Are you planning on bringing a new canine or feline friend into the house, but worried that the existing pet may disagree about the arrangement? Although the old adage – fighting like cats and dogs – may be the first thing that comes to mind, with proper introduction technique and patience, the two can likely become friends (or, at least tolerate the other’s presence.)
Be aware that some dogs will never be suited to having a feline companion Before you begin your search for your new pet, understand that some dogs are hardwired to have a prey-drive, meaning they will inherently chase other animals or humans (or Roombas, or lawnmowers, or remote controlled cars…) that are smaller than them. If an adult dog already lives the house that is a Siberian Husky, Beagle, or Border Collie, a cat may never fit into the household. However, if the dog is socialized to cats from a very young age, this problem can be minimized.
Separate both animals for the first few days
When you first bring home the new pet, rotate giving each animal its freedom. Place the resident animal in a crate or other room, and allow the new dog or cat to explore the house while getting used to the resident pet’s scent. If the resident animal is an adult male dog, be aware that he may try to mark any area where the new cat has been. Continue to separate the animals until both are calm and living their lives normally (i.e. eating, using the litter box, etc.).
Restrain the dog for the first meeting
To avoid an accident, leash the dog the first time it is introduced to the cat. Look for signs of the dog being overly focused or interested in the cat, such as lunging, barking, or pulling at the leash. It is normal for the dog to want to investigate the feline, but exercise caution when the dog is sniffing at the cat. Be aware of the dog’s body language, and keep a vigilant watch to ensure he does not curl his lips, raise his tail, or raise his hackles (the fur that runs along his spine). If you notice these signs, immediately separate the animals. Warning signs that the cat may be stressed include hissing, back arching, and clawing at the dog. Provide plenty of positive praise for good behavior from both animals. Continue to keep the dog leashed until he and the cat both behave calmly around one another.
Understand a match may not be made
Even if the dog is not a breed that is known to be incompatible with cats, realize that either the dog or cat may decide an interspecies household is not going to happen. If the dog continually tries to chase the cat, intensely watches the cat’s every move, or does not heed the owner’s commands in the cat’s presence, the dog is likely not feline compatible. If the cat attacks a calm and quiet dog, this cat is not good with canines. Additionally, if either animal changes eating, drinking, or bathroom habits since introduction of the new pet, seek professional help, as that animal is unhappy about the new living situation.