Introduce Your New Cat to Your Dog Safely
Have you bought the supplies, found the cat (or cats) that is meant to be your cat, and now it’s time to bring them home and introduce your new cat to your dog(s)? These tips will help your introduction go as smoothly as possible.
If you have dogs at home, a kitten is easier to introduce to a dog than a fully grown cat. A cat or a kitten will still require time and patience for all the animals involved to settle down. But, it won’t take as long as you think if you do it right. Adding a new animal is pretty exciting. Some take longer than others. It’s just a part of their personality.
I have two dogs, a 14-year-old senior chihuahua named Eddie, that is curious about new animals but is not prey-driven at all. My other dog, a slightly high-strung 7-year-old border collie named Betty, is a lot more excited to see new animals. She will chase them, bark at them, and is a lot to handle for a new cat.
I knew that it would take time to introduce Betty to a cat. So I brought a pair of littermate kittens home when I was ready to add to my family. I recently adopted a pair instead of an individual kitten so that the cats would have companionship, someone to play with, and learn the valuable social skills that kittens teach each other. I also knew that they might be separated from the rest of the family for a few weeks while Betty became accustomed to having cats in the home — although it took less time than I anticipated for all parties involved to be comfortable around one another.
It is important to separate the cats and dogs initially for the safety of both animals. If the dog attacks the kitten or cat, it can be deadly. But, A frightened cat or kitten can swipe their sharp claws across a dog’s nose and teach them a lesson pretty quickly too. And, if those claws swipe the dog’s eyes, you can end up at the animal ER with a serious eye injury. I try to avoid the animal ER if at all possible. So, separation is the route I took. I wanted all the animals to feel safe.
Give the cat time to bond with you and to build trust before spending time with the dogs. When the cat first comes home, it will be curious about its new surroundings. If you have a room or area that you can block off and allow them to freely explore, that is ideal.
I have a bedroom that I use for my office. I have inventory stored in tubs and lots of boxes stacked up in this room — better than any cat condo you can find! There is nothing dangerous that they can get into. I feed them in here and have their litter box in here.
Kittens are fun
The first few days, this was our routine:
- dry kitten food was left out to free feed
- wet kitten food was given twice a day
- I visited and played with them often
- the door to this room stayed closed
Halfway through the first week, the kittens started trying to explore the rest of the house if the dogs weren’t at the door. This was a good sign. They were comfortable and curious. It was time to put up the baby gate and open the door.
The second half of the first week, I did all the same things, except instead of a closed door, I put up a baby gate while I was home. When I left home, I closed the door to make sure that the dog didn’t climb over the baby gate and wreak havoc in the office. At bedtime, I closed the door. This allowed the kittens to see the rest of the house and animals, but they were safe. They could explore the house but return to the office. The dog chased them and went nuts, but they started calming down the first day that the baby gate was up.
By the third day of an open door with a baby gate, the kittens came out of the bedroom to explore and the dogs were excited but didn’t chase them -unless the kittens ran around. I refereed them and kept all the animals safe. If they got too excited, I put the kittens back in the office. Each day they were out more though.
The gate that I purchased has a small animal door. The following week, I opened the small animal door. This door was large enough for my chihuahua to come and go and large enough for the kittens. I kept this door closed most of the time, though. I didn’t want the Chihuahua eating the cats’ food. I also could picture my border collie getting wedged in the door while trying to squeeze through. She has no self-awareness regarding her size.
The border collie was kept out. This phase lasts as long as necessary for all the animals to feel comfortable around each other. It takes as long as it takes. This will depend on your animals’ personalities. By separating them and preventing attacks or fights, the animals will trust you to keep them safe. The safer you can make all the animals feel, the quicker they will accept each other.
As I write this, yesterday marked the two-week mark since I brought the kittens home. Each kitten has chosen a different dog to be their favorite. My little dog, Eddie, snuggles with Smudge and runs around the house with both kittens. Betty and Mary often play together. They are each the wilder of their respective species.
The kittens have a lot more energy than my middle-aged and senior dog. The energy of the house has definitely changed with the addition of the littlest fur balls.
Betty likes to run around with Mary. Mary is fearless. She is the smallest creature in the house with the biggest sense of confidence. The dogs and the cats are in harmony. It didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would.
This post is an excerpt of a book I have started writing about caring for cats. It is untitled as I write this.