||: At Home
The truth about cats and dogs: managing introductions
If you’re wondering how to introduce a dog to a cat, the answer is: very slowly. Patience and supervision are paramount. A dog’s natural instinct is to chase, while the cat is most likely to be fearful and defensive. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to assist that first meeting, and canines and felines almost always learn to enjoy each other’s company and happily share the home.
Puppyhood is the best time for your dog to be exposed to new things, people and experiences. Your pup is likely to accept the cat as part of the family pretty quickly, but the resident cat may have other ideas.
It’s crucial that the first few meetings between puppy and cat are supervised. There are some steps to take prior to the ‘first date’, and this includes getting the pets used to each other’s scent. Keep the pets separated at first, but allow them to sniff each other’s bedding or toys to assist in the ‘getting-to-know-you’ process.
Confine the pup to one room at this stage, and let your cat to sniff around the door, plus other areas where the puppy has left their mark. If the cat is outdoors, allow the puppy the same sniffing privileges. If your puppy is in a crate, your cat can safely sniff its perimeter. A crate, if you have one, is actually an ideal way to manage a first meeting.
Once your cat appears to be accepting, or at least tolerating, the canine presence, it’s time for them to meet face-to-face.
Before the big introduction, ensure your cat’s claws are clipped, to avoid injury to your pup. In the lead-up to the big meeting, try teaching your pup the basic sit/stay commands, it may afford you greater control. Be ready with treats and praise for both pets. You want the pets to feel that when they are in each other’s presence, good things happen.
It will be easier if you have a family member or a friend help you. Keeping your pup on a leash, open the door, and allow your cat to approach the room at their own pace.
Don’t be alarmed if your cat hisses or tries to scratch the pup – it’s a normal reaction, and your cat should not be reprimanded. Avoid a situation where the cat is close enough to hurt the puppy.
Discourage your pup from pouncing on, or chasing, your cat. Make sure the cat has an ‘escape clause’ – a desk or shelf that they can jump up to for safety.
Whenever the pets appear to be coping with each other, this qualifies as good behaviour, so praise them lavishly – even if they’re doing nothing. Be cool and calm – avoid exciting them.
If your cat runs off to hide, rest assured this is a normal behaviour that will subside as the pair gets to know each other. If your cat is holing up in the wardrobe, let them emerge in their own time.
Keep the first few meetings short, gradually increasing the amount of time. Don’t leave your pets alone together until you are genuinely confident that they are getting along, and remember to always have that ‘escape clause’ for your cat.
Your puppy is no doubt keeping you busy, but your cat will also need extra attention: this new arrival is actually quite a big deal to your cat! Your cat may have been the only pet in the household, and the previous centre of attention. Both of them need plenty of cuddles, so they can feel confident that this ‘other creature’ isn’t about to steal away all of your love.