Contrary to popular belief, dogs and cats can live together in harmony.
The idea of how to introduce a puppy to your cats can be a daunting prospect. You may assume that the minute your dog sees your existing pet, he’s going to go into attack mode. Perhaps you’re nervous that your cat will mark its territory with another four-legged imposter around.
Introducing two animals, whether it’s two dogs, two cats, or a puppy and a cat, takes some time and patience. However, it doesn’t have to be a disaster, just go at your own pace and all will be fine.
When carefully introduced in a safe area, and given the right amount of time, your puppy and cat can learn how to live together safely. The two could even become firm friends after a while, particularly if they’re raised from a young age together.
Here’s your guide for how to introduce a puppy to cats and for it to be a positive introductory transition experience.
Why Do Cats and Dogs Clash?
Let’s start with the basics of how to introduce a puppy to cats.
Though cats and dogs can live together, proceed with caution, as there are cases when they may be a clash.
That’s because dogs and cats are both predatory creatures, hardwired to hunt and chase smaller animals. The breed of cat or dog you have can contribute to how much “predatory drive” they have. Some dogs are specially bred to hunt and kill small animals for instance.
Cats are less likely to see a dog as prey, but they may have predatory instincts towards puppies while they’re still growing. Even if your puppy quickly outgrows your cat, your feline friend is sure to have some territorial instincts that kick in when a new animal is around.
Territorial behavior is common in both dogs and cats. If you’ve had your cat for a while, he or she will see your home as “their space”. Cats may growl and hiss to warn predators (like your new puppy) not to step on their turf. However, after a while, they can learn to become tolerant.
10 Tips to Prevent Dog/Cat Battles
Whether you’re introducing a new dog or puppy to a cat, or a new cat to a dog, it’s important to ease them into the situation. If you were going to be living with another creature you’d never seen before, you’d probably be a little nervous too. Throwing a new pet into the mix too quickly ensures that fur will be flying in no time.
The good news? There are some proven techniques you can use to boost your chances of success. Here are some tips to help with the introduction process.
1. Consider the Age of the Animals
In an ideal world, you’d introduce a puppy to your cats when they’re both still young. A kitten and puppy that grow up together in the same surroundings will be more likely to form bonds that are similar to siblings. If you have a kitten already and you’re thinking of adopting a dog, start with a puppy instead of an adult dog to help the animals socialize more effectively.
If you’re bringing a puppy in to meet an adult cat, you may not notice the same kind of bond. However, a well-socialized adult cat will usually learn to tolerate a puppy. Importantly, because grown cats are less playful than their kitten counterparts, they can get a little annoyed if a playful puppy tries to pester them too often.
Introducing an adult dog to a new kitten is a little problematic, as kittens are smaller and more fragile than most dogs. If your pup tries to be playful with a tiny kitten, he or she might end up hurting them accidentally. Even an accidental injury could harm the chances of your feline friend and new puppy becoming long-term friends. It’s important to get these initial introductions right.
2. Think about Compatibility
Did you know certain breeds of dogs are more likely to get along with cats? Before introducing your new puppy to a cat, think about what kind of breed is most compatible. Golden retrievers, Labradors, and beagles are all more likely to get along with your feline friend. If you’re adopting a dog, you can also take some time to get to know that pup’s personality before taking it home.
For instance, if you know your cat likes to be alone most of the time, a boisterous and overly playful puppy could easily get on their nerves. If you have a cat that’s still quite active and playful, getting a dog that can match its energy is a great idea.
When you’re looking for the perfect pooch to adopt, make sure you consider how the dog interacts with other animals in the pound or adoption center you visit. If you’re buying from a breeder, you should be able to see how the puppy interacts with its siblings before you pick it up.
3. Start with Closed Rooms
When you’re keen to have a happy family full of pets, it’s tempting to introduce a puppy to the cats straight away. But don’t rush in. Your resident cat needs to feel in control when a new puppy is introduced. To help ease your furry friend into the presence of a new sibling, confine the new pet to a single room of the house. Keep the door to that room closed, and make sure that the puppy has everything it needs.
For the first few days when your new pet arrives, divide your time between the single room, and the rest of the house. Allow each animal to smell the scent of the other on your clothes as you go to interact with them. Pets that act calm and curious should be rewarded with treats. If your cat reacts badly to the smell of the dog or vice versa, go away and give them some time to calm down.
After a while, both animals should get used to the idea of the other one being there. You could even try swapping scents by taking a blanket that the dog likes for the cat to discover, and a blanket from the cat for the dog.
4. Use Barriers
When both of the animals in your home are aware of the other, and comfortable with their scent, you can begin to let them see each other. The best way to do this is to get a pet gate or baby gate that you can set up in the doorway of the room for your new puppy. Make sure the cat doesn’t attempt to jump into the room.
Keep both pets at a reasonable distance from each other on either side of the door. This method will work best if you have someone to help you. Offer praise, treats, and comfort when your pets act calm and curious. If the dog or cat freaks out, don’t scold them, as this will reinforce the idea that they should be scared. If either animal is uncomfortable, remove them from the situation and try again later.
You may need to repeat this exercise several times per day for a few days before you notice any positive change in the animals’ attitudes towards each other. Be patient! If you try to rush through the barrier step, you could end up with an injured animal on your hands. Make sure there are no signs of aggression to be wary of before you allow the animals to be closer.
5. Let them Get Closer
At this point of introducing a puppy to cats, you’re going to allow each animal to come right up to the gate on the door so that they can smell the other properly. As usual, make sure that you can control both animals. If possible, have someone on hand to help you out.
