Introducing Dogs and Cats

Dog Meets Cat: Introducing a New Animal into the Household

The old tale that a cat and dog cannot live together peaceably is untrue. What is true, however, is that it does take some skill and patience to make it work. It also takes a dog who is already well trained and an owner who has excellent control of his dog.

Successful introductions have much to do with each animal’s previous experiences with other animals, if any at all, and how well their guardians introduce them. When choosing an animal (whether a cat or a dog), be considerate of each animal’s background, and in some cases, breed.

For instance, a dog who has been around bully cats may not be too keen on your idea of adding a cat to the family. Or a cat living in a household with a dog who has a nasty habit of chasing other animals may just decide to live the rest of her days perched in fear atop the refrigerator or dressers.

But let’s say you go to great lengths to choose the right cat or dog to live with you and the rest of your animal family; do not ruin this by introducing them improperly. First impressions between cats and dogs are as important as they are between people.

Keep a positive attitude and don’t apologize or agonize over your decision to bring another animal into your home. The stress it causes will reflect in how you interact with your companion animals. In other words, if you are nervous, you will make your companion animals nervous too. This will certainly affect how they view the other animal and you may be sabotaging your efforts for a successful relationship.

Begin by keeping the new animal in a separate room or area for several days. Make sure he is kept comfortable with food, water, bedding, and a litter-box for cats. The current pet(s) should have free roam of the rest of the home. Allow them to sniff and growl under the door. If you wish to let the new animal out of confinement for short periods, it should be done only when he can be supervised by an adult and the current pet is kept in another room or area.

Once the grumbling has slowed, allow the animals to see each other through a screen or slightly opened door. This allows each animal to work out defensiveness or aggression without really being able to harm each other physically. Do this exercise for several days until you feel comfortable enough to introduce them face-to-face.

When you can be home all day and are feeling quite relaxed, allow the new animal out of his confinement. Unless you are certain that the dog involved is very well trained and has been gentle with small animals in the past, introduce the dog on a very loose leash. Do not hold the dog tightly or close to you. Do not force them to be together! Doing so could make each animal feel out of control or threatened and a fight could easily break out. Instead, be casual and let them encounter each other on their own.

It is perfectly normal and expected that these animals hiss, growl, chase, swat, and bat at each other. This may go on for several days or several weeks. Do not consistently punish one animal and/or rescue the other. It could only complicate matters. Be patient. If your animals are well adjusted, they will work things out in their own time.

However, if there is severe fighting in which the animals are being injured, separate them by throwing water on them or making a loud noise. Do not try to separate them with your body. In the frenzy you could be bitten or scratched by accident. Keep the animals apart and after a few days try to introduce them again.

Do not expect your cats and dogs to become pals right away. Friendships take time to develop. It is not wise to expect too much from your companion animals too soon. Have realistic expectations and goals.

Information provided by “The Anti-Cruelty Society.”