People who wish to have both cats and dogs as pets need patience, perseverance and a sensible plan. Begin by preparing each pet for the introduction ahead of time. Here are a few tips for introducing cats and dogs.
Introducing New Scents
Both cats and dogs have a strong sense of smell. Pet owners can use this trait to help cats and dogs become acquainted with each other before they meet.
Let pets smell objects frequently used by each other: scratchy posts, pet beds or favorite toys work well. If these are not available, a towel or rag that carries the scent of the other animal will do fine. Place these items in a room both animals will eventually occupy.
Viewing from Afar
After each pet has had an opportunity to absorb the scent of the other, allow the animals to view each other at a safe distance. A sliding glass door, screen or tall baby gate work well for this activity.
For safety purposes, restrict the movement of each animal. Keep the dog on a leash. Then walk him to the viewing area. Place the cat in her carrier and bring her over for a look from the other side.
Give them a few minutes to observe one another. Spend time with each animal in view of the other. Avoid quick movements and loud noises that may scare them and create a false association between the disturbance and the other pet. Be aware of their reaction to each other. If either pet seems uneasy, remove him immediately.
When the animals seem comfortable, loosen the leash and open up the carrier. Allow the animals to get used to each other’s presence through the partition. Continue to manage these preliminary meetings and to reward good behavior with treats.
Meeting and Greeting
Soon pets will be ready to meet and greet each other in the same room. Put the cat in her carrier and bring her into the common area. Then leash the dog and guide him into the room. Have him sit at a distance where he can see the cat in her carrier. Make sure she can also view him within the safety of her closed carrier.
Keeping the dog on his leash, slowly walk him toward the cat. Have him stop and sit still at intervals. Watch the cat’s reactions to the dog’s movements. If she seems relaxed, gradually move him closer. Pay attention to their behavior at each new spot.
At any sign of anxiety or aggression, such as hissing, growling, swiping or barking, move back to the last position. Limit this meeting-and-greeting session to a few minutes and gradually increase the time. As always, reward good behavior with treats.
Encouraging Direct Contact
When the animals seem at ease in the same room, give them an opportunity for direct contact. Open the cat carrier. Reduce the tension on the dog’s leash. Allow them to explore the area around each other. Encourage them to move closer to each other, but do not be upset if they back away or ignore one another.
While kittens and puppies are naturally curious and may gravitate to each other, older animals may exhibit aggression or ignore each other. A pet’s individual personality may also influence this preliminary contact.
As always, consider the safety of each pet by maintaining control. Provide encouragement and limit the time they are in direct contact with each other. Gradually increase the time spent together and expand their range of movement.
Sharing Common Areas
Eventually, the animals will be able to stay in the same room without owner assistance. To get to this point, start leaving the room for short periods of time. Walk out the door and return. If they seem fine, exit the room for a few more minutes. Continue this exercise until they are capable of “hanging out” together for longer stretches of time.
Cats and dogs who can play, relax and sleep in the same room are considered “socialized.” However, pet owners should continue to work on cementing the relationship. Reward good behavior. Provide equal amounts of affection. Make sure each pet has a quiet, safe space of his own. Keep food and bedding separated. Inform visitors of the pet rules and behavioral patterns.
Consistency and Patience
Above all, remain consistent and patient when introducing cats and dogs to each other. Like their human owners, pets appreciate familiar routines in the presence of new friends. They also like patience when they are asked to do a challenging task, especially with an unfamiliar “co-worker.”
Last but not least, maintain the position of boss. Cats and dogs who view their owners as the alpha animal will accept each other sooner. Consider the introduction of cats and dogs as a process with several important steps: smelling, viewing, meeting and, eventually, accepting. Given time, most cats and dogs can learn to share a house.