Introducing a Dog and Cat
9 October, 2012

A lot of cats and dogs can be the best of friends.   However, the hardest part in getting to that friendship is the first introduction.  It isn’t that different than dogs meeting new dogs and/or cats meeting new cats, but it does take a little more finesse and effort.

The Pre- Meeting

Get to know your dog well. Be able to interpret his or her body language and sense your dog’s moods.  Your dog should be well-trained, and respond to commands to come, stay, and sit.

The cat owner also needs to know his or her cat well.  Know your cat’s behavior pattern so you can sense your feline’s response and redirect your cat’s behavior if necessary.  You should also know how to blend mild discipline to influence your cat’s behavior.

Try to exercise your dog and feed him a nice meal; put him in a relaxed mood. Put your dog on a short leash or in his crate.

Put your cat in her carrier if she’s a timid cat by nature; otherwise let her walk around. Make sure to have lots of treats handy for good behavior.

The Introduction

Let the dog and cat check each other out at a distance.  Talk to your dog in a soothing tone.  Give your dog and cat some treats and praise as rewards.  If your dog bolts toward your cat, correct him with the leash. If he shows any signs of excessive excitability, calm him. If this doesn’t do the trick, cut the visit short and try again later.

Repeat these short visits several times a day, gradually giving your dog more of his or leash as appropriate.

The real meet

Once your dog and cat consistently get along during leashed visits, you’re ready for the next step. Take your leash off your dog and supervise the two closely. If you see that they are not getting along and they don’t stop with a few simple voice commands, back up to the previous phase for a few days. Gradually make the no-leash sessions longer.

If your dog chases your cat, try to interrupt him or her in a calm way. Redirect your dog to a more appropriate behavior, such as chewing on a toy, coming to you, or lying down. If your dog barks or lunges at your cat, remove him from the room temporarily.

Don’t leave the cat and dog alone until you’re sure they’re both fully comfortable with each other and there will be no trouble. Make sure your cat has places she can jump to for safety.

Make some private space in your home for each animal. Use cat doors or pet gates if practical, as well as gentle discipline and rewards to enforce the rules. Keep your cat’s litter box and food bowl out of your dog’s reach.

Sometimes they just don’t get along

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, it wasn’t meant to be. Some dogs are simply not meant to be around cats (occasionally the reverse is true). If your gut is telling you that this isn’t working out, respect that message.   But, I truly believe with time and patience, it is a rare occasion when it doesn’t work out.  Good luck!

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