Anyone who has animals knows how wonderful it is to have them around a home. Whether it's a cat or a dog, a rabbit or a parrot, these lovely creatures bring animal lovers so much joy and they are a constant source of amusement. A lot of people choose to take in another animal even when they have other pets because they can keep each other company.
Often they choose to adopt a cat so the animal gets a second chance to live a happy and content life in a family environment – which is wonderful. If you are thinking about adopting a cat and you're worried about introducing them to a dog you already own, there are a few things you need to take into consideration before they actually meet nose to nose!
It can be a pretty nerve racking and stressful experience when two animals meet for the first time. Sometimes they take to each other as if they have been together all their lives but more often than not it takes a bit of time. It takes a lot of care to introduce animals to each other without causing a big upset in the household and one or both animals getting hurt. The key is to keep things nice and relaxed when your dog first meets your new cat. Leaving them to their own devices could end up making matters a lot worse for all concerned.
Choosing the right time to introduce a new and nervous cat into your home is essential if you want things to go smoothly. You have to pick a time when things are really quiet in your home and it's best to avoid times when there are lots of people, visitors , friends or relatives in the house or you might not be able to concentrate on the animals and how they are reacting to each other.
By far the best and safest way for a new and often nervous cat to meet your dog is to leave the cat in a carrier. The cat will feel safer in it and although they might cower in the container this is far better than having them try to run away with your dog chasing after them – thinking the cat is “fair game”.
If your new cat is really nervous, place a cover over the cat carrier but leave the door uncovered. Depending on how excitable your dog is will determine how quickly the new cat will take to them. The main thing is that your new cat needs to feel safe and not vulnerable at all when they first meet up with your dog. It may take a lot of introductions but everyone of them will be very worthwhile.
Although cats and dogs have always been portrayed as real enemies, it is far easier to introduce a new cat to a dog than it is for a new cat to be introduced to a cat you already own and who rules the roost. You may well find that both the new cat and your dog will be wary of each other to begin with but as time passes, they soon realise they are not in competition with each other. This means they usually do get on very well together – albeit the cat will normally end up being the boss!
If your dog is used to having cats around the house, they may be excited to begin with but in true doggy style, they will soon get bored and settle down to their usual routines. Your dog will see the new addition to the family as being part of their “pack”. Many dogs live in complete harmony with cats in their own households yet will chase other cats that venture into their gardens! As long as you keep a watchful eye on how your dog reacts to the new cat and vice versa, it normally does not take very long for a dog to accept the four legged newcomer.
The same goes for the new cat – if they are used to having dogs around, they will be less frightened when meeting your dog for the first time. They will be nervous, but this usually passes quite quickly. The thing to avoid is any initial confrontation between the two animals – if they get off to a bad start, it does make things a lot harder!
The safety of both animals is of the utmost importance. However, anyone introducing two animals to each other for the first time should also take care if they don't want to get scratched or bitten by a frightened animal. This is why the introduction has to be kept very much under control right up until both the cat and the dog have got used to each other. One way of helping things along is to stroke your dog and then your cat separately and not wash your hands. This enables both of the animals to get to know each other scents with you being the intermediary. Eventually the new cat will take on the smell of your home.
Ideally, you should put your new cat in a large enclosed cage after the initial meeting with them in their carrier. The cat will feel safe and secure in the pen, although they may still be having a little hissing fit. Your dog will be able to sniff the newcomer through the bars of the pen without having to come into direct contact with them – and vice versa. You would need to keep the dog and cat apart in separate rooms until they are used to each other's company. However, at night you could leave the cat in it's metal cage and let the dog sleep in the same room as them, but this does rather depend on the character and reaction of your dog to the newcomer.
If your dog has never lived with a cat before or the other way round, you would need to take extra care with the introductions and take your time. If your dog is very excited and won't settle down, then put them on a lead and ask them to sit quietly with you next the cat in its pen. If your dog is well behaved, keep rewarding them and just bide your time. You would need to let them meet this way as often as possible and not for too long – the rule of thumb is frequent meet ups for short periods of time.
If you have a very excitable dog, then take them for a very long walk before you introduce them to your new at – this way they will have got rid of some of their energy. Some breeds like terriers and greyhounds instinctively like to chase things so you would need to keep a watchful eye on them when you introduce a new cat into the home. The same goes for younger puppies who just want to play big time, and the newcomer might be a willing playmate! Dogs love to be rewarded when they behave themselves, so if your dog stays calm around the newcomer, you have to reward them – but you must do this calmly. As soon as your dog loses interest in the new cat, you should be able to let your dog off their lead when they are both together – but all the while you need to keep a close eye on things.
Never leave your dog and the newcomer on their own if you not totally happy they are safe together.
The other thing you will have to do is make sure you feed your new cat up high where your dog can't get at it!
The same goes for the litter tray – dogs love to get into cat litter trays and eat the contents of them! Obviously, once your the new member of your family has settled in, you may not need to use a litter tray because puss will be able to go outside.