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How To Introduce Your New Dog To Your Existing Cat

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First and foremost your dog should be obedience trained and at least know the recall (come command) off leash.

Yes its true that many dogs & cats get along very well. Its usually dogs that are gentle and friendly and dont have a high predatory drive. If they were raised together since babies the odds improve. Even those dogs who do chase small prey outdoors can often learn not to chase or harm cats indoors once they’ve grown accustomed to their household cats as family members. It may actually take longer for your cat to accept the new dog than the other way around. If your cat has lived with a dog then the integration would be easier. Keep in mind that dogs and cats, like people, need time to get to know each other and they probably won’t be instant friends.

Cats are highly territorial and they can take awhile, even years, to accept new cats so just as well it can take time for them to accept a new dog. It may not happen as quickly as you’d like. Many cats don’t accept the introduction of new animals well. They consider other animals as intruders in their territory. And cats, unlike dogs, don’t have a built-in social system that helps them to peacefully share territory. They may react defensively.

Dogs who have never lived with cats usually see them as Play or Prey. The dog might treat your cat like another dog and try to play with it, particularly if your dog is young, however, it’s more common for cats to react defensively when a strange dog attempts to play. Cats generally don’t play as dogs do, and dogs often chase and bite during play so its usually more a relationship of tolerance than love. If your cat is older or your new dog is large, your dog’s playful behavior can be even more challenging and they should be monitored. Keep in mind that a dog can kill a cat easily, even in play. And a scared or angry cat can use her claws to seriously injure a dog.

The reality is that most dogs perceive cats as prey, similarly, cats who have never lived with dogs will likely view them as predators and will run or become defensively aggressive. Cats who have never lived with dogs generally react to them either by been cautious and avoiding them or confident cats, and cats living in multicat households might accept a new dog as a safe and interesting intruder.

It’s up to you to protect your cat and set up introductions carefully so that she feels safe and has a pleasant experience getting acquainted with your new dog. Here are some suggestions for making the most of the introduction:

  • Trim your cat’s claws to keep the interaction as safe as possible for your new dog.
  • At first, confine your new dog to a room using a baby gate. Don’t restrict your cat or change her environment any more than necessary. You can start to introduce your cat and your dog near the doorway with the gate between them.
  • Call your cat. Have your dog lie down or sit to keep him from behaving threateningly as she approaches.
  • Praise and treat your cat AND your dog if they behave calmly.
  • Do this several times each day for a couple of days. This way, your cat will associate your dog with delicious treats and vice versa.
  • If your dog overreacts to your cat and does something that makes your cat back away from him, distract him and get his attention focused on you. Avoid accomplishing this by using leash corrections. Instead, get your dog’s attention by asking him to sit or lie down.
  • Your cat should be free to approach the gate and get closer to your dog or to retreat if she wants to. Reward her any time she approaches the gate by tossing her treats.
  • Let your cat set the pace. Never attempt to force any interactions by holding your cat, putting her into a crate or carrier or restricting her movement in any way.
  • Continue introductions until your pets interact in a calm, friendly manner.
  • Cats often bat at a dog they accept with their claws sheathed or rub against him, and dogs respond by gently nudging back or offering a play bow.
  • Use your recall and “out” exercises if your dog starts nosing or following your cat and she seems perturbed. When you ask your dog to come to you or leave your cat alone and he responds, be sure to praise him.
  • Interrupt any chasing, barking or agitated behavior from your dog by using a leash to move him away from your cat. Redirect his attention to another activity, or ask him to do some easy obedience exercises. Avoid scolding your dog, yelling at him or jerking on his leash. A positive approach is crucial because you want your cat and dog to associate each other with pleasant experiences.
  • Your dog shouldn’t have access to your cat’s litter box. If he does, it will be highly stressful to your cat
  • When you’re not around or can’t directly supervise, keep your cat and dog confined in separate areas of your house.

If your dog seems friendly or cautious, not much intervention on your part is required except to praise and reward your dog for his good manners and your cat for her tolerance. Be careful to watch your cat as well as your dog. A good cat paw with all claws extended can cause serious injury to a dog.

Most dogs and cats can share a home in harmony once they’ve gradually become accustomed to each other over time. However, if your dog chases your cat or ever shows intolerance toward your cat in your presence—such as growling when she walks past while he’s chewing a bone or being petted by you—keep them separated in your absence.

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