If you already have a dog at home and have been thinking about introducing a new cat to your family, you’ll want to learn how to do so properly. For one thing, you need to let them get used to each other gradually. While both animals will require gentle prodding and encouragement, you should never rush the bonding process.
If you’re not sure where to start, read on to learn how to do it correctly:
Isolate them first. Even dogs who grew up in the presence of other cats may perceive unfamiliar animals as threats encroaching upon their territory. To prevent your cat and pup from fighting, you’ll want to give the cat its own room upon bringing it home. Make sure to provide your kitty with a bed, a litter box, and some catnip toys so they can begin to acclimate to their new home.
Prepare your dog. Your dog may respond negatively to your new cat if he feels jealous or threatened by the newcomer’s presence. While your feline friend is adjusting to your home, slowly let your dog get used to being around the cat, too. At the same time, spend a lot of time with your pup and give him plenty of praise. This will show him the cat will not steal your affection. Establish this as early as possible with your dog as competitive behavior can be difficult to correct down the line.
Swap scents. Since dogs and cats are territorial, you must let them get used to each other’s scent. One way to do this is to feed both animals on either side of the door, making sure there’s enough distance between them to keep them from fighting. Another way is to stroke your dog and your cat separately without washing your hands. You can also swap their scents by brushing one animal’s fur with a brush and letting the other one sniff it. Give your cat and your dog an item of your clothing -- let them sleep on it, then swap it to the other pet as a way to share scents.
Choose the right time. Both your dog and cat have to be calm when it’s time to let them interact face-to-face. But before doing so, make sure that your new cat has gotten used to roaming around your home and that your dog has gotten used to the cat’s scent. Let the meeting occur while the entire household is quiet. This will help both pets accept your home as a safe environment.
Supervise meetings first. You should play an active and present role during the first few weeks or months of the introduction process. During the first face-to-face meeting, make sure your dog is leashed and that your cat is safely in her carrier. This way, you can gently coax your cat out with a treat and encourage her to approach your dog.
During these initial meetings, give your dog some treats so she can start associating the presence of the cat with a reward. Once your pup has gotten to the point that she can stay calm while in the presence of the cat, let them off the leash and observe their body language. Be prepared to step in to pull your pets away from each other in case they display signs of aggressive behavior.
The key to successfully introducing a cat to your family is to remember to take things slowly. Indeed, introducing a new pet to an existing household will always take time. It could take weeks or even months before you can confidently leave both animals alone together. However, with enough patience and effort on your part, it won’t be long until they can get along with each other harmoniously.
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