Do you have a cat and want a dog, too? Vice versa? The key to domestic bliss in a cat-dog household is a careful introduction and ongoing monitoring. The best candidates for peaceful coexistence are very laid-back cats and kittens, and easy-going dogs, puppies, and dogs without strong predatory instincts. (Also, of course, cats known to have lived with dogs before or dogs known to have lived with cats.)
Slowly does it.
- Before you bring home the new pet, set up a dog-free room in your house. This is your cat’s sanctuary and should include his food, water, and litter.
- Leash the dog for the first introduction. This is less stressful for the cat and gives you better control over the situation. Ask the dog to sit and take treats near the cat. Treat the cat, too. If the dog stays seated and listens to you, allow him to meet the cat. If you see gentle investigation and respect for the cat’s defensive signals, praise the dog. If you see straining at the leash, whining, or barking, interrupt and try again another time.
- After several successful meet-and-greets, try dropping the leash. Praise and reward the dog for friendly, careful behavior around the cat. Stop any chasing and give the dog a time-out (remove him from the room).
- For the first few weeks, pay close attention. Is the relationship going in the right direction? No blatant chasing or tiffs? Respectful behavior on both sides? Make sure you give the “old” pet lots of attention, so he doesn’t associate the newcomer with reduced affection.
Rules of thumb.
- Take your time. The slower you proceed, the better your chances of success.
- Never force a cat to be close to a dog by physically restraining the cat in any way. It’s extremely stressful for the cat.
- Better safe than sorry. Always separate your pets when you leave the house.
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