You’ll need to be even more careful when introducing a dog and cat the one another. A dog can seriously injure and even kill a cat very easily, even if they’re only playing! Some dogs have such a high prey drive that they should never be left alone with a cat. Dogs usually want to chase and play with cats, and cats usually become afraid and defensive. To promote a good transition into the home, practice these steps:
If your dog doesn’t already know the commands “sit,” “down,” “come,” and “stay,” begin working on them right away. Small pieces of food will increase your dog’s motivation to perform, which will be necessary in the presence of a strong distraction (such as a new cat!). Even if your dog already knows these commands, works to reinforce these commands.
Set Up Controlled Meetings
Allow your new dog and your resident cat to get to know each other’s scent. Have them eat on opposite sides of a door and expose them to items that may smell like each other (bedding, etc.). After they have become comfortable eating on opposite sides of the door and have been exposed to each other’s scents, you can attempt a face-to-face introduction in a controlled manner. Put your dog’s leash on and have her either sit or lie down and stay for treats. Have a second person offer your cat some special pieces of food. At first, the cat and the dog should be on opposite sides of the room. Many short visits are better than a few long visits. Don’t drag out the visit so long that the dog becomes uncontrollable. Repeat this tea several times until both the cat and dog are tolerating each other’s presence without fear, aggression, or other undesirable behavior.
Let Your Cat Go
Next, allow your cat some freedom to explore your dog at her own pace, with the dog still on-leash and in a “down-stay.” Meanwhile, keep giving your dog treats and praise for her calm behavior. If your dog gets up from her “stay” position, he or she would be re-positioned with a treat lure and praised and rewarded for obeying the “stay” command. If your cat runs away or becomes aggressive, you’re progressing too fast. Go back to the previous introduction steps.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Although your dog must be taught that chasing or being rough with your cat is unacceptable behavior, he must also be taught what is appropriate and be rewarded for those behaviors, such as sitting, coming when called, or lying down for a treat. If your dog is always punished when your cat is around and never has “good things” happen in the cat’s presence, your dog may redirect aggression toward the cat.
Directly Supervise All Interactions Between Your Dog and Your Cat
You may want to keep your dog at your side and on-leash whenever your cat is free in the house during the introduction process. Be sure that your cat has an escape route and a place to hide. Until you’re certain the cat will be safe, be sure to keep two separated when you aren’t home.
Kittens and Puppies
Because they are so much smaller, kittens are in more danger of being injured or killed by a young energetic dog or by a predatory dog. A kitten will need to be kept separate from an especially energetic dog until she is fully grown. Even after the cat is fully grown, she may not be able to be safely left alone with the dog. Usually, a well-socialized cat will be able to keep a puppy in her place, but some cats don’t have enough confidence to do this. If you have an especially shy cat, you might need to keep them separated from your puppy until he matures enough to have more self- control.
When to Get Help
If introductions don’t go smoothly, seek professional advice immediately from a certified animal behavior specialist. Animals can be severely injured in fights, and the longer the problem continues, the harder it is to resolve. Punishment won’t work and can actually make things worse. Luckily, most conflicts between pets in the same family can be resolved with professional guidance.