Introducing a dog to a cat

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Once you’ve made the decision to add another pet to your family, you’ll no doubt be excited and eager to bring them home as soon as possible.

Before you bring the new member of the family back, you need to consider how you’re going to introduce them to the other pets in your household.

Whether it’s two dogs you’re bringing together, or you’re trying to defy the stereotype of cats and dogs being enemies, there are certain things you should and shouldn’t do in both circumstances to ensure a happy household.

Before the meeting

Make sure the house is quiet and there are no other distractions, such as visitors, when you introduce the pets.

Get your new pet used to the scent of its new home by swapping the bedding of the pets, or stroking them separately without washing your hands in between.

Before bringing a new cat into a family which already includes a cat, think carefully about the personality of the cat already in the household and how it will cope with sharing its space with another cat. If you decide a new cat will fit into your home, make sure to keep them in a separate room for at least a week while doing the scent swapping as often as possible.

Where to introduce your pets

This will depend on the type of animals you are introducing to each other.

When a cat and dog are meeting:

  • Use a controlled area to introduce the two so the dog isn’t tempted to chase the cat, as this will cause the cat to feel threatened and jeopardise their future relationship
  • Include something in the area that the cat can hide behind if it feels shy, as well as some kind of platform it can jump onto to allow it to be above the dog in case it feels threatened
  • Allow the two to get close enough so they can interact with each other, but make sure there’s something to separate the two so  they still feel protected
  • A stair gate can be used in the introduction of puppies and kittens, but a larger area such as a play pen will be needed when introducing older dogs and cats.

When two dogs are meeting:

  • Use a place that’s unfamiliar to both animals to avoid one of them becoming territorial, which can lead to confrontation
  • A park is normally a good meeting place for dogs; however this isn’t suitable for new puppies who haven’t been vaccinated yet. In this case, make sure the older dog is fully vaccinated and introduce them in the garden or a room where the older dog doesn’t sleep

When two cats are meeting:

  • In this situation the introduction process is likely to take longer, as these meetings are often unsuccessful due to cats being very territorial
  • Introduce them initially through a partially open door or a partition until they both stop hissing
  • When they’re introduced properly, have a toy with you to try and make it a playful experience

Initial meeting

The first time you introduce the pets to each other, make sure to give both animals an equal amount of attention and reassure both of them regularly.

Keep dogs on a lead so you can control their actions and keep them calm around cats. Make sure to keep the leads loose, as dogs may sense your anxiety when they feel tension on the lead, which will make their behaviour worse. Encourage their calm behaviour by rewarding it with treats.

It’s best to introduce the pets at a time where they’re most calm, for example after exercise when they’re tired. Remove the dog from the room if they do become too excited, as this can frighten cats and make them hide away.

Developing the friendship

Once the animals start to become friends, begin to move their meetings away from restricted areas and into other rooms in your home. Choose a room where the cat is still able to hide behind furniture or jump to a higher place if they begin to feel threatened again.

Make sure you continue to introduce them gradually. Don’t rush the process or it may hinder their friendship in the long term. Continue to keep dogs on a lead until you’re certain they get along well with your other pet.

You can then continue to introduce your pets to new rooms until they’re comfortable with each other around the whole house. Only leave them together once you’re certain it’s safe for both of them.

Make sure they each have enough toys each to play with, to avoid battles for the toys.
If the pet already in your family is elderly, make sure they’re given enough time and space away from the youngster so they don’t get exhausted by their younger playmate.

Things to consider

  • Dogs especially should be fed separately, as even those who are best friends can become aggressive if they feel their food is threatened
  • Cats should have their food in a separate place to dogs so they don’t feel threatened by their presence
  • Cats should also be fed separately, with their food up off the floor where possible. Their food should be kept separate from their water, as wild cats see this as contamination so domestic cats prefer to separate the two as well
  • Make sure cats have at least one litter tray each, as well as their own bed

Have you had any successful (or not-so-successful) pet introductions? Share your stories on our Facebook or Twitter feed.

At Admiral we know how big a part of your life your pets are, so get that extra peace of mind they’ll be taken good care of with Admiral Pet Insurance. It provides a wide variety of cover to help meet the needs of you and your pet and cover any unexpected costs.

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