Cat Behavior E-mail

Introducing Your Cat to Other Pets

Cat to Dog:

Introducing a cat to a dog is not always a slam dunk. To some degree its success depends on the characteristics of your dog’s breed – some dog breeds are friendly and welcoming by nature – and others were bred generations ago specifically to hunt down small furry animals. Like cats. Assessing which sort of dog you’ve got, and making sure he’ll obey your wishes matters very much to your new “intruder” kitty. If you yourself are not the Alpha dog in your household - if your dog hasn’t graduated from obedience training - then Fido won’t respect your wishes, and no new kitty would be safe under those circumstances.

Realize this: You can’t control the cat. You can only work to control the dog. When doggy does something right, lavish him with praise. But if the dog makes a mistake, NEVER punish! It’ll just make the cat-dog relationship that much more problematic. Just try again - and have patience, it could take some time to get it right.

Begin the introduction with these steps:

• Keep your new cat/kitten isolated from your dog, in its own safe and secure room.

• Swap scents; using an old blanket or towel, give the item to your cat. Let her play on it, sleep on it, eat on it. Rub her with this blanket and then leave it in her room for 24 hours.

• Remove the blanket and present it to your dog. Rub him all over with it, let him roll on it, sniff it, sleep on it for 24 hours, then switch and do the same thing again. This blends their scents, helping to make them more at ease with each other.

• Use a soft plush dog toy, give it to the dog first, let him play with it, slobber on it and then toss the toy into the room with the cat. Just leave that toy there for a couple of days.

• Under strict supervision (and with one hand firmly restraining Fido by the collar, even if he hasn’t seemed aggressive up til now) it’s time to open the door and begin formal nose to nose introductions.

Cat to Cat:
Important: never bring a new cat/kitten into the same house as the first cat until the newcomer has been completely checked out by the vet. Putting two cats together right away without a vet check could expose your first kitty to potentially dangerous illnesses or parasites. Make sure the new kitty has been given all his age-appropriate shots and a clean bill of health before bringing him home.

Begin the introduction with these steps:

• Keep your new cat isolated from your first cat, in his own safe and secure room.

• Swap scents; using an old blanket or towel, give the item to your new cat. Play interactive games on top of the blanket, using a feather or a string, let him sleep on it, eat on it. Rub him with this blanket and then leave it in his room for 24 hours.

• Remove the blanket and leave it out somewhere for your first cat to find. When first kitty approaches the blanket, watch the body language. Normal language would be sniffing, pawing, and even growling. Warning signs would be flattened ears, twitching tail and hissing. If you see any of these warning signs, you can expect some trouble when the two initially meet. Let first kitty do what he wants with the blanket, let him have it for a day or two. Rub first kitty all over with the blanket, play interactive games on top of it.

• Then, still not washing it, give the blanket back to the newcomer. Let the new one have the blanket for a day or so, and watch the new one’s body language for warning signs.

• If it will fit, lay the blanket flat on the floor underneath the door that separates the two cats. Shut the door, so now the blanket lies on each side of the 2 rooms. They’ll smell each other through the crack in the door, plus they’ll smell the "blended" scent on the blanket. Feed both cats at once on top of the blanket near the door. Put tasty treats (and maybe even a little catnip) on the blanket so they’ll learn to associate each other’s smell with pleasant experiences. Do this at mealtimes for 1-2 days.

• Now it’s time for them to meet. Have a blanket nearby, just in case one or both behaves badly, so you can toss it over a fighting cat to break up the action. Brace yourself…then open the door and let them meet nose to nose for the first time.