Can cats and dogs coexist peacefully? This may be one of man’s biggest conundrums. Dogs, according to most all cartoons, are supposed to chase cats and cats are, in return, expected to spit, hiss, and claw them. Well, if you get a new dog or cat and introduce them to the older, established one without taking the time to make slow, peaceful introductions you may see some bad results. Here are some tips to make smooth transitions into each other’s lives.
First, consider the breed of your dog and its disposition. Most all dogs, despite their age and breed, will benefit from obedience training. Respect of their owner and adhering to basic commands (“sit”, “lay”, “come”, and “stay”) will far in making the home safe and happy for everyone, especially new animals adopted into this home.
Next, it is important to be calm, patient and positive. Animals sense stress and will mirror these emotions. It will take time for the animals to get used to each other. Their personal space is, suddenly, being invaded by one of the “enemy”. It is your job, as the owner, to show them that the enemy is a friend.
Then each animal needs to have his or her own space for food and water. Litter boxes need to be put away from the dog. Elevate it or put in a small cat door into a room-one the dog can’t fit through. Baby gates can be good barriers, too. Putting the cat’s food and water up on top of something (like a washer, dryer or deep freezer) would be a good idea. Cats should be given their own safe spot in the house; perhaps a bathroom or office that the dog doesn’t go into. You can also feed both on a schedule and in separate rooms instead of leaving “free food” out all day. Both cats and dogs can be aggressively protective of their food.
Once these basic changes and accommodations have been made, it is time to gear up for the introductions. Put your cat in a safe, enclosed room. Give her a blanket to roll around on. Feed her on the blanket, put her toys on it, and rub catnip on it. Let her wallow on it for a couple of days. Take the blanket and give it to your dog. Let him roll on it and chew and slobber on it. After a couple of days, give it back to the cat. She will sniff it and, most likely, hiss and spit at it. This is normal. Give her a few days to get more used to the scent.
Finally, put your dog on a leash in a large room in your house. Hold the leash and give him the command to lie down and stay. Give him praise and a treat. Have someone let the cat out of her room and bring her into the room you and the dog are in Give her time to sniff and explore the room with the dog. If she growls and hisses, just stay calm and keep the dog in check. Again, give him praise for staying and give him another treat. If the cat runs and hides, don’t force her out; in her fear, she may defend herself and try to claw or bite the person fishing her out. After she’s calmed, put her back in her room. Repeat this process several days. When no reaction occurs from either pet and the cat comes closer to the dog to sniff, it will be time to let go of the leash. You aren’t taking the leash off of him but you are giving him the freedom to explore as well. He will probably want to chase the cat because, frankly, it runs and is fun to chase. This is where you as the pet owner simply take charge by stepping on the leash to stop the chase. Repeat this step until the cat no longer feels the need to run away because the dog will only chase the cat if he or she is running.
Give both of them lots of time and tons of praise to adjust to each other. To ease “sibling rivalry” give both your cat and dog some separate one-on-one time. Take your dog out and let him run and play until he’s too tired to care about harassing the cat. Spend quiet time with your kitty playing, petting, and brushing her.
This introduction process can take several weeks (4-6 weeks or more) before it can be considered successful. It could take elderly cats a little longer to adjust, especially if there is a new super hyper young dog in the house. Kittens should never be left alone with dogs. They are pretty defenseless next to a larger dog.
Don’t be in a hurry. You want to build trust between the two and you will be the one that can make that happen. Positive thoughts, actions and time will yield positive results!