How to Bring a Cat Home when You Have Dogs
Cats and dogs can learn to be best friends, but they may not react well at first to a new roommate. If you are thinking of bringing a cat into a house with dogs, you should make sure that all animals are comfortable with each other’s presence. At first, you will have to confine your cat while allowing the pets to get used to each other’s scents. Controlled and supervised meetings between the pets can help prevent any fights before they happen. You should also train your dog to act appropriately around the cat. While it may be slow at first, your pets might even bond with one another.
Taking Home a New Cat
Choose a cat with a similar temperament to your dog.When adopting a cat, it is best to look for one that will fit the temperament, energy, and age of your dog. For example, if you have a calm, low-energy dog, a calm, mature cat may be a better fit than a young, rambunctious kitten. Choosing a cat that will match your dog’s personality will decrease the chance of conflict in the home.
- Older dogs will do better with older cats, but older cats may not be used to socializing with older dogs. At the shelter, ask if there are any cats that are known to live well with dogs.
- Younger dogs and cats may be able to play together. By raising them together, you allow them to grow accustomed to another animal. Puppies are capable of injuring kittens, however, and may require extra supervision.
Confine the cat in a separate room.Before you bring the cat home, choose a room to isolate the cat in for the first few weeks. Place a food and water dish, litter box, toys, a scratching post, and a cat bed in this room.The goal is to let your pets slowly grow used to the other’s smell so that they do not think that the other pet is an intruder in their territory.
- Bedrooms work well for this purpose. If you have a home office or a rec room with a door, you might also decide to put the cat in there.
- Remember that the dog should not come into this room, nor should you let the cat leave it until you are ready to introduce the pets. Keep the door shut to separate the animals.
- Different animals may adjust to their new housemates at different rates. For some situations, you may only need to confine the cat for a few days, while in other situations, you may need to keep the cat confined for up to a month.
Feed your animals on opposite sides of the door.Once you have brought the cat home, you will want to slowly bring their scent to the dog. Place the cat’s food dish near the door of their confined room. Put your dog’s food dish on the opposite side of this door. Keep the door closed as you feed them. The dog and cat will pick up on each other’s scents, but they will associate them with pleasant experiences, such as eating.
- You may want to set the dishes about a foot or two away from the door and slowly inch them closer. This will slow the process, but it will reduce the chance that either the cat or dog will panic because of the other’s scent.
- Your dog and cat may sniff at the crack of the door. You might even notice that both of them are near the door at the same time smelling each other through the space. Watch these interactions closely. If the dog barks or if the cat tries to swat under the door, they may not be ready to be introduced yet. If they move on and ignore the other, you might be able to let them meet.
Trade the dog and cat's toys.Another way that you can introduce your pets’ scents to one another is to give them each other's toys. Take a toy or blanket that your cat has used, and let your dog sniff it. Do the same with the dog’s toys in the cat’s room. This will help normalize the presence of the other pet in the house.
- You can also rub a towel on each pet to pick up their scent. This towel can be placed under their food dish.
Introducing the Pets
Restrain the pets.When they meet each other for the first time face to face, your dog and cat should be held so that they cannot attack the other. It is typically best to do this when there are two people present. Have one person hold the cat while the other keeps the dog on a leash.
- Your cat should be secure in your arms but not pinned down. The cat may be scared of the dog and react by squirming or scratching. If your cat wants to escape, take them back to their room.
- If you do not have two people, you can hold the cat in your arms, and command the dog to sit as you bring them together. You could also let the cat wander free, and hold the dog on a leash. It is better to confine the dog than the cat in this scenario, as a caged or confined cat may become even more frightened.
Let the cat wander.If the dog is calm and ignores the cat, you might consider letting the cat walk around the room freely. Watch where the cat goes and how they behave. If the cat and the dog ignore each other, it means that they do not see the other as an intruder or a danger.
- Do not let the dog go off their leash at first. The dog may try to chase the cat.
- Your cat may still be scared of your dog. The cat might try to bolt from the dog, hiss at the dog, or hide. In this case, take the cat back to their room, and try again another day.
Watch their body language.As you introduce the dog and the cat, you should carefully watch their body language for signs of aggression. If either animal seems tense, they may bolt or attack the other.
