Everyone loves to see pictures of cats and dogs coexisting in peace — it’s like watching a Disney movie become reality and there’s nothing cuter than such a scene. But can we really expect a new dog to instantly become best friends with an adult cat during their first meeting? Unfortunately, this won’t always be the case, especially with a senior cat that may want nothing to do with a puppy — here’s how you can introduce a puppy to an aggressive cat.
How to Introduce a New Pet to Cats
As pet owners, we need to understand that cats and dogs can sometimes be the total opposites of each other. While a confident cat may not see new animals as a threat and instantly become friends with them, older pets may not be as welcoming to new family members. Before a proper introduction between your resident cat and the new dog takes place, be sure you understand your pet’s personality and consider the following questions:
- How old is your cat?
- What’s your cat’s temperament?
- What is the dog like?
- Does the new dog have experience with other pets?
- How old is your new pet?
- What is its temperament like?
- Does it have a history with cats?
You need to pay close attention to how your cat might react since cats can be territorial. You wouldn’t want to bring a dog home only to find that your cat is annoyed by its very presence, especially if their personalities don’t match. Below we share what you can do to ensure the best chances of a successful introduction between your furry friends.
Introducing a Puppy to an Aggressive Cat
If your cat shows signs of aggression, you may need to seek professional help for obedience training to ensure that your cat will be able to live in harmony with a new pup. You don’t want a war between these different species in your home, so be sure to address any issues before going through the introduction process.
Confine Your New Pet
When you want to add a playful dog to your home, it’s a good idea to keep it confined in a large room along with its food, water, and food. Be sure to feed your resident pet on the other side of the door where your new dog is; this will help them associate each other’s smell with something enjoyable. When they’re calm and comfortable with each other’s presence, you can move their food closer to the door and use a door stop to crack your door open just enough that they to see each other directly.
Allow Them to Swap Scents
Switching the blankets or beds that they use can help your new dog and resident cat get used to each other’s smell. You can also use a towel to rub against one of your pets, then place it under the food dish of the other pet. This is a necessary step for every animal in the house, to help them adjust to having another animal around them.
Switch Their Living Areas
Once your dog has become accustomed to life in your house, you can move it over to a different room and allow it to move freely around your home while confining your cat to where your dog was. Doing this allows your pets to get used to their scents without the need for face-to-face interactions. This experience will also be a good indicator of whether or not your cat will be ready to accept the new addition to your family.
Don’t Ignore Signs of Stress
Do not engage in face-to-face meetings if you feel that either pet exhibits signs of fear or aggressive behavior. When you allow such responses to form into a habit, they can be hard to eliminate later on — it’s better to slowly but surely introduce them to each other so that they don’t become fearful of each other. While mild aggression can be expected from their first introduction, don’t allow it to intensify; take them away from each other and start the process over again, making small, gradual steps.
Preparing for Their Meeting
The first days of introduction between pets are always crucial; be sure to give each animal a couple of hours to explore while the other is confined. For instance, keep your cat inside a room that contains its litter box, cat shelves, cat trees, and cat food, where your new pooch can observe it from a safe distance. Be sure to include their favorite toys inside, along with the towel that smells like your new pet, while the dog can go off around your home to explore its new environment.
If your pets display good behavior, you may let your cat out after a few hours or days, depending on how well they receive your new dog. You might also consider placing your dog inside a crate so your cat can observe it while giving you a chance to evaluate their relationship and see if you need a better match. If everything looks to be fine, you can then let them both out while keeping them in separate rooms and using a baby gate between them.
Doing this will allow them to sniff each other within close proximity — you can then use positive reinforcement by praising and giving them treats. If everything is still going well, you can slowly take the barrier away, but keep giving them treats and praise to develop positive associations. But if your dog is too obsessed with your cat and is showing signs of cat aggression because of it, then it’s best to take a step back from introducing them.
