Bringing home a new dog is exciting, but introducing it to your cat at home is intimidating. Are they going to love each other or will there be a lot of chasing, hissing, and barking involved? When bringing a new dog home it is imperative you introduce your pets correctly so you can limit or avoid an aggressive and/or traumatizing first meeting. Read on to learn about the best way to introduce your furry friends!
Step 1: Separate the Animals
When you first bring home your new dog, make sure your cat has a safe spot. A great space would be a spare room, office, or even your bedroom. The safe spot should include the cat’s toys, food, water, bed, and litter box. By keeping your cat and dog separated, your dog can adjust to its new home safely. Use your best judgment about how long to keep your pets completely separated. All dogs will have different adjustment rates. While in this phase, make sure to spend lots of time in the room with your cat giving it playtime, cuddles, and love so your cat does not feel neglected.
Step 2: Feed Your Pets “Together”
Now that your dog is becoming comfortable in its new home, start feeding your cat close to the door. On the other side of the door, feed your dog at the same time. Place the cat’s bowl and dog’s bowl close enough where they can sense each other, but not so close they are too uncomfortable to eat. This is the first step in getting them closer together with an activity both your cat and dog love — eating! You can then gradually move the bowls closer together until both bowls are right against the door.
Step 3: Exchange Smells
This is a very important step. We all know the first thing a dog does when they have an unfamiliar scent is to sniff away. Therefore, to get both animals used to each other’s scent, exchange their smells. For example, place your cat’s bed and some of its toys outside of the confinement room so your dog can sniff, and vice versa. The exchange of scent will allow your pets to get used to each other and help them realize there is a new animal in the house.
Step 4: The Initial Meet and Greet
Now it’s time to let your pets see each other for the first time. Remember, animals can sense when you are apprehensive or nervous, so try to stay calm during this process. Make sure to keep your dog leashed. Open the door to the cat’s room and keep your dog calm. Using commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “leave it” are often helpful in keeping your dog focused and calm. It is important you don not try to force any interaction at this stage, so if the cat feels scared or does not want to interact with the dog, that’s ok! For now, it’s more important they merely see each other. Reward your dog with treats when it is calm, sitting, and/or staying. Repeat this process for a few days until your dog can stay calm when it sees the cat.
Step 5: Cat Out, Dog Remains Leashed
It is time to let your cat out of its confinement room. This will allow your cat to explore more smells and check out your new dog’s possessions. It is still important in this phase that your dog remains leashed so the dog does not startle the cat too much or run after it. Continue to use “sit,” “stay,” and “leave it,” commands with your dog in order to establish boundaries with the cat. When your dog is behaving well with the cat, reward generously with treats. A great tip is to use a “high value” treat, meaning something your dog absolutely loves (i.e. chicken), which will show your dog its good work is important. Your goal is to have your dog stay and ignore the cat when they are in the same room. If the cat runs by and the dog tries to chase kitty, use your the commands and reward with treats/praise when your dog successfully ignores. You may need to repeat this process for a few days.
Step 6: Cat and Dog Loose Together
Congrats, the hardest part is over! When your dog has successfully ignored your cat’s presence, you know they can both be loose together! You may still need to do some follow-up training with your dog on occasion.