Despite what you have heard about dogs and cats being natural enemies, dogs and cats can peacefully coexist, and even be the best of friends. The key to a peaceful home is the proper introduction, time and space to allow your existing pets to get acclimated to the idea of a new kitty in the home.
Getting to Know You
Some dogs and cats have experience living with each other. This can make for an easy transition. Even if your existing pets and your new cat seem to be fine with cohabitation, you will want to introduce your new cat calmly, with a plan in place for physical separation that allows them to see each other (like a baby gate or screen door), but minimizes the danger should there be a problem.
Even if your dog is just curious and playful, rough play can injure and scare your cat, resulting in a major setback to the peace you seek. So, with the barriers in place, allow your pets to check each other out to gauge the reaction. This may take some time, so be patient and allow them to get acquainted at their own pace.
The same goes for other cats already in the household. Because cats are territorial, many times it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for them to become friends, especially if your current cat is accustomed to having the house to himself. The separation while being able to see and smell each other may take longer than with a dog.
Giving treats to your pets while they observe each other and act appropriately will help the process along and your pets will associate interaction with each other as a positive experience.
Let’s Get it Together
Once your pets have become acclimated to one another by sight with no sign of extreme fear and/or aggression, allow them to be in a space together. Dogs should be on a leash for the first few times in the room with your new cat. Having the dog on a leash allows you to control the situation much better, and many dogs behave better when on the leash. With an existing cat, simply allow them to wander into the same space (remove the baby gate or screen door but don’t physically put them together) while you observe at all times in the beginning for safety reasons. If either cat shows signs of aggression, distract with a toy or clapping your hands. If a fight breaks out, use a broom (so you don’t get hurt) to separate and move them into different rooms.
When introducing your new cat to your current dog or cat, always allow the cat to hide if he feels threatened. Never force interaction. It is counterproductive and will result in a longer process of getting to know one another.
Inviting a new kitty into your family can be a great experience for and your pets. The key to a smooth transition is patience, rewarding with treats and diligence. The time you invest in the introduction process will pay big dividends in the end.
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