Cat to Dog Introduction
Tips to help
Dogs can kill a cat very easily, even if they’re only playing. All it takes is one shake and the cat’s neck can break. Some dogs have such a high prey drive 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. With training though this can be overcome and the cat and dog will usually live very happily together.
If your dog doesn’t already know the commands “sit” “down” “come” and “stay” you should begin working on them. Small pieces of food will increase your dog’s motivation to perform, which will be necessary in the presence of such a strong distraction as a new cat. Even if your dog already knows these commands, work with obeying commands in return for a treat.
Keep your new cat separated from your dog at first. Set up a special area for your new cat. This will provide it with a safe place to get used to the surroundings and you and enable you to control how and when your new cat meets your dog. After your new cat and resident dog have become comfortable eating on opposite sides of the door, try rubbing the cat and dog with a towel to mix their scents. Then leave the cloth near the dog and let it investigate on his own. Once they have been exposed to each other’s scents, you can attempt a face-to-face introduction in a controlled manner. Put your dog’s lead on, and using treats, have it either sit or lie down and stay.
Have another family member or friend enter the room and quietly sit down next to your new cat, but don’t have them physically restrain it. Have this person offer your cat some special pieces of food or treats. At first, the cat and the dog should be on opposite sides of the room.
Lots of short visits are better than a few long visits. Don’t drag out the visit so long that the dog becomes uncontrollable. Repeat this step several times until both the cat and dog are tolerating each other’s presence without fear, aggression or other undesirable behaviour.
Let your cat go
Next, allow your cat freedom to explore your dog at its own pace, with the dog still on the lead and sitting down. Meanwhile, keep giving your dog treats and praise for its calm behaviour. If your dog gets up from its position, they should be repositioned with a treat, and be praised and rewarded for obeying. If your cat runs away or becomes aggressive, you’re progressing too fast. Go back to the previous introduction steps.
Although your dog must be taught that chasing or being rough with your cat is unacceptable behaviour, it must also be taught how to behave appropriately, and be rewarded for doing so, such as sitting, coming when called, or lying down in return 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 cat
You may want to keep your dog on its lead and with you 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. Keep your dog and cat separated when you aren’t home until you’re certain your cat will be safe.
Dogs like to eat cat food. You should keep the cat food out of your dog’s reach. Eating cat faeces is also a relatively common behaviour in dogs. Although there are no health hazards to your dog, it’s probably distasteful to you. It’s also upsetting to your cat to have such an important object invaded.
Unfortunately, attempts to keep your dog out of the litter tray by booby trapping it will also keep your cat away as well. Punishment after the fact will not change your dog’s behaviour. The best solution is to place the litter tray where your dog can’t access it, for example, behind a baby gate, in a cupboard with the door wedged open from both sides and just wide enough for your cat, or inside a tall, topless cardboard box with easy access for your cat.
A word about kittens and puppies
Because they’re so much smaller, kittens are in more danger of being injured, or being 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 it is fully grown, and even then she should never be left alone with the dog. Usually, a well-socialised cat will be able to keep a puppy in its place, but some cats don’t have enough confidence to do this. If you have an especially shy cat, you might need to keep her separated from your puppy until it matures enough to have more self-control.