A good way to avoid any over-reaction between your dog and cat may be to keep both of them on a leash. You can use a cat harness if your cat is trained to use it already. However, if they haven’t used a harness before, now won’t be the right time to begin training. Instead, keep a close eye on any untethered cat, or consider keeping them in their carry case if necessary.
Be careful about allowing the two animals to get close. Even with a barrier between them, there’s still a chance that injuries could happen. Growling, spitting, and hissing all indicate that your animals need a little time to themselves.
6. Bring Them into the Same Room
This is the final stage of how to introduce a puppy to cats period before you start creating long-term living arrangements for your animals. In this stage, you allow both the dog and cat to be in the same room together. However, it’s usually best to keep your dog on a leash, and your cat on a harness or in a comfortable box where they can see each other without interacting too much at first.
Allow the two animals to interact more with each other gradually, ensuring that they’re supervised at all times. Keep your dog on a leash even if you allow the cat out of the box. Cats tend to run away when frightened, whereas puppies may lash out.
If your dog or cat gets too anxious or excited when in the same room as the other, take them out of the space for a while so they can calm down. In the room where you’re making introductions, it may help to have some high spaces where your cat can hide.
7. Allow Regular Interaction
Once your dog and cat can comfortably be in the same room together without any incidents, you can start to gradually let your dog off the leash. Be careful to watch the puppy as he or she explores your home and interacts with the cat. If battles begin to break out, or either animal looks as though they might be getting upset, remove them from the room.
Initially, when the two animals are in the same room together, they shouldn’t be left alone. Try to avoid doing this part of the introduction when you’re at work or can’t supervise. If you’re introducing a puppy to a kitten, it’s best to keep them separate when you’re away from home. Even if they interact well to begin with, it’s easy for play to become too aggressive for a kitten.
If you’re concerned about your cat being too anxious during these introductory stages, consider speaking to your vet about calming remedies available. There are various calming drops, scents, and sprays that can sometimes help your feline friend to feel more at ease. You can even get special products specifically for introducing new friends.
8. Create Your Long-Term Living Arrangements
Now that your puppy and your cat can survive happily in the same space together, make sure that everything is in place for them to both enjoy their long-term living arrangement. First, keep the litter tray somewhere your dog won’t be able to get to it. The last thing you want is your puppy to go digging through used litter. Additionally, your cat needs a place to feel safe when they do their business. If you don’t have a secure litter environment, there may be accidents.
Prepare plenty of safe spots for the cat to retreat to, as well. Remember that puppies can often have more energy and desire for play than adult cats. If your cat starts to get annoyed with the other animal, or they feel threatened, they need somewhere to run and hide.
Common “safe spots” for cats often include high spaces like on top of the refrigerator or on a bookshelf. You could also install some shelves for your cat to climb or look into buying a tall scratching post.
Think about installing a cat flap so that your kitty has an escape route if things get heated.
9. Keep a Watchful Eye
As your puppy and cat begin living together, be mindful of how they’re interacting. Ideally, you’ll want to keep their food separate, as both dogs and cats can end up eating the wrong meal if it smells appealing enough. Although a little dog food won’t harm your cat, and your dog can easily eat a little cat food, their nutritional needs are different.
Be careful to watch for signs that your dog is eating the treats and food that you leave for the cat, or drinking its water, as this can lead to serious territorial disputes. Plus, there’s a risk that your cat could end up becoming malnourished without access to the right meals.
Monitor manicures on both your cat and your dog too. An instinctive swipe at a dog from your cat could easily injure your dog. Keeping your cat’s nails trimmed or capped will help to reduce the risk of scrapes.
10. Be Patient and Positive
One of the most important factors when explaining how to introduce a puppy to cats is plain old patience and positivity.
In an ideal world, all animals would get along with no problem. We all like to see our furry friends cuddling and playing together. However, it’s important to remember that this kind of progress can take a lot of time. You’re going to need to stay positive and patient throughout the entire process. Scolding your dog or your cat when they don’t behave the way you want them to can create excess tension and lead to even more fights in the future.
Remember, use toys and rewards to reflect good behavior!
Introducing pets can be a complex process. You might find that it takes longer to get to the stage where you can keep them both in the same room together than you thought. Alternatively, it might seem that everything is going well, then suddenly your animals decide they can’t stand each other.
Be ready to adapt and stay vigilant to protect both of your pets. As frustrating as this journey can be at times, it will all be worth it in the end. It’s rare for a dog and a cat to never tolerate each other.
Good Luck with Your Furry Friends
Remember, though it might be nice to have your dog and cat be firm friends – that may be a little too much to hope for. Not all animals will become BFFs, and some will barely tolerate each other, no matter how much patience and time you give them. Aim for a relationship between your animals that allows them to live together in peace, with minimal injuries and disruption.
If you hope for nothing more than a peaceful tolerance from your puppy and cat, then you probably won’t be disappointed. If it turns out that the two animals end up curling up together on the couch each evening, that’s just a lucky bonus.
Do remember that there are cases when a dog and a cat may never be able to stay together in the same room for longer than a few minutes. If no matter how hard you try, you can’t get the pets to interact safely, you’ll have some important decisions to make. If you can’t segment your house in a way that allows the two animals to stay separate, you may need to think about rehoming.
In some circumstances, it might be possible to change the relationship that your dog and cats have by getting a trainer involved, but this won’t work for everyone. You can also try using pheromones and calming scents in the house to improve the chances of your cat staying calm.
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