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Bringing a New Cat into Your Dog’s Home. Should You?

Learn how to get this relationship.
Learning how to get this relationship

If you are a dog person, you may be a cat person too! The allure of the feline purr and silliness of a kitty may be too much to pass up. But, will your dog feel the same way?

My wish is that dog guardians really take a good look at their dog’s behavior and lifestyle before making this decision. Adding any pet to your home isn’t something that should be taken lightly. Your dream of harmony may just turn into chaos if your dog is not ready or a good cat candidate.

Four things to consider before bringing home a new cat: 

  1. Your Dog’s Prey Drive– Does your dog go bonkers chasing any creature that moves? Is he so wound up when he sees a bunny outside or on his walk that he has a hard time focusing on you? If he has a high prey drive, how do you think this may translate to a new cat?
  2. Sociability– What’s your dog’s socialization history? Has he met a lot of new dogs, cats or other animals? Does he adapt well? Is he easy-going with new introductions?
  3. Obedience Skills– Does he have a good come when called, look cue, hand target, stay and leave it? These are all very useful behaviors when living with both a dog and cat, particularly in the early stages of the relationship.
  4. Time and Patience– Do you have the time and patience to work on regular and slow introductions? For a lot of dogs and cats, introductions and acclimation can take some time and work. If your goal is to have a good relationship with all family members, time and patience are key.

If you decide that a cat is not a good idea for your family, then I commend you on your decision. It’s not about if you can “make it work” but if it’s a good idea for all the family members, including your dog and new cat. If on the other hand, you decide a cat would make a great addition, here are six tips to make the transaction smoother.

  1. Dog Free Zones– Your new cat will need to have a private place to call her own. A place where she knows she can easily retreat and regroup when needed. This should include her food, water, sleeping spot and litter box. But, make sure her litter box and food are not close, no one wants to eat where they poop!
    • In the beginning, this is a great place to keep your cat while you work on slowly introducing them to each other. A nice 10 x 10 room or larger is ideal. After the introductions, placing a baby gate about 6″ from the floor to allow your cat to run under into the safe-room is ideal. It is much easier for a cat to run under rather than jump over.
  2. Swapping Rooms- Before face to face introductions, smell introductions should occur. This allows both animals to get to know each other at their comfort level without fear or over excitement. Allow your cat the freedom of a few rooms and your dog the freedom to investigate the cat room. After a few days of investigating, start to ask your dog to perform some of his behavior cues in the new room, such as come when called and stay. If he can’t do them in the distracting room, he won’t be able to do them when the cat is around.
  3. Recall From The Door– Assuming your dog has access to the cat’s door, practice calling him off the door and providing him with an extremely valuable treat. This will help him in the future when you ask him to come when called when the cat is out and about.
  4. Baby Gate Introductions– When the time is right and both animals start to feel comfortable about the new situation, slow introductions with a baby gate between them are ideal. When both animals see each other through the gate, randomly practice asking your dog to look at you, hand target, lay down etc. Again, offering him a high-value treat in return. Toss tasty treats into the cat’s room too, so the cat has a good association with the meeting.
  5. Active Supervision– After training sessions with the baby gate, there will come the time for freedom. You want to make sure that everyone is happy, safe and playing nice. Bad things can happen in a blink or an eye. By actively supervising and engaging both animals, you will be able to quickly assess the situation before any physical or mental harm can happen. If you are feeling insecure, or your dog isn’t very reliable, attaching a leash to his harness is a nice safety step. Continue to randomly ask your dog to focus on you and sit, stay, watch etc.
  6. Height– Cats typically love to climb and look down on the world from their perch. This is especially true if a cat is living with a goofy dog. Make sure these retreats are sturdy and tall enough to prevent your dog from accessing your cat when she climbs to the top.

Smooth and steady is the way to go. Remember, you are working towards a long-term, good relationship. They don’t always happen overnight. If things aren’t going smoothly, seek professional help. Remember, cats can be easily injured or even killed. The longer a bad situation occurs, the harder it is to change.

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