You must be tickled pink about bringing home your new Pooch! But Kitty? Probably not so much. Unless they're kittens, cats often resist sharing space with another pet.
However, with your help, Kitty will likely cozy up to Pooch. The two may even bond marvelously. Here's how to ease the transition to a two-pet family.
1. Create Safe Quarters for Kitty
Allocate a room for Kitty, equipped with a door. Then, transfer all your cat's gear to the room, including food, water, bed, toys, scratching post, and litter box. Bring Kitty into the room, and spend about 30 minutes together. To aid adjusting to the new surroundings, give Kitty affection and soothing words.
Next, in each room of your home, make sure there's a high refuge to which Kitty can flee if need be. Create space on counters, bookshelves, tables, and chairs. If your feline doesn't already have a cat tree, consider buying one. Kitty will adore you all the more!
Ideally, downsize your cat's territory a few days before bringing Pooch home. Advance alterations enable your feline to settle into the new accommodations.
2. Teach Pooch Good Manners
Upon bringing the dog home, keep it in a separate room for at least two days. Use this time to impart basic commands. If Pooch is already trained, test the dog's obedience to these five orders: Sit, Come, Down, Stay, and Leave It. If Pooch isn't fluent, here are basic lessons you can practice together.
If your new dog is a puppy, it should be teachable by eight weeks of age. However, since puppies are short on attention, training time will be limited. Aim for five minutes of puppy instruction three times daily.
To facilitate training, choose a quiet room without distractions. Reward each desired response with a piece of kibble or a small (fingernail-sized) treat, along with enthusiastic praise and a loving pat. If Puppy has trouble concentrating, attach a collar and leash, by which you can gently coax greater focus. When Puppy responds correctly, reward the behavior, and ease up on the leash.
3. Swap Animal Scents
While your pets are segregated, familiarize them with each other's smells. There are a few ways to make the introduction. You can trade toys or blankets. Alternately, pet each animal and your hands will transfer their scents. Or, rub each animal with a separate, clean washcloth, and then switch the cloths and place them within sniffing range.
Next, take Pooch for a 20-minute stroll and let Kitty scope out the dog's odor. Upon returning home, place Kitty in safe quarters and allow Pooch to detect Kitty's smell. Repeat this sniffing sequence over the next two days.
4. Let the Pets Observe Each Other
Note - For this stage, it's best to obtain the help of another adult. Each of you should take responsibility for a pet, stroking the animal, and speaking sweetly. Keep treats available.
In the doorway to Kitty's room, erect a tall baby gate. Put Pooch on a leash, and let the two pets view one another through the fence, but be on the alert to these warning signs:
Kitty's ears are flat while its tail whips the air.
The cat hisses, arches its back, or hides.
Pooch exhibits prey instincts, stiffening and staring at Kitty.
The dog whines and barks.
Does Pooch obey your commands? If not, secure Kitty in its room. However, if the two animals are peaceable, reward them with treats. Then, return each pet to their separate quarters.
A few hours later, when both pets are calm, let them glimpse each other again through the fence. Repeat this cautious exposure until they show relaxed body language.
Then, try feeding each pet on opposite sides of the baby gate. Each day, gradually move their food bowls closer to the barrier, as tolerated. Repeat this feeding exercise until you see consistent signs of acceptance by both pets.
5. Supervise a Meeting
Again, have another adult assist with this phase. First, prepare for the visit. To lessen the risk of casualties, clip Kitty's nails. Have each adult play with their respective pet, followed by feeding. Try to keep a calm, confident demeanor. With the animals having exercised and eaten, they'll be low-key.
Then, with Pooch leashed, bring both pets into the same room and keep treats at the ready for each animal. Tell Pooch to sit or stay, and let Kitty move around freely. If the animals are docile, reward them with treats and lavish praise. If not, take a break, and separate them with the baby gate.
At the next session, if you see agitation, try distraction. Lure the animals away from each other with toys, and repeat pet visits three times daily, with Pooch on-leash. Limit the time to five minutes per session, and continue rewarding easygoing behavior.
Once the two are consistently placid, gradually lengthen your dog's tether. Keep staging meetings until you've logged three days of consistent cooperation.
6. Attempt Off-leash Visits
Next, remove your dog's tether while leaving Kitty free. Be prepared to separate the two if you see warning signs. If the pets are mutually tolerant, reward them with kibble and compliments. If the animals are guarded or hostile, revert to leashed meetings until they're pleasant with each other.
Throughout the introduction process, avoid reprimanding your pets. Sternness will increase their resistance, and they may begin to associate that sternness with the presence of the other pet. It can take several weeks for a dog and cat to bond. After two weeks of supervised meetings, if there's no progress, contact a certified animal behaviorist for professional guidance.
7. Make Permanent Arrangements
Even when the animals are safe alone and without supervision, continue maintaining separate food stations. Keep Kitty's food elevated, beyond Pooch's reach. If a dog routinely wolfs down cat food, it will become quite ill.
Typically, when dogs feast on cat cuisine, the result is vomiting and diarrhea. Feline food is too rich for canine digestion. Cat food is higher in protein and fat than dogs can metabolize. Excess protein can lead to canine kidney, pancreatic, liver, and dental disease. And of course, fat overload promotes obesity.
Additionally, cat food doesn't contain the vitamins and minerals that dogs require in their diets. As a responsible dog owner, you need to take special care to find the food that best meets the nutritional needs of your prized pup.
Dogs are attracted to the protein residues in feline stool, tempting them to eat the feces. Consequently, they risk ingesting harmful parasites. Plus, if Kitty sees Pooch nosing the litter box, it can turn the cat off to using it.
So, just like safeguarding Kitty's food, do the same with the litter box. Here are two options:
- Place the litter box on a counter or table, unreachable by Pooch. If your cat is elderly or has trouble jumping, fashion a "ladder." Place a cat tree, stool, or chair next to the litter box.
- Create a cat portal within the door to Kitty's room. This way, with the litter box behind the closed door, only Kitty can access it. Here's a brief demo of how to install a cat door.
The key to helping your pets bond is slow and safe exposure. Heed the signals they give with their body language and behavior. Let them adjust to each other on their own timetable. With patience and TLC, your pets will likely evolve into buddies. Here's a demo summarizing the main tips for streamlining the introduction.
May your pets become lifelong friends!