Despite the old saying of “fighting like cats and dogs,” many adopted dogs learn to live peacefully with resident cats, whether puppies or adults. The most important thing for adopters to know is that this adjustment is a process, not a one-time introduction. Care must be taken to introduce dogs and cats slowly, making the process as stress-free and pleasant as possible. It is also important to supervise all interactions between an adult dog and smaller dogs/puppies. Adopters must be prepared to manage their pets’ interactions for the next several weeks, if not longer.
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. Keep your current pet's schedule as normal as possible. If you are going to house your new pet in a separate room to start with, restrict the current pet's access to that room well in advance so the change can feel more gradual. Make sure your current pet still gets all the time care and attention he or she is accustomed to.
3. Look for "pre-introduction" opportunities. Give each animal items with the scent of the other animal on them. Allowing the animals to smell the others' scent before they actually meet can help make the face to face meeting easier.
4. 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.
5. Begin teaching your dog basic obedience cues, such as “sit” and “down”. Keep training sessions short, pleasant and rewarding for the dog.
6. Introduce animals slowly and for small periods of time until they are well adjusted to the sight and smell of each other. Use a crate, child gate, or a leash to control the animals during the interactions. Try to keep the animal who has the most potential to hurt the other one under direct control, either through a leash or a crate. Give the animal that is more likely to be frightened a safe haven where the other pet cannot reach him or her.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. Reward good behavior. Remember that not all animals are going to be friends, so even disinterest is positive. Offer praise, treats, toys, and affection to promote good interactions
10. When both animals appear to be getting along well, allow them be loose in the room together, keeping the more aggressive pet’s leash attached and dragging on the floor. This will allow you to step on it and prevent them from chasing/harming the other pet. If tension erupts between them, start the process over. If you are introducing a cat to a dog, 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.
11. Be patient. Animals need time to adjust to each other, especially if your old pet is older and the new pet is a baby. It might take months before your animals really begin to accept each other.
Some other tips:
· These same steps can be used to introduce a new animal to small children. Keep children and the new animal separate until the new pet adjusts to your child's voice and movements. Research age appropriate pets for the age range your children are.
· Frequent interaction is not necessarily going to work for all pets, but they can still share a house if precautions are taken. Your cat may always want to chase your hamster. You can still have both as long as the hamster is safe in his or her cage and can come out for exercise without the cat being in the room.
- Make sure you have adequate space and housing for both animals to live separately. Though you may intend for the animals to share a room or cage eventually, this may not be possible right away, or ever. Even animals who get along quite well may not be willing to share their "dens".
- Keep it positive. If you're constantly correcting one animal during an introduction, that animal will come to associate the other one with negative things. Remove an animal who isn't behaving from the situation and go back to scent-only introductions or put the animal somewhere secure so the bad behavior can be ignored.
- Make sure training you intend to use when introducing the animals, such as a crate, leash, or muzzle, is introduced ahead of time. You don't want to be putting a muzzle on a dog who's never worn one before and add to this new and possibly uncomfortable experience by having her meet the new cat for the first time.