Do you adore your kitty while having a big heart for dogs? Would you like to parent a pup but feel ambivalent? With careful prep, you can foster a loving bond between two pets. Here’s how to welcome a dog to feline territory.
Consider Kitty’s attributes versus those of the new dog, such as the pets’ ages and personalities, along with dog breed.
If Kitty is very young or elderly, avoiding getting a zealous dog. Rough play could result in casualties. Instead, adopt an older pooch with a calm and gentle demeanor.
Other than this age consideration, aim to obtain a puppy. By sharing quarters, a pup will likely regard Kitty as part of its pack.
How does Kitty react when frightened? If your cat usually flees, the behavior could prompt chasing by a spirited dog. If Kitty tends toward aggression, the acclimating process may be possible, though it could take a while. Total adjustment can span a few weeks to several months.
Is Kitty confident and playful? If so, getting chummy with a pup is probable. Just make sure the dog has a mellow temperament. A mild-mannered canine is also best for a cat with a skittish or reserved disposition.
If you haven’t yet chosen a particular dog, consider a breed that’s generally accepting of cats. The following six have cat-friendly reputations:
- Labrador Retriever
- Golden Retriever
- Basset Hound
- Cocker Spaniel
Still, don’t reject a dog on the basis of mixed ancestry. A dog from a shelter may be very loving and adaptable, being homeless.
When adopting, speak at length with the shelter staff involved with animal care. Knowing the dogs’ natures, volunteers can guide you toward a compatible match for your cat. Describe Kitty’s personality and your home situation, and be open to volunteer suggestions.
Prepare Your Home
Make sure your cat has a secure area, inaccessible by the dog. If possible, allocate a separate room or private space, fenced off by a baby gate. Within this protected spot, place Kitty’s water, food, toys, and litter box.
Also, ensure that Kitty has a lofty refuge in each room, for the option of escaping. Safe perches might be tables, bookcases, and sturdy shelves.
Once the two pets are friends, continue maintaining a private spot for Kitty. Most cats need daily time alone, spending much of it snoozing. In fact, cats typically sleep between 16 and 20 hours per day.
Designate separate feeding areas for each pet, widely spaced apart. Also, elevate Kitty’s food bowl, so the dog can’t reach it. Cat and dog foods aren’t interchangeable, though they may be appetizing for both animal species.
Cat food is too high in protein, fat, and calories to be healthy for dogs. Cat fare is also challenging for canine digestion, possibly causing vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis. Additionally, the nutritional requirements for dogs and cats are quite different:
- Vitamin A – Cats need more of this vitamin than dogs, to support their keen vision.
- Taurine – Dogs can make this amino acid, whereas cats cannot. Typically, dog food doesn’t have adequate taurine for cats. A deficiency can lead to feline heart disease.
- Arachidonic Acid – Dogs manufacture this fatty acid, but cats need supplementation.
- Protein – Most dog foods aren’t sufficiently rich in protein for cats.
Introduce Each Animal’s Scent To One Another
Before allowing Kitty and the pooch to meet, acquaint them with each other’s smells. For example, you might swap toys, blankets, or pillows they’ve each used. Being familiar with a new animal’s scent makes the first encounter less threatening.
Before bringing the dog into your home, place Kitty in her safe domain. Then, let Rover roam the house for 30 minutes. As the dog sniffs out your residence, it will recognize Kitty’s smell. Then, while walking the pooch outside, let your cat freely track the dog’s scent trail.
After this aromatic introduction, keep the animals apart for three days. If Kitty is staying in a fenced area, allow the pooch to watch the feline. If your cat is behind a closed door, let the dog smell it from beneath the threshold.
Next, observe the pets’ behaviors. Is Rover whining, barking, or scratching the cat’s barricade? If so, wait until the dog calms down before allowing closer proximity. Is Kitty terribly distressed? To reduce agitation, speak in soothing tones to both animals.
After a week, if the pets are still upset by each other, contact a trainer. You may need professional assistance to help the animals bond.
Stage A Controlled Meeting
Once Rover is mildly interested in Kitty, progress to the next step. Feed both pets on opposite sides of a baby gate. This strategy enables them to regard each other in a pleasant context. If either pet is too nervous to eat, widen the space between the food bowls, to a comfortable distance.
When both pets are in a tranquil state, bring them into the same room. Keep Rover on a short leash while letting Kitty walk around freely. Again, speak to both animals in gentle tones, as you pet the dog. Let the animals observe each other, and watch their reactions, prepared to intervene.
If Kitty hisses and Rover lunges, keep the animals separated until they’re both calm again. Then, repeat the meeting process.
Now, if Rover charges toward Kitty again, control the dog with the leash, and give the “Sit” command. If Rover obeys, offer a treat and praise as positive reinforcement.
Gradually, lengthen the leash. Continue rewarding Rover for docile behavior until both pets regard each other peaceably. If this can’t be achieved initially, repeat the reward sequence a few times daily until successful.
Try Unleashed Visits
After three consecutive days of incident-free meetings, lighten your control. Bring the two pets into the same room, with Rover leashed. Then, remove the tether, but be ready to collar Rover if the dog lunges. If Kitty goes after the pooch, distract Rover with a toy.
However, avoid reprimanding your cat. One hiss or swat to the dog’s nose may be enough for Kitty to establish boundaries. Remember to speak soothingly as the animals interact. Your positive energy will promote harmony. Conversely, if the animals sense anxiety in you, they’ll be nervous too.
If problems persist off-leash, go back to controlled visits until the pets accept each other. Never leave them alone until you’re sure they’ll be safe unsupervised.
While you can’t force a friendship between a dog and cat, you can likely coax tolerance, at the very least. Once that occurs, let the animals work out their relationship independently. Over time, they may become the best of friends, aside from you, of course!
Emily Parker is a cat mom to 2 black rescue cats, Gus and Louis. When she’s not fawning over her feline friends, she spends her time writing and researching as the resident cat expert at Catological.com. Emily’s work helps hundreds of thousands of cat parents love their kitties better every month. She spends her downtime exploring her neighborhood on foot looking for the newest (cat) cafes.