If your household contains a cat as a part of the family, you know the many joys you are already experiencing. From having Fluffy curl up in your lap to watching her chase a favorite toy around the room, cats bring a special element of happiness to our lives.
However, if you've decided to make your life even better by adding a dog to the family, there are some details you'll want to consider before doing so. While many times cats and dogs get along just fine, there are always some basic rules to keep in mind when bringing a dog into what has previously been an all-kitty household.
To make sure your kitty and the new dog that walks through the door grow to become best friends, here is the best way to ensure the introduction is a safe one.
Make Sure Everyone is Healthy
Even though the dog you get from a local shelter, pet store, or breeder should already be up-to-date on its vaccinations and other health procedures, it's always a good idea to make sure it's in good health before introducing it to your cat. Schedule a visit with your veterinarian, where it can receive a detailed physical exam.
And make sure to do the same for your kitty. By making sure no undetected physical problems exist with either animal, you'll gain peace of mind, while helping to get things off to a good start. They aren’t going to be able to get along well if they’re struggling with their own pain or discomfort!
Match Their Personalities
If you want the best results as quickly as possible, always try to match the personalities of your dog and cat. For example, if you have a cat that prides itself on being laid-back, try to get a dog that is also relaxed and carefree. While each individual dog and cat is unique, certain breeds are generally more well suited for each other.
Of course, it's good to get a dog that has been around cats in the past, if possible. Chances are, if it has already been socialized to cats and has exhibited an ability to get along with them, your chances of building a beautiful canine-feline friendship will increase dramatically.
Know Each Other's Scent
To get both pets used to each other, let them have something that has the other's scent on it.
For example, take a towel or blanket, rub it on one animal, and then give it to the other to inspect.
By doing this for both pets, they will be able to learn the other's scent, thereby making them more comfortable with the new smells in the house.
Isolate One Pet
When you bring home your new dog, it's a good idea to put it in a separate room initially, though you may decide to do so for your cat, instead, since it won’t mind being cooped up so much.
Of course, give it plenty of creature comforts, such as a comfy bed, food and water, doggy treats, and some new toys. This will give the dog a chance to calm down, while at the same time start to adjust to the many new sights, smells, and sounds it will encounter.
Whether you use a spare bedroom, utility room, or other room, make sure to eventually set up a baby gate, or leave the door cracked open just enough, to let doggy and kitty see and sniff one another.
Give Your Dog Obedience Training
One of the best ways to increase the likelihood of a successful introduction is to have your dog complete obedience training.
By doing so, it will be able to respond to such commands as "sit," "stay," "no," and others you may need along the way.
While many people choose to have obedience training done by certified instructors in a class environment, it's possible to accomplish this yourself if you prefer.
However, be prepared to have plenty of patience, and always use positive reinforcement, which should include encouraging words and lots of yummy treats for a job well-done.
Always Supervise Initial Introductions
When it comes to animals, don't take anything for granted, even if you feel completely confident your cat and dog will like one another. Therefore, at the first introduction and several subsequent ones thereafter, always stay in the room and supervise their interactions.
Along with this, always keep your dog on a short leash, which will enable you to quickly pull it to you in the event a problem occurs.
As it is with people who meet someone new for the first time, expect your pets to be a bit nervous. Because of this, there may be some initial hissing, growling, and swatting of the paws.
However, if it starts to escalate, it's best to end the session for now. After all, one swipe from a dog's paw or a kitty's claw can cause potentially serious injuries, so always err on the side of caution.
Give Your Kitty an Escape Plan
Whatever part of your home you decide to use for these meetings, always make sure your kitty has an escape route it can easily use if needed. Examples of this would be a high shelf it could jump up on, a nearby table, or a bookcase that would allow it to get away from the dog if it gets too nervous or feels threatened.
By doing this one simple thing, you will automatically have your cat more relaxed, making the introduction much easier than you may have anticipated.
Puppies and Kittens
If your resident cat happens to be a kitten or a young cat that's only one or two years old, consider getting a puppy rather than a dog that's already full-grown. In doing so, both animals will be close in age and energy levels, which could bode well when it comes time for them to meet one another.
Since puppies and kittens are always ready to play, you may find yourself having two whirlwinds running through the house together, quickly discovering just how dynamic a duo they can be once they join forces. They will both get to grow up with one another, giving each a best friend they can count on for perhaps a decade or more.
Talk to a Behaviorist
If you have tried and tried to get Fluffy and Fido to like one another but it just isn't coming together as you expected, seek some professional advice rather than simply give up.
In today's world, animal behaviorists and psychologists are more and more common, and can often provide excellent advice if needed. If you feel this may be necessary, start by speaking to your veterinarian. More than likely, they will be able to recommend a behaviorist or psychologist from whom you can seek suggestions.
So rather than give up and return your dog to the shelter or pet store, don't be afraid to seek out professional help when trying to convince your dog and cat that they really do like one another.
Don't Rush Things
Above all, don't feel as if you need to rush things with your cat and dog. Since all animals are different, you as well as your pets will know when things have progressed to the point of everyone feeling good about the new living arrangements.