Guest Post by Mary Nielsen
Suppose you have a cat and you want to introduce her to a new dog you are adding to your household. Or what if you already have a dog and you want to introduce him to a new cat? It's a challenge, but it is possible with the right approach.
After learning about jealousy in cats, you may want to prevent jealousy by gently introducing your cat to a new cat in the household. But what if it's a dog? "To fight like cats and dogs" is a tired cliché, but based on truth. It stems from a language barrier. What a cat thinks is a friendly greeting, a dog thinks is an unwarranted expression of dominance. What a dog thinks of as a friendly greeting, a cat thinks is a sign of aggression. The best way to overcome this language barrier is to introduce them as puppy and kitten, while they're so naïve that everything seems new and different. Of course, that's not always possible.
Before You Get Started
If at all possible, get a cat and dog with similar personalities. If the situation is due to a blended family or other cohabitation, this may not be an option. It's preferable to start with animals that have lived with other animals before. The dog should know the commands "sit", "no" and "stay" and be leash-trained. Aggressive animals (even if only in play) will not match well with nervous, shy animals. While it's best to introduce a puppy and a kitten to each other, two elderly animals might be able to quietly tolerate each other. In the case of puppies and kittens, supervise their playtime to make sure they don't hurt themselves.
If possible, let the cat and dog take turns roaming freely about the house while the other visits a friend or family member. This way, they'll know each other by scent when they first meet.
The Pavlovian Method
Your cat will need to be isolated for a while with food, water, litter box and bedding. You may come in to visit, but the dog should stay out. For at least a week, the cat and dog must eat on opposite sides of a solid door. If your dog barks, whines or paws at the door, give him a calm but firm "No!" and move his bowl away from the door. Gradually move the food bowls closer to the door over the week until they're practically eating side by side if not for the door. You can also rub one with a rag and put it near the other's bowl so they can smell it while eating. In time, they'll come to see each other's scent as pleasant.
Face to Face
For their first face to face meeting, there should be a handler for each animal. Pets can pick up on fear and nervousness, so try to keep calm. The dog should be leashed and the cat should have access to her safe space, be that a carrier, kitty condo or space under the bed. Calmly and gently let the cat and dog see and smell each other. Speak in a composed, reassuring voice. If things take a turn for the worse (one or both lunges at the other, for example) the dog can be pulled back on a leash and commanded "No! Sit!" The cat will most likely retreat to someplace safe. Repeat this several times, gradually lengthening the time of the visits.
Never punish a pet for a bad reaction to another. You don't want them to associate the other animal with punishment. Do reward them for good behavior. Some dog breeds that have a high prey instinct (hounds, spaniels and terriers) may never acclimate to a cat's presence. Of course, if the dog is of a toy group (such as a Yorkie or Chihuahua) you may have to tell your cat to play nice! Even if your cat and dog do learn to accept each other, keep food and litter boxes where the one who shouldn't use it can't get to it.
Mary Nielsen founded FelineLiving.net and is a passionate cat lover, blogger, and part-time music teacher. She founded her blog to share her ups and downs of being a pet parent to a bunch of adorable kittens and cats. When she is not playing with them or teaching, you can find her experimenting in the kitchen.