Dogs and Cats Together: Getting Your New Puppy and Your Cat Off to a Great Start
Bringing home a puppy is exciting for everyone — except, perhaps, for your cat. A puppy's high energy can seem chaotic to kitties, who might prefer hiding under the bed to meeting this new "friend." Even worse, a rough introduction could mean the two never find common ground, and one or both of them could get hurt.
With time and patience, though, dogs and cats can learn to live well together or even become best friends. Comfortable pets make for a comfortable home, for you and for them. You'll enjoy life together as a family! These seven steps for how to introduce a puppy to your cat can help you keep both your pets — and yourself — happy.
1. Start with Separation
When you bring home your new puppy, don't set him loose in the house. Once he spots your cat, he might chase her, which will lead to one very unhappy pussycat. Instead, place your puppy and cat in adjacent rooms so they can size each other up through a closed door.
Dogs and cats rely a lot more on scent recognition than humans do. The crack at the bottom of the door will let both pets become accustomed to their new roommate's scent. Introducing them this way can make their first in-person encounter less stressful.
In the closed environment, be sure your kitty still has everything she needs. She should have her litter box, food, and places to climb and perch. This will help her feel at ease. Also, be sure to give her lots of love and scratches during this transition. You don't want her to feel like she's being punished or abandoned because of the new puppy.
2. Use a Crate
After your pets have had a couple of days to get used to each other from separate rooms, it's time for a controlled face-to-face meetup. Consider placing the pupper in a crate and then releasing the kitty from her room.
Your cat's natural curiosity will lead her to investigate the crate and puppy. Expect your pup to wiggle and whine until he gets used to the cat being nearby. After all, this is new and exciting stuff for your puppy, too. Give them both time to connect at their own pace in this space. If your cat approaches the puppy's crate with curiosity or tries to play through the crate door, you can advance to the next steps.
3. Rely on Restraint
After a few days of crate-bound interaction, it'll be time to put your doggo on a leash and let him interact with Miss Kitty.
It's a great sign if the puppy seems calm and doesn't bark, whine, or get too excited when the floof approaches.
Pay attention to both pets' body language. If your puppy shows any aggression toward the kitty — such as growling, lunging, or snapping — put him back in the crate and try again the next day.
Often, house cats understand that dogs consider them prey. It's important for your cat to feel in control of the situation. Don't stage the meeting in a closed room with no hiding spots. Your cat should be able to flee if the puppy becomes too rambunctious. Leave a door open or ensure your whiskered friend can retreat to a secure spot like under the bed or behind a piece of furniture.
4. Set Up Baby Gates
Once your puppy can be outside of his crate unsupervised, use baby gates to keep him contained. These barriers will keep your curious pup secure and allow your cat to come and go as she pleases — as long as they're low enough that she can jump over them. This will let your feline friend investigate the new puppy at her leisure without being chased around by an overexcited pup.
5. Consider Pheromones
Trainers and veterinarians recommend pheromone collars, sprays, or diffusers that help calm both cats and dogs. Some diffusers plug into electrical outlets and release calming pheromones while others can be sprayed directly onto furniture and pet beds. Don't worry — humans can't smell them.
Naturally occurring pheromones are chemicals released by your pet to help them communicate with other animals of the same species. In other words, it's a type of invisible signal that your kitty or pup will send to let others know if they are open to interaction or saying "stay away." Pheromone diffusers and sprays mimic these signals to help ensure your pets feel secure, happy, and calm. These can be helpful in easing the introduction period for both your pets.
6. Don't Forget Love
It's vital to give your cat lots of positive attention during the introductory period. Scratches and affection will go a long way toward calming her while she's getting used to your new puppy.
It's also important not to reinforce bad puppy behavior — even without realizing it. For example, if the puppy is chasing your kitty, don't try to distract him with treats and scratches. This is like rewarding him for tormenting your cat. Be firm with your doggo by establishing the rules, and make sure he understands kitty is not a toy to chase.
7. Seek Professional Help When Needed
If the going gets rough, don't be afraid to enlist a little extra help. Your veterinarian is a great resource for additional insight and tips on how to introduce a puppy to your cat. Veterinarians study pet behavior as part of their education, which means they can help you navigate your pets' cohabitation. They can also refer you to a veterinary behavior specialist for difficult cases.
It's a myth that cats and dogs can't ever get along. With the right introduction — plus a little patience and a lot of love — puppers and kitties can live together in peace, making it easier for everyone in the family to get the love and support they need, including you!