Your puppy and cat introduction is something you want to get right from the start. Laying down the right foundations can mean the difference between best friends forever or bites, scratches, sibling rivalry and lifelong family feuds.
We’re all for besties furever, so we’ve put together these tips to get you started.
Puppy and cat introduction research
As you prep to make your home a multispecies domain consider what breed of dog to get. Many dogs chase cats because it’s in their nature as pack animals. Happily, with a bit of puppy training, almost every pooch can learn to overcome this.
Some dogs are also better with cats than others and will get there more easily. Find out which are the kindest dog breeds then look into the friendliest cat breeds to introduce to your household. Continue your research by exploring phrases like ‘which dogs and cats get on best?’ on Google. It’s worth taking the time to get your breed matches right.
Of course, not everything comes down to breed, and non-pedigreed pets can make perfect pet partners too.
The first meeting
Made your decision and the puppy and cat introduction is imminent? Help your pets become best mates with these four steps.
1. Base camp
Set up two temporary private spaces or ‘base camps’; one for your new puppy and one for your cat. Each base camp needs to be fully equipped with a snug place to relax and sleep, a litterbox, as well as food and water.
You can either use two bedrooms or incorporate a laundry room or spare bathroom. It’s important that your cat can still move about freely, but its base camp is not accessible to puppy. This will stop puppy from intruding on your cat or worse, like eating poop from the cat litterbox.
Consider using a dog proof door strap that gives your cat access but prevents your dog from entering a room. If you don’t have spare rooms, you can also use a baby gate or fold out play pen as a barrier to set up boundaries.
When you first bring puppy home keep your cat safely tucked away in base camp. Let your puppy wander around the house taking in the smells and sights, then alternate the process by keeping your puppy in their base camp while letting your cat roam freely around its usual territory.
Your cat will start to smell your puppy’s new sent. In this way, there is no face-to-face introduction, but your pets are beginning to know each other. There’s also no opportunity for friction so you’ve made a peaceful introduction through their senses of smell.
Next, begin to feed them on either side of a closed door. They still won’t be able to see each other, but they know each other is there and they are safe. This will help with the positive reinforcement as they’ll associate the security of mealtime with the presence of the other.
If you’re getting a new kitten instead of a puppy, here’s how to introduce your kitten and cat.
You might want to repeat the scent steps for some time until you feel confident about bringing them into the same room. A visual meeting might be something you only get to after a few weeks. It’s up to you, and something you can gauge along the way.
Cats are generally more reserved during first-time meetings, whereas your puppy might come across as an overzealous and rambunctious guest at a dinner party. Therefore, it’s important is to do some exercise with puppy beforehand. Play some puppy games to help your pooch be calmer and more polite when they first meet your cat.
Rope in a friend and treats
Visual introduction between your new puppy and cat is a two-person job. Call in the help of a trusted friend or family member for this step. You can hold your puppy and your friend can hold your cat (or the other way around) within a few meters of each other. Keep your pup on a leash during this time, so if they dash for kitty you’ve got control.
Throughout, you should both talk to and pet both animals and give them pet food treats.
Neat huh? Can you see what you just did? Puppy and cat introduction has moved onto the visual stage using food to positively reinforce their friendship. Now take one pet out of the room and stop feeding them both treats. Then go back in and repeat the process.
Note: If you decide to do a visual introduction and discover one or both your pets isn’t comfortable, call a time out and come back to it later. It’s easier on everyone if you’re able to reward good behaviour and avoid conflict and the need for correction.
4. Controlled contact
Onto the next stage… First, make sure your puppy has had a good workout and is cool as a cucumber. Then, bring pup and your cat into the same room just like in step two. However, this time you’re encouraging supervised playtime.
It’s a good idea to do this introduction in your largest room so neither pet feels stifled. Your cat needs to have high-up perches to retreat to and an exit if they no longer feel like hanging out. Start the process with pup on the leash, then remove it if you’re confident about how your pets are behaving. Keep sessions short – 10 minutes or less.
Don’t force play or keep them together if either shows signs of stress or discomfort (during any step of the process). Be aware of body language. If your cat pins its ears flat or swishes its tail, call time out. If you’re wondering is your dog scared, here’s how to tell. Move them to separate spaces and start over.
These sessions are the start of a happy interspecies household so take lots of photos to remember these golden moments.
Cats and dogs: Tips for a lasting friendship
Remember there’s no strict timeframe for all these steps. They vary from household to household and from dog to cat. They may take a day, two weeks, or a month. The main thing is doing a controlled introduction using positive reinforcement.
How these steps unfold will affect how well your pooch and puss get along for the rest of their lives, so it’s worthwhile taking your time and getting it right.
Some added tips along the way are:
- Train your puppy: Teaching your dog obedience and impulse control will make them a better friend to your cat. Here are five easy dog training tricks.
- Set up base camp early: Give your cat a chance to become familiar with where its new base camp set up is before puppy comes home.
- Use pheromones: You can use pet pheromone sprays for cats and dogs to help take the edge off during their first introductions. These sprays mimic the smell of mum cats and dogs and help create a calm and secure mood.
Although you want your pets to share a lifelong friendship, they may also share some undesirables, like intestinal worms or fleas. Happily, there’s pet insurance for your cat or dog, which can include reimbursements for vaccinations, visits to the vet and more. This means you can think of puss or pooch rather than your pocket.
Puppy and cat introduction – over to you
Do you have any parenting tips to make the puppy and cat introduction go smoothly?
Share them with other pet parents in the comments below.