Adding a pet to your family requires thought and preparation. While brand new pet parents face the challenge of pet-proofing their homes, those who are adding to their pack are usually most concerned about how to introduce a new cat or dog to their resident pets.
Even the friendliest pups and kitties will need time to acclimate to a newcomer, and the process can be stressful at first. Fortunately, approaching the introduction the right way can minimize both pets’ anxiety and teach them to share common space without drama. Avoid these mistakes, and you’ll help maintain the peace as your family grows.
Whether you are a cat parent hoping to adopt a dog, or a dog parent excited to add a cat to your household, successful introductions happen in stages. Your new pet needs time to feel comfortable in their environment and the resident pet will have to adjust to their presence.
Even if your cat is a natural with dogs, or your dog already has feline friends, it is best not to start with a face-to-face meeting. Set up both pets in separate areas of your home for a few days to allow your dog and cat to become familiar with each others’ scents. Feeding your pets on opposite sides of the same door can help them establish positive associations with the presence of their new sibling.
Ideally, both pets will soon acknowledge that the other is in the home with relative indifference. Watch for signs that your dog is fixated on the cat, like:
Wait until any obsessive behaviors have subsided and your dog seems fully acclimated to the cat’s presence before you move on to face-to-face introductions.
Pet parents who are introducing a cat and dog often assume that the best meeting place is on neutral territory. While this strategy seems logical, it’s likely to backfire.
Having your pets meet for the first time in a strange environment probably won’t give you an accurate prediction of how they’ll interact at home. In actuality, this arrangement can add to the anxiety by placing the pet who would have felt more secure at home in a stressful, unfamiliar situation.
Let the resident animal have the home-field advantage and give your pets plenty of time and space to negotiate boundaries. Keep interactions short and supervised at first while your cat and dog learn to share your home.
As your pets begin to spend more time together in common areas of your home, it’s important to make sure they both have the option to retreat if they choose.
Maintain the safe spaces that you set up for your kitty and pup when the new pet first came into your home and make sure they always have an exit route. Cats who share a home with dogs often like to escape to high spaces where they can lounge and observe. Investing in a cat tree or perch can help your pets maintain boundaries while spending time in common spaces.
Because most breeds of dogs are larger and stronger than the average house cat, the greatest fear of most pet parents introducing new fur-siblings is dog aggression. Dogs with a high prey drive may be naturally predisposed to hunt cats, while others might unintentionally hurt your cat by playing too rough.
It’s also important to recognize that some cats can be aggressive towards dogs, even if they aren’t being antagonized. Your pet’s personality will be the biggest determiner of whether or not cohabitating peacefully with a newcomer is possible.
Supervise interactions closely, both during introductions and in the weeks that follow. If your dog lunges, growls, or tries to pin your cat, the pets shouldn’t be left alone together. Special training may help one or both pets learn to share your home over time, but some dogs and cats simply won’t tolerate each other. In these cases, it’s important to prioritize safety.
While most common viruses are unique to either cats or dogs, parasites like roundworms, tapeworms, ringworms, and fleas are not. Before you bring a new pet into your home, make an appointment with your veterinarian to make sure everyone is up-to-date on preventatives and vaccinations.
With the proper planning and precautions, you can keep your whole family of pets happy and healthy as it grows.