing to do. Either or both pets could suffer injury and establish a lifelong distaste for each other.


About The Author

Bill Beavers, brings you pet products that provide improved Quality of Life for You, Your Family and Your Pets.

You can connect with Bill on Twitter or Facebook and follow his latest projects. For Fun, Facts and Love for our pets follow this blog for informational and entertaining posts and cool tips.


One Response to “Tips for Introducing a new Cat to the Family Dog”

  1. these tips are basically great! You mentioned “scent”….when I introduced our cat to our Sheltie I had read online to put PERFUME (yes, PERFUME) on me, our cat and dog…which I did. Worked like a charm.

    We brought our dog home in his crate…we were all wearing the same perfume….we set the crate down and let our cat check out the dog. Our cat only hissed ONCE and never did again. There was NO separation in different rooms, or gradual meetings required.

    They were friends from that day on and are the best of friends now!

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