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How to Introduce Cats to Dogs

Introduction

For starters, it’s probably an exciting moment in your life when a new pet is added to your family. And this is especially when you consider the fact that most cats and dogs are usually portrayed as natural enemies. 

Thankfully, that doesn’t have to be the case with our tried-and-tested tips on how to introduce cats to dogs. In fact, they may even become best friends! 

Here are some ways you can start the process of getting your kitty or pup get used to each other.

How to Introduce Cats to Dogs: Our Expert Tips

According to a recent study, dogs and cats continue to exhibit the same ethological traits of their species in their daily routines and social interactions. This is despite sharing the same social and physical environment.

While the cat prefers a less interactive approach, the dog frequently seeks physical interaction. Conversely, living together and familiarity helps your cat to socialize with your dog. 

While many dogs and cats share a home and play together, few owners have reported any hostile confrontations between their pets. Therefore, this proves that cats and dogs can share the same space harmoniously. 

Resident Dog, New Cat
Avoid bringing your dog into a shelter when adopting a cat because doing so could be extremely traumatic or upsetting for all of the cats. Additionally, you can’t be sure of your dog's behavior once you reach home.

Check with the adoption counselors at the shelter if they have cats that are comfortable around dogs.

Furthermore, ask if they are willing to meet your dog under controlled circumstances. If this isn't possible, an alternative would be to introduce your dog to a cat that belongs to a friend or relative and is familiar with dogs. 

If everything else fails, you can bring your new cat home and prepare to introduce both pets there.

Resident Cat, New Dog
Similarly, you shouldn't adopt a dog and bring your cat to meet the dog there. The introduction should happen at home instead.

Separation and Introduction
Confine your new pet in one room of the house when you first bring it home. Prepare the space by adding toys, food, and bedding (plus a litterbox and a scratching pad for a cat). It would be best to have an anxiety-relieving pet bed ready just in case your new baby exhibits signs of panic. Make sure your new pet has a cozy hiding place to relieve nervousness.

You can gradually allow the new animal to explore the house on a few occasions each day when the other animals aren't there. While the resident pet has access to the rest of the house, let the new pet smell and explore the space. If your dog is scratching or digging at the door to get at the cat, you might need to place him in a crate.

Related: What to Do If Your Dog Has Anxiety

Familiarization
Allow each pet to familiarize themselves with the smells and noises of the other for the first few days (between the closed door). Make sure that every animal that displays calm curiosity or neutral conduct receives praise and treats.

Remove a pet from a situation as soon as it exhibits aggressive, anxious, or too enthusiastic behavior. Bring the animal's focus to a toy or other distraction. But never punish the animal.

Visual Contact
It's time to let the two animals see one another now that they can hear, smell, and sense one another. Purchase a pet gate or baby gate to place at the room's doorway where the new pet will be staying.

To be safe, keep the dog on a leash. Holding the cat puts you at risk of getting bit or clawed so it would be best to keep it on a leash too.

If you have someone who can help, this can make the process simpler. In this manner, each pet is under close supervision.

On either side of the door, the pets should be separated from one another by a fair space.

Give compliments and rewards. Pet the animals gently and open the door gradually (with the gate in place and closed).

Keep the atmosphere peaceful and let each animal find the open door on its own without making a big deal out of it. Immediately remove either animal from the setting if it exhibits vocalization, aggression, nervousness, or excessive excitement. Initially, you might only be able to perform this for a short time.

 For several days to weeks, perform this exercise multiple times every day. To help the animals form pleasant associations with the other animal, try feeding the animals with the door open. When you believe that both pets can look at each other without reacting inappropriately, you can move on to the next step.

Related: How to Prepare for a New Family Member

Physical Contact and Supervised Meetings
Similar to the previous level, this one also involves letting each pet approach the gate. Always keep each animal under your control. Attach a leash to your dog. Avoiding and strongly dissuading lunging toward the gate is advised.

Use a harness if your cat is at ease wearing one, and fasten a leash. Otherwise, keep your distance from the gate to stop the cat from hopping it.

Take great care because you might get bitten or scratched if you pick up your cat while it’s hissing or spitting at the dog. The dog and cat should only be allowed to approach one another and sniff one another rather than being allowed to touch.

If both pets remain calm and exhibit the desired behaviors for one or more days, you're prepared to proceed. If any of the animals exhibit signs of fear or aggression, return to the previous stage.

Supervised and Unsupervised Interactions
Meet and greets should be held in a common part of the house once your pets can quietly consume their meal right close to the door. 

The first few sessions should be brief and relaxed. Let the cat come and go as it pleases while keeping the dog on a leash.

Avoid holding either animal in your arms if they start to act aggressively because this could cause injury.

When your dog is calm, ask it to sit and give it a few yummy goodies. Consequently, give your cat goodies.

If either animal becomes aggressive, divert their attention and redirect them. To get your cat to leave the room, throw it a toy. To get the dog's attention, say its name. 

Increase the duration of these supervised sessions gradually so they can grow a little bit closer to one another each time. Your cat and dog might eventually settle for tolerating one another.

If you're lucky, they'll get along and maybe even play and cuddle together. In some situations, it is never safe to let the dog and cat alone together. In these cases, use your best judgment. 

Related: The More You Know: How Do Dogs Communicate?

Cautionary Advice
Delay the introduction if your pets might be sick or hurtMake sure all of your pets are healthy. Closely monitor your resident pets' routine before the arrival of the newcomer.

If you think that your pup is too attentive to the cat, ignores you when the cat is there, or rushes out of nowhere as soon as the cat moves, it may need more time to acclimate to a new pet.

This pairing is probably not going to work out if the dog lunges, growls, snaps, or behaves aggressively toward a calm, quiet, still cat. This goes the same if a calm, quiet dog is attacked by a cat. If this goes on, you might need to consult with a specialist.

Cat food is popular among dogs. You ought to keep your dog's access to cat food restricted. Dogs also have a fairly typical tendency of eating cat poop. Even if there are no health risks for your dog, it would still be best to keep your kitty litter away from your dog.

Conclusion

Animals with a positive experience typically adapt to a new pet fast. But even after following the steps without any success, it might be time to check with a behaviorist. Never employ punishment because it won't work and can even make things worse.

For more tips about your pets, check out our other blog posts. And let us know in the comments below if you’ve successfully introduced your pet to your resident Fluffy Friend.

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