You have just met the love of your life and decide to take your relationship to the next level; living under the same roof. There is only one catch you’re a dog owner and she is a cat owner; how will you introduce them so they too will be able to live with one another.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association 32% of households are cat owners and 37% of households are dog owners. Which represents 72 million dogs and 82 million cats in the United States; with this many pets, the two are likely to be found in the same household.
Generally speaking, when either pet is brought up with the other as a puppy or kitten the relationship can be rewarding for both. If however, the introduction takes place when both are adults the experience is often stressful. There is a method, which has proven successful with most dog breeds in meeting an adult cat for the first time. Keep in mind that this is a process and one that will take three to six months to achieve a safe environment for both pets.
The first step is to understand your dog breed. If you have properly socialized your dog and their built-in instincts do not involve chasing pry then you are off to a great start. If however, this is not the case not all is lost, it will just take longer. One thing you can take for granted is your pets sense of smell.
No one knows for sure how much more scent-sensitive dogs are than humans, a thousand times-ten thousand? Nevertheless, what is known is that a dog’s nose has many more odor receptors, and an olfactory (smell) center that takes up much more room in the brain. Cats are no different. Remember the last time you opened a can of Tuna fish only to look down and see your cat standing next to you waiting for the juice.
Over the course of your new relationship the odors from your mates pet is on your clothes and they will recognize the smell. The pet supplies you will need are a dog crate and a cat carrier along with a pet gate. Establish the boundaries in your house that is where your cat’s area will offer a safe haven from your dog as well a place to hide. Use the pet gate to separate the two spaces.
Let us assume that your cat will be the new comer in the home. Cats are more sensitive to a change in routine then dogs, so for first introductions leave your dog in his/her dog crate allowing your cat to explore the new space. The opposite should take place if the dog is the new comer, although your dog will get use to the new space much faster. Just add the familiar dog toys and their dog bed as long as they know you’re going to be around the transition will be seamless.
The next step is most critical to success, the face-to-face introduction. Always have your dog on his/hers dog leash and sitting at your side. Bring the cat into the room and allow the cat explore the space and see your dog. Your dog will be very alert at this point wanting to sniff the cat and see what’s up. That is the next step. While holding your cat ease off the dog leash and allow the dog to smell the cat. Your cat is not going to like this first greeting and that’s okay.
At night, you dog should be in their crate and the pet gate closed. This safe separation procedure should happen while you both are away from home. If you are going to be away from home longer than eight hours make sure someone is available to let your dog outside and able to return them to their dog crate.
Over the next weeks and months gradually increase the time they spend in each other’s company remembering to give praise when the greeting is nice and firm “no” when the greeting is not. Begin leaving your dog off the leash and your cat free to roam. The goal is to reach a balance when both pets can tolerate one another without using a leash, dog crate, or the pet gate.
The keys to success are:
- Patience, this is going to take some time
- Always keeping a watchful eye when the two pets are together
- Continued praise for both pets – Cats are territorial and dogs will be dominate
Following this method will produce results and your pets will be able to live together.