Dog-Cat Rivalry: fact or fiction? Actually, it’s completely up to you. By providing a slow and steady introduction, the result can be rewarding for both your feline and canine companions. First impressions between pets are just as important as they are between people. Here are a few tips and precautionary steps to help make dog-cat introductions pleasant for everyone involved.
Keep the pets separate at first. Keep the new pet in a separate room for several days with food, water, comfortable bedding, a litter box for a cat, and all of the necessities to keep them happy and healthy. The resident pet should be free to roam the house while the new pet is getting acclimated to his or her own room. If you wish to let the new pet out to explore for short periods of time, make sure the current pet is kept separate from the new pet.
Teach your dog basic commands such as “come”, “sit”, and “stay”. As always, make sure the training experience is pleasant by using positive reinforcement and yummy rewards.
Allow the pets to sniff under the door and to vocalize. It is important that the door cannot be pushed open, allowing access to the other animal.
Let the animals see one another by slightly opening the door. This allows each animal to work out their defensiveness without being able to harm one another. Repeat this several times until you feel comfortable enough to introduce them face-to-face.
When the house is quiet, allow the new pet out of the room and let him or her explore. Make sure your dog is on a leash. Do not force the pets together; instead, casually let them encounter one another on their own. Keep face-to-face sessions short and pleasant. If a problem does occur, have tasty treats on hand to distract the pets and try again the next day.
If all goes well, allow your dog and cat to meet while loose. The dog’s leash should still be attached in case a problem does arise. If a problem does come about, go back to earlier introduction steps and repeat the process. Make sure your cat has access to a dog-free sanctuary at all times.
If the introduction of a new pet to a household doesn’t go smoothly separate the pets immediately behind closed doors and contact our Behavior Help Line at 312-645-8253. Pets can be severely injured in fights and the longer the problem continues, the harder it can be to resolve. Conflicts between dogs in the same family can often be resolved with professional help. Punishment won’t work and could make things worse.