Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Introducing a new cat to your dog

Contrary to belief, cats and dogs can get along if introduced appropriately. A gradual introduction can make all the difference and it can be easier if the cat had positive experiences with dogs when it was young and vice versa.

After bringing your new cat home (see advice in our Welcome home leaflet), you can begin to introduce them to your dog by exchanging their scents.

Black kitten meeting a dog
A new cat should be introduced to your dog very gradually. Photo courtesy of Stefano Mortellaro via flickr / Creative Commons

Exchange scents

To start with, keep the cat and dog separated and allow a room for your cat that isn’t accessible to the dog. Use two soft cloths and gently stroke one on your cat and the other on the dog. Leave the cloth with the dog’s scent in the cat’s room; and the cloth with the cat’s scent in the dog’s environment. They can then each sniff and investigate it in their own time. See if the cat approaches the cloth and sniffs and ignores it, or skirts around the room to avoid it (the reaction will be very subtle). Also try dabbing each of the cloths on the furniture around the home.

Keep mixing the scents in this way over several days until your pets are showing no reaction to the smell and both animals have settled.

You can advance to allowing them to see each other, but not able to physically touch. If possible, place a glass or mesh door between the cat and dog and allow each one to approach or hide as they choose. Only once they show positive signs towards each other can you progress to a controlled face-to-face introduction.

Face-to-face introductions

  • Ensure your dog is trained to show non-threatening behaviour around the cat, such as ‘down’ and ‘stay’. You should be in control of your dog at all times
  • Keep your dog on the lead and keep them calm 
  • Your dog may think the cat is more important if you are focused on them, so try to ignore the cat
  • Keep your dog’s attention, using treats and praise to reward good behaviour
  • Give your cat treats so they associate the dog with something positive
Cats and dogs can get along if introduced appropriately. Photo courtesy of Marc Dalmulder via flickr / Creative Commons

Do not

  • Don’t make your cat feel cornered, they should have somewhere they can escape to and hide. A high ledge will help your cat to feel safe. Keep any external doors and windows closed but allow the cat to leave the room if they wish
  • If your cat does run away, do not let your dog chase them
  • Do not restrain the cat or force them to approach the dog

Repeat short introductions like these until the cat is not scared of the dog; and your dog shows little or no interest in the cat. You can progress to keeping the dog on a long line and eventually, when they are unconcerned with each other’s presence, you can take your dog off the lead (but ensure your cat can escape onto high ledges or furniture if they want to).

Never leave your dog and cat together unsupervised.

You may also find this video helpful:

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