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How to Introduce a Cat and a Dog

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Can cats and dogs really live together in harmony? In many households this is just the case. Of course, if one species has been brought up with the other from a young age, they will likely be completely accustomed to each other, although they may not tolerate other 'strangers' from the species in the same way. Some pet owners have even reported that a dog raised around a cat displays feline behaviours and vice versa. When considering whether your pet will adapt to a new family member of the opposite species, think about any prior encounters they have. Has your cat had a traumatic incident with a dog? Perhaps your dog has a history of chasing after cats? On the other hand, no previous interaction at all will mean that this new animal is completely strange and unfamiliar to your pet and may be treated with fear. 

Cat and a Dog
Introduce a Cat and a Dog

 Before allowing the animals to meet, it is recommended that you familiarize them with each other's scent. Try rubbing a blanket or sweater against yourself as well as one of the animals before letting the other pet smell it. This will let an animal get used to the new scent, as well as view it as friendly, since their smell is associated with yours. After a day or so, swap the blankets to allow their scents to mingle. When introducing a new animal into your home, always make sure that early encounters are supervised and that the dog is firmly held, while the cat has a safe place to retreat to if they feel too threatened. It is easier and kinder to the animals to control the dog than the cat. 

You should only introduce a new animal to your home when your dog is well behaved and responds to you as the alpha male of the home. If your dog does not see you as the ultimate authority in his home he will not take kindly to you bringing in addition 'members' to his pack. Having a dog that responds to your voice and commands will also make it safer for both animals during the transition period as you can easily let him know what behaviour is acceptable, and what is not. Keep the first few meetings brief, of 5 - 10 minutes, and gradually increase this time over a period of days. Hopefully you should see both animals become calmer after a few meetings although they shouldn't be left alone unsupervised until they can both be loose in the same room without being over excited or scared. Have patience with these meetings - some cats and dogs adapt quickly to each other in just a few hours, while others may take several weeks to become comfortable in each other's company. Let the cat decide on their own level of comfort around your dog. If he wants to run and hide, do not force him to stay exposed, and certainly never take the cat closer to the dog than he is comfortable with. Some cats may be quite brave, and wander up to your dog for closer inspection. If this happens, try to keep your dog calm, and in a sitting or lying position while the cat approaches and sniffs him. 

Make sure that your cat has a safe place where they can retreat to to be away from the dog and feel calm and secure. When caring for a cat and dog in the same home, there are a few things that you will need to watch out for. Don't feed your cat and dog in the same place, as this can cause some dogs to become territorial and aggressive around their food dish. You might want to place your cat's food dish in a place where it can't be reached by the dog. Cat food tends to be richer than dog food, and while it may be a tasty gourmet meal for a dog, chomping down too much of kitty's dinner will lead to weight gain, and of course, a hungry cat! Another temptation for dogs is the cat's litter box. As disgusting as it sounds, it is common for dogs to find cat droppings to be irresistible as they are full of protein and partially digested cat food. Buying a covered or domed litter tray should fix this problem, and also ensure your dog does not disturb your cat while he is using the litter tray. Lastly, when you have a cat and dog in the same home pay special attention to their health. 

Cats and dogs can spread fleas, worms, parasites and other diseases to one another, so make sure that both animals are up to date with their medications and vaccinations at all times. Always read the labels of their medications carefully, as some dog medicines, such as topical flea treatments, can be highly toxic to cats and the animals should be kept apart until it is safe.

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