Bringing home a new puppy is so exciting for everyone involved. Getting your puppy used to the home and environment is one thing but introducing a puppy to your cat might not go as planned.
Cats can react very sensible and either anxious or aggressive to new situations especially if another animal enters the home. That is why their first introduction must be calm and pleasant for everyone to ensure a peaceful life together.
Cats and Dogs Living Together
Cats and dogs can definitely get along and live together. Despite their different behavior
Puppies, on the other hand, are very energetic and curious. A puppy loves to be around other animals and people and will probably enjoy the presence of the cat way more than vice versa.
The key to peacefully living in a multi-species household is a controlled and slow introduction which won’t start with them meeting. If not controlled, your puppy will probably lunge at the cat for an attempt to play which will lead her into defending herself.
Before you bring your new puppy home, think about some prior experiences that your cat had with other dogs. Is she afraid of them and quickly hides somewhere or does she even react aggressively at their sight?
You won’t see a scared cat for a few days once the puppy arrived home. Anxious cats will avoid eye contact at all costs and will probably refuse to enter the house.
But cats can also react quite aggressively towards dogs. Especially if you have a larger breed, she will quickly feel intimidated and can cuff if unsupervised. If you have a toy or small breed your cat could see it as prey and start chasing it. So you have to be very cautious at their initial meeting.
When buying a puppy, choose a responsible breeder that has a cat and already desensitized the puppies to it. This will give you a head start and your puppy will react more appropriately to the cat. It is not guaranteed but we also chose a breeder with cats although we don’t have any ourselves just because she has already learned to live peacefully with other animals which is great for socialization.
What to Do Before
Your cat will probably try to seek some privacy when a new puppy arrives. Always provide your cat with a chance to escape from uncomfortable situations. This will make her calmer and more confident overall. Provide her with a den or condo where she can hide and give her something like a cat tree so she will be out of the puppy’s reach.
Get both animals checked by the vet, so you can be assured that there are no underlying illnesses that could make the introduction harder. Remove anything toxic from your home and always supervise.
Keeping Them Separated
It is very important to keep both animals separated prior to their initial meeting. This will give them the opportunity to get used to the presence of one another without meeting.
When you bring home a new puppy you will start by letting him explore only one room of the house to avoid him getting overwhelmed. Put your cat in another room, separated with a door, and provide her with food and water. Supervising them won’t be a problem at this point as you will have to keep an eye on your puppy 24/7 anyways.
You can also attach a leash to your puppy to keep him from running into other rooms and controlling potty accidents. Always reinforce calm behavior and correct your puppy if he is scratching on the cat’s door or digging.
Crate When Being Left Alone
If you cannot supervise your puppy for a short period of time, crate him. You will find any information on crate training here and how you can properly introduce the crate. Yes, everything needs to have a great introduction! Leave your cat roaming outside if she is
Make sure that there is no way that either your puppy or your cat can escape from their confined space and get to one another. Tire your puppy out before crating him and provide him with chew toys to keep him occupied.
Take some time out of the day and concentrate on bonding with your cat and your puppy individually. This will ensure a positive and calm environment and relieves stress. It will also prevent your cat from thinking that she will be replaced now.
Both cats and dogs strongly experience their environment through scent. They can remember the scent of their home and can associate it with positive experience. While keeping both your pets separated, put something like a blanket in each room for a couple of days and swap it, so they can get accustomed to their roommates smell.
For stronger association, place the blanket or pillow near the feeding area where endorphins are released while eating, so the scent of the other animal will be associated with something good.
After they became familiar with the scent, you can then swap their rooms for a much stronger experience. Repeat the process a couple of times until both have settled in the home with all the new smells.
The First Meeting
For the first meeting, choose a quiet, puppy-proof room in your house with enough space for your cat to escape. Provide your cat with escape routes onto a cat tree or into another room where your puppy cannot follow.
Tire out your puppy beforehand with a nice walk or a play session. Keep your puppy on a leash to prevent him from running up to the cat and startling it. Under no circumstances let him off-leash during the first meeting even when they seem to like each other.
Take your puppy on a leash and walk to one side of the room; after a few minutes, you can let out the cat from the other side of the room. If they immediately start to growl and hiss at each other, stop the meeting and go back to the steps mentioned above.
Let them explore at their own pace. Your puppy will probably try to get to the cat as soon as she enters the room but your cat will be more reserved. She will need more time to evaluate the situation, so don’t try to lure her closer, she will come if she wants to. Do not force any of the pets to get closer to each other. It will only make it uncomfortable for everyone.
Prevent your puppy from chasing or barking at the cat. This is the time where you will need to discipline him. Chasing cats is a real problem in dogs and you won’t want to reinforce this behavior in any way.
Reinforcing Good Behaviour
Grab some treats for both your puppy and your cat and reward them for any positive behavior. If your puppy keeps barking at your cat, don’t simply tell him “no”, show him what to do instead. Engage in some play with him to get him distracted or give him a basic command like sit.
Always treat any second where your puppy ignores the cat or reacts to it in a calm manner. You will want to keep him from starring at the cat as it will intimidate her quickly. It is a sign of aggression if your puppy won’t look away from her, so you would need to stop the meeting.
Keep It Short and Positive
Keep the first few meetings very short and try to always end them positively. If one pet gets nervous or tired, give them some alone time again. They will remember the positive experience and will slowly get accustomed to one another.
Your goal will be to make it so comfortable for them that your cat will eat in the same room with your puppy mostly ignoring her. Any calm and positive meeting will build up their bond so they will be able to live together peacefully in the future.
Over time you can make the meetings longer while giving your puppy more freedom (still on a long leash). Let them explore at their own pace and don’t rush the process for the sake of saving time. Your pets don’t have to become best friends but it would be perfect if they could live harmoniously together.
How to Stop a Dog From Chasing Cats
As this will be a key point in their meeting, I want to explain it a bit further. Chasing is a predatorial and self-rewarding instinct which means that the more your puppy chases other animals, the more he will like doing it. So you will have to initially prevent any chasing behavior from your puppy by keeping him confined.
Keep your puppy on a leash and place some baby gates between the doors, so your cat will have the possibility to escape from your puppy. With the leash you will be able to prevent any chasing from even occurring.
In the next step, you will want to get your puppy’s attention while being in the same room with your cat. You can achieve this by teaching some basic commands like “sit” or “look at me” and plenty of high value treats like cooked chicken. The more your puppy focusses on you the more he will ignore the cat.
Don’t take things too seriously when introducing a new puppy to your cat. Even if their start wasn’t amazing, time will make them more comfortable. Remember to always encourage your puppy to be calm and providing your cat with escape routes. Let me know how your cat and puppy introduction went and what tips you have to make it work in the comments down below.