Whether you have a dog at home and want to introduce a cat into the family, or have a cat at home and want to introduce a dog, there are a few things to think about. Dogs love to chase moving objects, so you could be setting things up for disaster if you are not aware of a few simple tips.
Try, if you can, to bring home a kitten or puppy. The younger the new animal is, the easier the introduction can be. The most important thing to consider is that you want to avoid stressing both animals as much as possible. Younger animals tend to be a bit more fearless.
Separate the animals with a baby gate for a few weeks until each animal gets used to seeing and smelling the other. Never shove the new animal into the face of the other! Forcing the issue can only make adaptation more difficult.
Make sure that your cat, whether it is the new animal or the existing one, has places to run and hide, especially elevated spaces – shelves, book cases, and closets.
Ensure that your dog is well restrained, and teach her that chasing the cat is not acceptable behavior, by rewarding restraint and patience with praise and treats. Positive reinforcement is crucial.
Prepare your existing animal for the changes that will occur by moving furniture, getting a crate for a dog or litter box for a cat. Be sure these items are not near one another. Having to pass each other before they are ready can be extremely stressful.
Let the cat call the shots. They will let you know when they are ready to be in close proximity to the dog. And do everything you can to know and understand your dog’s history, if they are going to be the new member of the tribe. Some dog breeds are instinctive chasers of prey, and if you already have a cat, try to choose a dog that is gentler and not predatory.
Animals like routine and find change to their environments stressful. Know your pets well enough to be sensitive to this truth and anticipate reactions to things new and different.
Dogs and cats need not be “natural enemies” like in cartoons. They can coexist peacefully, and even become friends if their introduction is done with awareness on your part. Never force a relationship. Be sensitive to your animals’ reactions. Even cats and dogs can find a common ground and relate to each other if you remain patient and alert to each behavior. If things are not working out and you are at your wit’s end, consult with an animal behaviorist. Your vet will help you find one.
And finally, don’t favor one animal over the other. If you have a dog and bring home a kitten, resist the compulsion to give more attention to the baby. Make sure your dog knows she isn’t being replaced and that love and praise will not be withdrawn.