Introducing Cats and Dogs
While it’s true that cats and dogs aren’t sworn enemies, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can suddenly bring the two under one roof and expect things to go smoothly. If the pets haven’t grown up together or been exposed to each other, getting them to the point of coexistence, and eventually friendship, can be tricky.
Whether you’re bringing a cat into a dog’s house or a dog into a cat’s house, introduce them first by scent, not sight. Quarantine your cat in a room with fresh air, litter, toys, food and water while your dog has free reign of the house. The cat’s scent will slowly permeate the air, allowing your dog to adjust. Although it may seem unfair to keep your cat confined, especially in their own house, your dog still needs to time to get its scent on the furniture and around the house. After a couple days, take your dog on a long walk or keep it in the yard while your cat has the opportunity to roam around and explore, acclimating itself to your dog’s scent.
When it comes time for the physical introduction, don’t just open the doors and allow the animals to freely approach each other. Bringing them face to face should be controlled and supervised: keep your dog on a short leash and make sure your cat has a quick, easy escape route. Until you’re absolutely sure that the two will get along, keep them crated or in separate rooms if no one’s around to keep an eye on them. Even when you feel comfortable enough to leave them home alone together, make sure each one has a safe space that is inaccessible by the other.
When it comes to rewarding good behavior, don’t be stingy. Every time your dog looks at your cat without barking or growling, or your cat approaches your dog and doesn’t swipe at them, positively reinforcement the behavior with treats or praise.
Of course, introduction and co-inhabitation come down to knowing your pets’ temperaments. If both animals are very friendly and you feel comfortable enough to move things along quicker, proceed with caution but definitely go for it. If you know your dog’s prone to anxiety and stress, and your cat’s naturally curious, you might want to take more time to stretch the process out to ensure that they’re totally used to each other.
Although it may seem challenging and slow, putting the time and effort into teaching your pets how to live together is undeniably beneficial. Instead of being kept in isolation if your pets are home alone all day, they can play together and keep each other company to help alleviate boredom and contribute to a peaceful, loving household.