Introducing your new cat to your resident dog
Introducing your new cat to your resident dog
Congratulations on adopting your new cat!
How do you successfully introduce a new cat into your household if you already have other pets? Cats can be territorial, so bringing a new kitty home to meet Fido or Fluffy can be a hair-raising experience for not only the owner but also the resident pets—if not handled correctly. A peaceful relationship between new and existing feline or canine housemates requires time, patience and work. The introduction process generally takes a few weeks before the pets are all cohabitating peacefully. At times, though, it can take several weeks. The trick is to do it slowly and cautiously…and follow the guidelines below.
- Introduce Cats First Always introduce a new cat to the resident cats before introducing him to the resident dog(s). In most cases, the cat to cat introductions will be more harried, with the cat to dog introductions being somewhat easier.
- Every cat has their own personality The ability of animals to get along together in the same household depends on their individual personalities. There will always be one who dominates. A new cat will often upset the existing pecking order or the old cat or dog may feel it necessary to establish dominance immediately. Wise handling of the “getting acquainted” period is an important factor in the successful introduction of a new cat.
- Patience is Key The first week or two may be hectic, frustrating and time consuming. Be patient. The adjustment will take time.
Isolate the new cat in a separate “Safe Room” It should be closed off from the other pets (make sure the door is securely shut and doesn’t open easily). This smaller, confined area will help the new cat to feel safe and adjust more quickly to his new home. Provide a litter box, scratching post, toys, food, and water in the new cat’s room. This separation will also give your current pet’s time to get used to the new cat’s smell and the idea of having a new occupant in the house. During the first week, the only interaction that your new cat and resident cats should have is playing paws under the door.
Introducing to Resident Dogs:
- There should be no face-to-face interactions between the new cat and resident dog for the first week. Bring the cat into the house in his carrier and take him directly to his “safe room.”
- Don’t introduce the cat to any other pets until he has settled in and seems to be comfortable with the human members of the household. This comfort will be evidenced by the cat becoming interactive with you when you enter his “safe room.” Many cats will initially hide for a couple of days when brought to a new home, but will soon become comfortable if given time and space.
- When your new cat seems to be comfortable with you, it is time to start the introductions with your dog. During these introductions, the dog should always be crated or on leash, allowing the cat to approach the dog on his own terms. This may well be the first time that the cat is outside of his “safe room.” Allow him to explore at his own pace and approach the dog if he is comfortable doing so. All introductions should be supervised and conducted during quiet times of the day.
- Carefully watch the first contact between cat and dog. Let them sniff each other. Be ready in case of any aggressive behavior. The situation should be fairly well controlled, though, because the dog will be confined in his crate or on a leash. If either animal displays aggressive or fearful behavior, separate them immediately. Try again later (possibly the next day) after things have calmed down.
- If the initial meeting goes well, you will still want to repeat the encounter several times under controlled circumstances before letting the animals roam freely in the house or leaving them together unsupervised.
- If your new cat is a small kitten, take special precautions whenever the cat and dog are together. A large dog may not intend to harm a kitten, he simply may not know his own strength or understand the fragility of a young kitten.
- Be sensitive to the fact that some dog breeds are naturally not good at cohabitating with cats—certain breeds may instinctually be driven to chase or act aggressively toward a cat. You will need to evaluate your pet’s personality and determine if he is an exception to the general rule for his breed. Take extra time and care when introducing the two animals—always under close supervision. Be aware that your dog may behave better when you are present, so allow ample time for supervised interactions before letting them to be alone together.
- Keep your dog confined until the cat feels secure in his new home. Do not allow the dog to chase or corner the cat, even out of playfulness or curiosity. Supervise them carefully and don’t tolerate any aggressive behavior from your dog. The cat should have a safe retreat, either up high or in a room inaccessible to the dog.
An adult cat may swat a dog to set limits. Allow your animals to accept one another in their own time and don’t leave them alone together until this is accomplished. Never force interaction. Many cats and dogs become companions and playmates while others simply tolerate each other. Be sure to give your dog lots of extra attention to avoid jealous reactions.
Tips to Encourage or Maintain Harmony:
Add a few drops of Bach Flower Remedies to each water bowl. Add additional drops as needed when the water is changed or replenished. This is a homeopathic treatment that will not have any effect on those pets that drink the treated water if they are not displaying the targeted behavior. You can purchase Bach Flower Remedies in different “flavors” at Whole Foods Stores and most health food stores.
“Holly” helps to quell anger
“Rock Water” works well with overly dominant animals
“Vine” helps to calm a bully
“Walnut” helps adjust to change
“Willow” addresses any feelings of resentment
Provide plenty of safe, comfortable sleeping/nesting places if you have several pets…cats especially need their space. They are not as social as dogs and often prefer isolation at times.
Maintain separate litter boxes (they eventually may share). The general rule is one litter box for each cat plus one.
Make sure litter boxes are placed in quiet, easily accessible locations that do not present opportunities for a cat to be cornered by other pets. While litter boxes should be accessible to the cats, they should be out of reach of any resident dogs.
Keep In Mind:
Unfortunately, in spite of your best efforts, sometimes the resident pets will not accept the new cat into their home. After a month of working through the techniques listed above, if your pets have not progressed past outward displays of aggression, it is time to consider the possibility that the new cat may not be able to integrate into your family. If this turns out to be the case, unless you are willing to maintain separate living quarters for warring pets, you may need to return the newcomer. Before making this difficult decision – or if you have any concerns at all, we absolutely encourage you to reach out to our staff for some tips.