Warning signs of an aggressive dog include times when a dog lunges or when it growls but there are times when play can be mistaken for bad behavior. This is why it’s important to watch your dog’s body language and your dog’s behavior. Unfortunately, it’s easy to misunderstand a reactive dog, so be sure to give your cat an escape route and a safe spot where it can hide and retreat.
Doing this will give your kitty a safe place where it can feel protected when it gets nervous — during this time, you should never leave them unattended to ensure they both have a positive experience. Should your pets need to be left at home, make sure that everyone has their own space. For example, you can place your dog inside a crate where the cat can’t reach it.
Introducing a New Kitten to Your Dog
When the roles are reversed, it’s important to know that a dog can easily kill a cat, even if it’s only playing — just one wrong move and it could break a cat’s neck. Moreover, some dogs have a high prey drive, and should never be left alone with a young kitten. Your resident dog may want to play with a cat which may scare it; below are a few techniques you can use to introduce your new cat to your pooch.
Provide Proper Training
Your dog should already know basic commands such as “down,” “sit,” “stay,” and “come,” but if it doesn’t then be sure to get started. Giving your pup treats or small pieces of food is the best way to encourage adult dogs to complete their training. If you have an older dog that’s a bit more stubborn, you might consider working with a professional dog trainer.
Create a Controlled Meeting
If you’ve recently adopted a shelter cat, chances are that it has been abused, so as a pet parent, it’s your responsibility to develop a positive relationship with your fur babies. Follow the same guidelines outlined above, and have them eat in front of each other behind a closed door. When they’re used to one another’s scents, then you can try introducing them face-to-face while maintaining control.
Using treats and with a leash around it, you can have your dog lie down while a friend or family member sits with your new cat. Offer your kitten some catnip or food while your dog observes it from the other side of your room. Doing plenty of short meetings like this is better than doing a few prolonged visits — be sure to reward your dog for its positive behavior.
Allow it to Explore
Now you can give your cat the freedom to roam around your home at its own pace while your dog is still lying down and on its leash. When your dog exhibits calm behavior, be sure to give it praise and treats, but if it gets up from this position, be sure to lure it back with a treat. If your cat becomes aggressive or runs away, it may be a sign that you’re going too fast and you may need to go back to your earlier steps and progress slower.
While it’s up to you to teach your dog that being rough or chasing your cat isn’t acceptable, it must also learn how to behave accordingly and should be rewarded when it does this. These behaviors include lying down or sitting when given the command or coming when you call it. If you always punish your pooch while your cat is around, it may associate your cat’s presence with punishment and could become aggressive towards your kitty.
Always Supervise Interactions
It’s best if you keep your dog on its leash and supervise it whenever your cat roams freely around your house when you’re still doing the introduction process. Make sure that your cat has a safe spot that it can use to hide and to make it feel safe. As discussed above, it’s important to keep your cat and dog separated whenever you leave your house until you’re sure that your cat won’t be chased.
An Important Note
Allowing your pets to smell each other first before you introduce them to each other is probably the most essential step to take before you start their first physical meeting. We all know that both cats and dogs are sensitive to smells and you can use this to your advantage. For instance, you can help them get used to one another by using pheromones without the need for live interactions.
As mentioned above, you can do this by taking a shirt or towel and leaving it in your dog’s favorite sleeping area for a few days and then giving it to your cat. Repeat the same for your feline companion. In this way, both animals will have the chance to understand what they smell like before they even meet.
This process should help them become more familiar with each other but you should also try placing their fabrics near each other’s food dishes. Now your pets will be able to develop a positive association with their scents, which will direct them to food.
When a puppy meets an aggressive cat for the first time, helping them become more familiar with each other is a great way to introduce them to a new home. Some cat owners will use a pet gate to help with this transition, but if you don’t have one, you can always use a towel to introduce their scents to one another. When faced with a new situation, the important thing to remember is that both cats and dogs need their space, so be sure to give it when needed.