Generally described as sworn enemies, despite popular belief, cats and dogs can actually live quite harmoniously together. In fact, some pairs even grow to become the best of friends. That being said, these relationships are the result of a heavily nurtured and supervised environment. Introducing your new furry friend to the resident cat, or vice versa, can be stressful and overwhelming for both you and your pets. To make the transition as simple and natural as possible, here are some essential tips for current and future pet owners.
The introduction process is undoubtedly the most important step, and it helps to set the foundation for a healthy and happy relationship. Designate a neutral space for the first meeting, and ensure all food and toys have been picked up.
- When bringing your newest addition home for the first time, it’s best to keep your current pet confined. This allows for the new member to get acclimated and acquainted with the smells and layout of the home.
- Once the animal seems comfortable, bring out your first pet on a leash, and allow for the two to be introduced in a single space. Do not force the interaction. Cats (as well as some dogs) tend to be very territorial. Ensure you allow plenty of time for them to warm to the idea of sharing their home.
- Reward good behavior. Animals need positive reinforcement to understand if and when their actions please you. Show attention to both animals simultaneously, and use a soft, encouraging tone of voice. Initially, affection should be the only reward given for good behavior. Avoid handing out treats until the pets have grown accustomed to one another.
- Continue to monitor your pets’ interactions for several days. The two should not be left alone or put outside together without supervision. Slowly begin testing the waters, introducing toys and treats.
Note: It’s perfectly normal for your pet to be interested in and excited by its new friend. Cautious and curious interactions are healthy and natural. On the other hand, aggressive or anxious play and behavior is cause for immediate separation.
Photo by Birhanb via Wikimedia Commons
Whether you’re introducing a new friendly feline or a playful young pup, providing a safe, personal place for this animal is a crucial component. Furthermore, this safe haven will serve as refuge should your pet feel scared or threatened. Crates are a place dogs can seek both shelter and security, or perhaps chomp on their favorite bone. For cats, jungle gyms and scratching posts are great for long afternoon naps as well as entertainment.
Photo by Chris Favero via Flickr
Taking Care of Business
Ensure both of your pets have the space and security they need to do their business. For cats, keep their litter box in a place that is inaccessible by the dog (this also prevents messes and confusion for your dog). If you keep your litter box outside or in your garage, a pet safe dog door (or in this case, a cat door) is simple to install and easy to use. If you’re worried your dog may be able to weasel his or her way through, opt for an electronic smart door with matching collar. This keeps your dog inside, while allowing your cat access throughout the day.
Provide each pet its own unique station for meals. Consider keeping your cat’s kibble on a ledge or counter during the day, safe from your food-loving dog. It’s worth noting that cat and dog food is specific to canine and feline diets—their food is not interchangeable. Feed each animal at the same time, and pick up your dogs food if he or she doesn’t finish his or her meal.
Photo by Katlene Niven via Flickr