Cat Owners: Tips for Introducing a New Dog into the Home
Own a cat and considering getting a dog? Keeping the peace when introducing your cat and dog to each other is important. I've compiled a guide for maintaining the harmony, and avoiding problems between your cat and dog!
Before bringing a dog into the home, there are many things to consider.
Cat owners should take into account which dog breeds have the highest herding instincts and prey-drives, as these tendencies are not preferable for your cat.
Breeds that tend to NOT do well with cats are: Afhgan Hound, Akita Inu, Alaskan Malamute, Australian Cattle Dog, Basenji, Beagle, Border Collie, Bullmastiff, Doberman Pincher, Greyhound, Jack Russell Terrier, Jindo, Norwegian Elkhound, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Samoyed, Shiba Inu, Siberian Husky, Weimaraner, Whippet, and Yorkshire Terrier.
This is just a guideline and reference list to consider when shopping for your new puppy or dog.
The familiarity and experience your cat has with dogs and vice-versa is significant. Has your cat been around dogs before? Has the puppy/dog you are considering adopting or purchasing been around cats?
If the answer to either question is NO, then you may have quite the journey ahead of you to make sure both animals are at ease, and able to enjoy (or at least tolerate) each others company. But do not fear! It's completely doable and can go very smoothly if certain steps are taken and followed.
Introduction: Easy Does It
Keep your new puppy/dog in a separate room of the house for a few weeks prior to giving them the "run of the house." This will give your new puppy/dog and cat a chance to see each other through a baby gate, and sniff each other through the comfort of an established boundary, such as a door or crate.
Exercising your dog is also encouraged. Take your new puppy/dog for a long walk prior to the nose to nose introduction, as a tired puppy/dog will be curious, but probably not want to give chase to their new friend.
Make sure to give your cat a "safe zone" where their litter-box, food, and quietness can be accessed without the disturbance of the new puppy/dog. Never let the dog have access to your cat's food or litter-box.
Expect unwanted noises such as hissing, growling, staring, and barking when they are first introduced. Even their body language will be telling. For example, hackles standing on end (fur on the back that stands straight up) sends a strong message.
Keeping a watchful eye on both is necessary when you begin introducing them without the safety of a gate, door, or crate. Never discipline your cat if he/she takes a swat at your new puppy/dog, since they are just letting their new friend know to keep a careful distance.
Make sure to praise the positive behaviors you see from each pet.
Giving treats to your new puppy/dog when they are calm around your cat is a great association that the kitty is a good thing, and you appreciate your dog's calmness. Petting your cat to reassure them what a "great job" they are doing when they are calmly walking around the new puppy/dog, signals to your cat that you approve of this behavior.
Taking all the precautions and necessary steps to help your cat and new puppy/dog get along with each other doesn't guarantee that they will. Pets can learn to tolerate each other but this doesn't mean they will be the best of friends, nor should we force that. Remember to consider both of your pet's needs. Proper training, discipline, rules, and boundaries will help create a harmonious living situation for you and your cat and dog.
Rules and Boundaries are a MUST
Ensuring that your puppy has some rules set up will help ease the stress for your cat. For instance, many people think it's cute to let their dog chase their cat, but this should be avoided! Either pet can easily get injured, and your cat could begin experiencing serious stress issues, including the following: not using their litter box, developing kitty-acne (yes there is such a thing), and coughing or becoming ill due to the stress. Therefore, your cat should always have immediate access to safe zones of the house that are out of reach of your new puppy/dog.
Dogs may show signs of resource guarding, but this is another behavior that should be avoided for the sake of your cat. Make sure your puppy/dog doesn't feel the need to protect their food or toys. Teach your new canine that growling or snapping is unacceptable when your kitty approaches the food dish or a toy.
Another area to pay attention to is excessive barking:
- Giving your puppy/dog a time-out during some after excessive barking should quickly result in modifying your puppy/dog's interaction with your cat for the better.
- Never allow your new puppy/dog to bark excessively at your cat.
- Time-Outs are simply a negative consequence that a dog serves for the unwanted behavior, so don't be afraid to use them!
- Remove your dog to another room to apply the time-out when the unwanted behavior occurs.
- Stand on your dog's leash (dog should have leash on during this training phase) and
wait for your puppy/dog to relax. Once they are calm, wait ten seconds, and then step off of the leash and walk away. Repeat the process of time-out if necessary.
Teach Your Puppy/Dog Commands
You and your cat will benefit greatly if your new puppy/dog learns a few respectful commands such as: "Leave It," which teaches your dog to leave the object/toy you want them to leave; "Bed," "Place," or "Kennel Up," which teaches your dog to go their quiet spot to calm down for a few minutes; "Sit" or "Down,"; which teaches your puppy to go into a position and hold it while your cat is around, helping maintain calmness and control of your new puppy/dog.