Pussyfooting Around: Introducing your Dog and Cat
Social media may make it seem like every cat and dog are best friends, but in many cat/dog households just getting the cat comfortable enough to be in the same room as the dog is a win.
Cat and dog friendships are actually based heavily on the chemistry of their individual personalities, and not every cat and dog are destined to be best buds. But…with a little help from their pet parents, cats and dogs can actually learn to not only cohabitate but even end up living in harmony.
Introducing your cat to your new dog or your new dog to your cat can be a bit of a tricky process. These tips can help lessen the stress for everyone (including you) during the getting-to-know-you phase.
Nobody Puts Kitty in a Corner
When introducing your cat and dog to each other, never lock your cat into a space that they can’t get out of. Making sure your cat has an escape route at all times is the best way to let him or her acclimate to your canine(s) on their own terms. Cats are hyper intuitive and will always avoid putting themselves in harm’s way. If your cat knows there’s least one easy way out of a room, they are more likely to come into that room – even if the room has a dog in it.
You might also try keeping your dog in their crate for the initial meeting. This allows your cat to investigate your dog without the fear of being chased. Take your dog for a good aerobic walk before-hand, so they aren’t bouncing off the walls of the crate.
Your cat’s litter-box is a personal item that needs to be kept in a safe space that your dog does not have access to. A baby gate in a doorway is often all you need to keep your dog out and your cat happy.
Mealtime is another thing that requires some personal space. Because food is a great way to coax your cat into sharing a room with your dog, be sure to place your cat’s bowl on a counter or a surface that’s too high for your dog to reach and they can both eat in peace while sharing each other’s company.
Cats and dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell and great way to get your canine and feline kids acquainted is to have them share a common scent. You can do this by taking a dish towel and petting your cat with it. Take the cat-scented towel and put it on your dog’s bed. Then, take a different towel and rub it on your dog. Leave the dog-scented towel on your cat’s bed. After a day or two, swap the towels and give the dog’s towel to your cat and your cat’s towel to your dog. Now each of them has a scented towel that’s saturated in both scents, representing the new, combined, family scent.
If your dog is a bit too rough with your cat or vice versa, teach them both to be “gentle” by rewarding gentle behavior with positive reinforcement (e.g. petting, treats, praise).
Remember that while cats and dogs are different species, they do speak similar body languages, and both feel a need to establish hierarchies. Your cat may need to give your dog a well-deserved swipe or two to the nose to teach your pup how to play nicely with a cat. And you might have to spend a little extra time on the “gentle” command with your dog.
Ultimately, whether you need to try one or all of these tips to help your cat and dog’s friendship blossom, remember that the best thing you can give their relationship is time.
Walk it out
Taking your dog for a long, aerobic walk before teaching them something new or exposing them to a new setting is a great way to mitigate the risk of your dog misbehaving.