- If the cat hisses, growls, swats, or runs from the dog, your cat may be scared or aggressive towards the dog. The cat may also raise their back while hissing.
- If your dog stares at your cat for long periods of time and ignores your commands while the cat is around, they may be anxious or worried about the cat. Their body will become tense and stiff, and they may start whining. They may also try lunging at the cat or tugging at their leash. This is a bad sign, as it means that your dog could become aggressive towards the cat.
- If your dog’s body is relaxed, it may mean that they are comfortable with the cat’s presence. A wagging tail is also a good sign. You should be able to easily distract your dog from the cat.
- If the cat and dog are ignoring each other, it means that they do not mind each other’s presence. While they may not be fully comfortable with each other yet, they are not aggressive towards one another.
Continue supervising interactions.Even if the dog and cat appear comfortable with each other, you should keep an eye on them during their first month home with each other. At this point, you should still confine the cat inside of their special room while you are not home. While the dog and cat may be calm at a distance, if one comes too close to the other, there might be a problem.
- If you notice the dog and the cat playing together or sleeping together, it may be a sign that they have become friends. Be warned that dogs can injure young cats even during innocent play.
- Some breeds of dogs, such as Siberian Huskies or German Shepherds, have a high prey drive. This means that they may see your cat as prey or try to hunt your cat.While these breeds may be fine with a cat inside the house, they may start to hunt or attack the cat if they are outside together. If you have a dog like this, you may want to keep your cat inside at all times, and you may want to supervise their interactions for a longer period of time.
- If the cat stops eating, drinking or socializing or if the cat refuses to use the litter box, it may be a sign that the cat is stressed or unhappy. Take the cat to a vet.
Training the Dog to Accept the Cat
Reward the dog for good behavior.Once you have introduced the dog and the cat, you should start rewarding the dog for treating the cat in a proper manner. After you first introduce them, if the dog ignores the cat or acts friendly, you should give them a treat. Continue this while you are supervising their interactions.
- Do not physically punish the dog for barking, snapping, or growling at the cat. This will not reduce their stress or tension with the cat around. In fact, they may even associate the cat with punishment. Instead, remove the cat or confine the dog until they have calmed down.
Use basic commands to stop inappropriate behavior.If your dog is trained to respond to commands, you can use them during the supervised sessions to help keep them calm. If you notice your dog starting to chase your cat, use a command like “halt” or “sit” to interrupt and distract them.
- If the dog listens to your commands and stops chasing the cat, you should give him a treat.
- Your dog should be easy to distract from the cat. If the dog ignores you to continue barking or chasing the cat, it could be a sign that your dog does not like cats.
Confine the dog when no one is home.During the first few weeks, you should not let the pets wander alone together in the house until you are absolutely certain that they have accepted each other. If you want to let the cat wander in the house, you should confine the dog in their crate instead.
- If you have a kitten, you may want to confine them in their room for a few months until they grow a bit bigger. Small kittens are easily injured. You can still let the kitten out while you are home, but when you are gone, the kitten should go back to their room.
Keep the cat’s food and litter box out of the dog’s reach.Your dog may want to eat your cat’s food or feces. This is a natural instinct in your dog, but it can cause many problems. Not only will your cat not be able to eat, but either the cat or the dog may start a fight if interrupted during eating. Place the cat’s food dish on a table or counter where the dog cannot reach it. You should also place the litter boxes in a room, bathroom, or closet where the dog cannot get to it.
- Before you decide to adopt a cat, you should see how your dog acts around other cats. You might ask a friend to bring a cat over to see how the dog reacts.
- Remember that it may take time for your cat and dog to learn to get along with each other.
- Ask your vet whether or not your breed of dog has a high prey drive.
- Dogs are typically much larger than cats and can injure them easily, even when they don’t mean to. Be sure to keep an eye on them to make sure that they are able to live safely together.
- If your cat tries to scratch your dog, remove them to their room.
- Do not keep a cat in a cage or carrier during introductions, as the small space could make your cat even more afraid. Always remove the cat to their special room, which acts as a safe space for them.
Video: Tips for bringing home a new cat - How to bring a kitten home
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