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How should I introduce my new dog to the family cat?

It is important to be well-researched before the introduction of any new pet to your house, even if you already have other pets. RSPCA Australia recommends you take the time to find a detailed book on the breed/crossbreed you are acquiring well before bringing it home, so that you are well prepared for its arrival.

Some dogs will integrate into a family with existing pets better than others. Older dogs are likely to be less energetic than young puppies; if you already have old pets you may wish to adopt an adult dog. Consider adopting your dog from an RSPCA shelter as it will have been temperament tested and the staff will be able to give you an idea of how the dog may respond to other animals. The RSPCA provides shelter to thousands of animals every year that are in need of a good home.

Once you have decided on a dog you will have to think about how best to introduce him to your existing pets to ensure that everything goes smoothly. This may be a stressful time for both animals and it is important that you are patient and prepared for the introduction to take place over several days or even weeks. Secure your cat in their favourite room with their bed and blankets on the day you bring your dog home. Allow your dog to explore the house and then secure it in a room of its own with comfy bedding, water and a treat. While your dog settles down allow your cat to explore the house and become familiar with your dog’s scent. Repeat this over the next few days, allowing each animal their turn to have access to the whole house without ever confronting one another. In the meantime, work on basic obedience with your dog so that you have some control over it when it comes to introducing the dog to your cat.

When you are ready to introduce your dog and cat, do so when your dog is at his calmest. You may wish to take him for a walk or play an energetic game beforehand. Put your dog on a leash and give him a tasty treat to distract him while you bring your cat in. Keep your cat in the carry cage for the first few meetings, placing the cage on a table so that the cat feels less vulnerable. In the initial stages there may be some hissing and tail swishing – but this should settle down after a few days. Keep a close eye on both animals and do not punish either of them for aggressive behaviour as this will be associated with the presence of the other animal. Rather, give your dog tasty treats during these introductions, particularly when he is obedient and calm. If he becomes highly excitable at any time during the introduction remove him from the room. Do this several times a day, keeping the meetings short so that stress is kept to a minimum.

Ensure your cat receives a lot of individual attention from you.

When you are ready to let your cat out of the carry cage, make sure your dog is on a leash and that your cat has an easy escape route – choose a room with high window sills or shelves. Never leave your pets unsupervised and take things very slowly, allowing your pets to become used to one another gradually at their own pace. Keep in mind that your pets may never be best friends. Hopefully, however, they will at least tolerate one another and learn to live happily in the same house. In situations where cats do not like the pet dog in the long-term, they may still be able to co-exist in relative peace by seeking out their own space and spending most of their time apart. Pets often have the ability to find a balance and share their territory. Having access to different rooms so that they may be alone can assist in these situations. Feeding the cat and dog separately is also important and ensuring that your cat has a private area to go to the toilet and a safe sleeping spot may assist.

Updated on April 30, 2019
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