Although dogs and cats are often portrayed as enemies, if introduced carefully, they can actually get on extremely well. For both cats and dogs, smell is extremely important for communication. You can integrate the new pet into your home more successfully by making sure that they smell of ‘home’ before being introduced. You can start this process even before you bring your new pet home by exchanging bedding between the pets if this is possible.
This way, they get to know a bit about each other, even before they meet. Across a few days, rotate which animal has freedom and which is confined to allow each animal plenty of time to investigate the other one’s scent. Sometimes the dog should be confined to a crate or another room to allow the cat time to roam free and investigate the smell of the dog and vice versa. When no one is home, the dog or cat must always be securely confined. Once the dog is calm or at least not obsessed with the cat and the cat is calm, eating and using the litter box normally, start making leashed introductions.
If either your cat or dog appears frightened, go back a few steps and keep them apart for a while longer. Continue scent swapping regularly and try again the next day. If you keep these controlled, short meetings up regularly you should see an increase in the cat’s confidence and a reduction in the dog’s excitement as they become more familiar with each other.
Next, allow both animals to be in the same room at the same time, but keep the dog securely leashed. Continue with this type of introduction until the dog is calm and ignores the cat, and the cat is calm, eating and using the litter box normally. Cat food is hugely tempting for any dog, so keep it well out of the way. Likewise a litter tray can be tempting too, and should be kept out of your dog’s reach. Don’t forget that when no one is home, the dog or cat should be securely confined to separate areas so unsupervised interactions are not possible.
It’s not uncommon for dogs and cats to become friends and to enjoy each other’s company. Take the time to manage the introduction properly, and you could be setting up a friendship that will last for the rest of your pets’ lives.