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Can cats and dogs just get along? Tips for introducing your new feline to your dogs

Peanut butter and jam. Netflix and a rainy day. Your credit card and holiday sales. Some things just belong together, you know? But can a new cat and your dog become the next dynamic duo in your life?

If you're a dog owner, some might see adding a new cat to the fold as a pretty brave move – or a foolish one. But there's plenty of room for all your furry friends under your roof. With the right introduction, cats and dogs can often get along very well. 

With some help from the International Cat Care guidelines, here's a guide to introducing a new cat to your beloved dog. Before you actually bring them face-to-face for the first time, try these three things:

  1. Give 'em some space
    We all need a bit of space sometimes. And that's especially true for your pets when you're welcoming a cat to the family.

    To help keep your dog comfortable when their new housemate arrives, designate a room or area (with a door) for your cat. This “safe” area should have all the essentials, including food, water, toys, sleeping spot, litter tray, hiding places, a high viewing area, scratching posts etc. And it’s 100% dog free. Use baby gates to keep your dog out if needed.

    This allows your dog to live its normal, routine life while the cat gets used to its new surroundings in a safe haven. If you can, try to keep this designated cat space away from where your dog likes to hang out.

    Depending on the cat, your other pets, and the overall environment of your home, it might take a few weeks or months for your new addition to feel comfortable venturing out of this area. Don't rush it.

  2. Drop some hints
    Before your dog and new cat actually meet, gradually lay out the feline's new bedding, litter box, toys, and feeding bowls around your home. This gives your dog some time to adjust and become familiar with them.

  3. Make your dog feel special
    It's exciting to add a new furry friend to the family, and it can be easy to get caught up in spending time with your new cat. But that can mean unintentionally ignoring your dog. Make sure to continue with playtime, puzzle feeders, treats, cuddles and maybe even add a couple more walks for your dog to show them the love.


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Making the introduction

Once your new cat has settled in, it's time to make a plan for having your pets meet for the first time. Here are a few key steps to follow for a slower, more comfortable introduction. 

  1. Scent switching
    Ah, the sweet scent of friendship. Take some blankets your new cat and dog have been sleeping on and switch them between the pets' beds. This lets them get used to each other's smells. Once they're comfortable, start placing the items around things they love, such as their food bowl, so they start associating the smell with something they enjoy.

  2. Sniffing around
    Next, let each pet investigate a spot in the house where the other has been in. For example, let your cat wander a bit outside its allocated room. Then have your dog come investigate that same spot. Do the same for your kitty, letting them explore a room the dog has been in. Continue to keep the cat’s “safe” space a dog-free zone - this is important to reduce your cat’s anxiety.

  3. Getting an eyeful
    Most think dogs and cats can't see eye to eye. Well, it's time to bust that myth.

    The first visual introduction should happen when both pets are calm. They should be allowed to escape back to their safe areas without coming into contact with each other. That means putting one animal in a crate and allowing the other to sniff them is a BAD idea. One good option is using a baby gate they can see each other through. It’s wise to perform this introduction after your dog has been on a walk so that they aren’t too excitable.

    Keep these first visual contact sessions short. Provide lots of calm, positive reassurance with rewards and human interactions for good behaviour.

  4. Meeting and greeting
    After your new cat and dog have smelled, heard and seen each other from a distance, it's time for them to get a bit more up close and personal. Try removing barriers, but always actively supervise these early direct contact sessions. If you start to sense tension or discomfort, remember the following:
    • Avoid crisis management. Don't suddenly grab or move towards them. This could frighten them even more and make the situation worse.
    • Keep an eye on your dog. Keep your dog in a harness and on a loose lead just in case, and carefully watch their behaviour and body language. If you need to use the lead, it's best to end the session. Avoid holding your dog on a tight lead as this can create a negative association toward the cat. The next time you try, give your dog a puzzle feeder or lick mat as a distraction tool.
    • Bring backup. Have somebody else around during this process – one person to quietly supervise and communicate with each pet. 

Remember, when it comes to bringing a cat into your dog's world, slow and steady wins the race. Introducing pets requires patience and time. Always ensure initial interactions are short and positive where possible. While some cats and dogs will get along, others simply won’t. But with patience and following the above advice, you can give them the best possible chance of becoming lifelong friends. 

Have you introduced a new cat into your home? If so, what are your favourite tips and tricks?


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