For many pet lovers, having as many pets as possible in your household is a bit of a life goal.
However, for many people who have dogs, they often wonder if it’s really possible to bring a friendly feline into the mix.
While it may take a bit of effort and patience on your part, as well as from your canine and feline family members, chances are good that you can make it work safely and happily for everyone.
To ensure all goes well during the introductory process, there are certain steps you should always take to make the transition a safe and effective one. So if you’ve decided to take the plunge and bring Fluffy and Fido together, here’s how to make it a perfect match.
Give Kitty its Own Room
Once you’ve picked out your kitty and brought it home, always have a separate room where it can stay all to itself for the first two weeks or so.
By doing this, you’ll give the cat a chance to settle in to its new surroundings, which will help it calm down and relax. To be sure the room is as comfortable and inviting as possible, have a clean litter box, soft bed, plenty of food and water, and some fun toys.
After a few days, you may want to get a sturdy baby gate to put across the doorway so you can leave the door open and allow the two animals to interact behind a safe barrier.
This first meeting between your dog and new cat is very important, as both pets will be extremely curious about the other. At this point, it’s a good idea to swap scents by rubbing one animal with a towel, and putting that towel in the other animals’ room. They will each get a very up close and personal introduction, without you worrying that they’ll become physically violent with one another.
Visit the Veterinarian
Prior to making any introduction, always be sure everyone is healthy. By taking both the cat and dog to the veterinarian (separately, of course), you can make sure there are no underlying health issues that may make a meeting tougher than expected.
You can have everyone updated on vaccinations, flea treatments, and other important health procedures at this time, too.
Avoid Fear and Aggression
Once you feel your kitty is ready to meet its canine counterpart, do so carefully. For starters, always keep the dog on a short leash, which will let you maintain control over the animal.
Also, be sure the kitty has places it can go to escape if necessary, such as a high table or bookshelf. If you want, you can even install some interior cat doors throughout your house, which will let the kitty escape to a “safe room” where the dog cannot have access.
Another idea is The Door Buddy. It’s a simple door strap that is wide enough for a cat to easily pass through, but narrow enough that dogs (and babies) can’t pass through. It’s a great way to give the cat its own space, and is also ideal for keeping the dog out of the litter box.
If possible, try to limit the initial meetings to no more than 15 minutes, then increase the time as the animals start to get used to one another. If during the meetings the dog growls or acts aggressive, or if the cat is hissing and swatting its claws at the dog, send everyone to their respective corners and try again tomorrow.
An Obedience Refresher Course
Unless your dog is extremely well-trained in obedience, an initial or refresher course in obedience training can go far in helping them get along well with the new kitty. By making sure your dog understands such commands as “sit”, “stay”, “no”, and other important ones, you’ll be able to maintain a better level of control during the meetings.
Always Use Positive Reinforcement
When introducing your cat and dog, always use plenty of patience and positive reinforcement. For starters, always talk to both animals in a calm, soothing voice, letting them know how much you want them to get along.
To move things along even better, pet each animal, which will help them stay calm. And of course, always have plenty of favorite toys and treats on hand, which will usually be quite beneficial in helping doggy and kitty become best friends. Just remember not to reward over-excited behavior, especially in your dog.
If he is straining at the leash while meeting Kitty, don’t reward him with treats just because he isn’t lunging to attack her. Rewards at this stage might simply teach the dog that it’s a good thing to be over-excited when the cat is around.
Always Supervise Visits
Even if you are confident your cat and dog will get along great, always make sure you supervise their initial visits. In doing so, you’ll always be there just in case things get unexpectedly out of hand. In many cases, all it takes is either the cat or dog taking something the wrong way, and before you know it everyone is hissing, barking, and fighting with one another. Even simple actions, such as either animal doing something intended as playful, can be construed wrongly by the other one, resulting in chaos and biting.
Therefore, don’t take anything for granted, and supervise all visits until everyone is very comfortable with one another.
Puppies and Kittens
If your dog happens to be a puppy or still quite young, it may be a good idea to get a cat that is also young. For example, if you choose to get a kitten to be a friend to your puppy, the two of them will get a chance to grow up together. And since they will both be so young, it will probably be easier to introduce them to one another.
Likewise, if your dog is older, consider getting a cat who is several years old as well. More than likely, both animals will be a bit more settled by then, which may also make the introduction easier.
Try to Match Personalities
Along with trying to match ages, try to match the animal’s personalities to one another. If your dog is friendly and outgoing, try to find a kitty who is also laid-back and loves everyone. Or if your dog is a bit shy, it may be best to find a cat who is also a bit timid.
By matching their personalities as closely as possible, you’ll have a better chance of seeing both doggy and kitty hitting it off right from the start.
Ask for Professional Help
If despite your best efforts at getting your dog and cat to be best friends things aren’t going as hoped, don’t hesitate to seek out professional help to salvage the relationship.
Just like humans, animals can sometimes benefit from “couples” counseling. If you decide to use this option, start by talking to your veterinarian. Sometimes, they themselves may have some suggestions that might work, or can put you in touch with a local animal behaviorist or pet psychologist.
While this may sound far-fetched to some, this avenue often produces great results. So rather than give up, seek out the advice of a pro.
By keeping these important steps in mind when you bring a new kitty into your doggy home, you’ll have a much better chance of seeing them become best friends even faster than you anticipated.
About the Author:
Emily Parker is a cat mom to 2 black cats, Gus and Louis. She loves to explore her neighbourhood on foot, looking for the coolest new (cat) cafes.
When she’s not out and about, she spends most of her time researching and writing for her website, Catological.com, where she helps cat parents love their kitties better.