Dogs and cats living together? Is it always “mass hysteria”? Not if you choose your companions thoughtfully and do introductions carefully, positively, and slowly.
Many dogs and cats do live successfully together. If you are thinking of having a multi-species home, there are a few things you can do to ensure everyone’s happiness:
- Try to choose a dog or cat who had a positive experience living with the other species. Dogs who have lived happily with cats, and visa versa, will be easier to introduce to your existing household member than one who has not.
- Manage the early introductions carefully! It is never a good idea to bring a new pet home and just put them together in the hopes that they will “work things out”. A proactive approach is better. The existing cat or dog in the house should get all the same freedoms as before within reason. The new cat or dog should be confined and brought out for supervised introductions.
- Try to have each introduction be a positive one. Use treats for both pets and keep as much distance between them as possible to start. Gradually shorten the distance over days or weeks. Ask relatives or friends to assist you as you may need two people in many cases.
- Use proven management techniques for times when you cannot supervise your cat and dog together. This may be something you do for the life of your cat and dog. Even the best dog and cat friends can get into scuffles. It is better to avoid this by confining one animal so they remain safe in your absence.
- Ensure there are high places for cats to escape to out of the way of dogs. In addition, provide cat “safety zones” where litter boxes, food and water are kept. Using a cat door inside or a baby gate with a small hole cut into it or raised off the ground are great ways to allow cats to move away from dogs in a home when they want to do so.
Be patient! Even dogs and cats that have lived with the other species, can take weeks or months to adjust to a new family member. Being patient and doing things slowly is your best chance at creating a lasting, good relationship between dogs and cats.
Dog meets new cat
Your new cat should be given her own room when brought home with a litter pan and food/water dishes. Gradually allow the new cat to view the dog through just a crack in the door. Feed your new cat a treat each time the door is open and the dog appears. Stop feeding the treats as soon as the dog goes away. Do this as many times as possible until there is virtually no hissing or growling from the cat toward the dog.
In the next phase, have your dog on leash or behind a baby gate and allow your new cat to come out of their room. Make sure that the cat can get back to their room and that you have control of your dog. If your dog is strong or strongly interested in the new cat, ask someone to help you with this part. Feed the cat treats when she see the dog and feed the dog treats for any calm behavior around the cat. After a minute or two put the cat back in her room.
(Calm behavior would be a relaxed body, low, wagging tail and soft eye contact. If your dog fixes her gaze on the cat, barks, growls, becomes stiff or lunges at the new cat, please call for assistance from a trainer).
Repeat this process for as many days as you need, gradually increasing the time the new cat spends out of her room.
When you have a calm dog and a happy, easy-going cat, you can drop the dog’s leash on the ground and let him approach the cat. Continue to have your dog on leash for at least another week in case you need to step in and interrupt a chase.
Continue to separate the dog and cat when you cannot supervise them.
Cat meets new dog
A new dog should be crated, confined to one room or on lead at all times.
When you are home, keep your new dog on lead and attach it to your belt so the dog has to go where you go. Carry treats with you or stash treats in small containers around in the different parts of your home where the dog cannot get to them.
Initially, whenever the cat is in view, give your dog a small treat as long as he is calm. (See ‘Calm behavior’ definition above)
Repeat this for several days to a week or two until the cat is calm and your new dog is calm.
At this point, you could drop the leash and allow more contact between the two. Keep the leash on your new dog at all times so that you can grab it in case something goes wrong.
Always confine your new dog when you cannot directly watch and supervise him.
Continue feeding treats to your new dog and cat for several more weeks when you are at home with both of them.
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