While careful introductions are the best way to set everyone up for success, there is no guarantee that your cat and dog will become buddies. Some pets learn to tolerate each other, while others might attempt to cause each other harm. The outcome will depend both on the manner of the pets’ introduction and their individual personalities. The following steps can help maximize your chance of long-term success.
1. Keep the pets separate for at least the first 3-4 days. The goal is to allow the pets to get used to each other’s presence without face-to-face contact. Even if they can’t see each other, they can hear and smell each other.
2. While the pets are still separate, begin to feed them on opposite sides of a closed door. They will associate the presence of the other pet with pleasant things, such as food. With each feeding, move their food bowls a little closer to the closed door; continue the process until each pet can eat calmly right next to the door.
3. Begin teaching your dog basic obedience cues, such as “sit” and “down”. Keep training sessions short, pleasant and rewarding for the dog.
4. When the pets can eat their food calmly right next to the door, begin face-to-face meetings. Keep the first few sessions short and calm. Keep the dog on a leash and let the cat come and go as she wishes. If either pet demonstrates aggression, calmly distract and redirect them: toss a toy for the cat to lure her from the room, call the dog’s name and reward his attention. Return the pets to their confinement areas.
5. Repeat these face-to-face sessions daily, saving the pets’ favorite treats for when they are together. If the cat attempts to leave the room, allow her to do so, and do not let the dog chase her. Try to end each session before either pet shows stress or aggression. Hold these “meet and greets” in common areas of the house.
6. When both animals appear to be getting along well, allow them be loose in the room together, keeping the dog’s leash attached and dragging on the floor. This will allow you to step on it and prevent the dog from chasing the cat if he gets excited. If tension erupts between them, start the process over. Make sure the cat has access to a dog-proofed sanctuary at all times, complete with a litter box. Continue to separate the pets when you are not there to supervise.