There is a lot of information floating around about the best way to introduce cats and dogs. Some of this information is very valuable, and other information can severely damage the relationship between your pets, the relationship between you and your pets, and even put you and your pets in a potentially dangerous situation. I’ve complied a list of some very important things to keep in mind when introducing dogs and cats.
Go Slow! I like to remind my clients that you can always go too fast, but you can never go too slow. If you try to introduce pets too quickly when they are not giving you signs that they are comfortable you can put yourself back to square one or even worse.
Don’t force the introduction! Many people think that holding the cat or putting it in a carrier or cage and then putting it right in the dogs face is the best way for the dog to smell the cat and get used to its scent. But what about the cat? You can create a very fearful or defensive cat and get yourself and/or the animals hurt in the process. Instead, rotate blankets and beds so that they get used to each other’s scent without the fear or potential for harm.
Give plenty of vertical space. When we talk about vertical space we are referring to tall towers or shelves that are appropriate for the cat to be on and will be well out of the dogs reach. This will help the cats to be comfortable and confident in the space. You can also give the cat a room with a baby gate on it that the dog does not have access to so that they have a space for their litter, food, and water.
Don’t punish! Using force or punishment can make the situation worse because you are building the association that the other animal means something negative will happen. You also aren’t teaching your pet what you would like them to do. Never use prong, choke, or shock collars on any of your pets.
Make it a positive experience. Use high value food or another super valuable thing such as toys or petting when your pets are in the same area. Reward them for looking at each other and being in the same space as one another. Remember- each pet has a different definition of high value. If you need some ideas, just ask!
Train your pets. Both cats and dogs can be trained using positive reinforcement. By using basic cues such as sit, down, place, and look at that, you can teach your pet to be well behaved and calm in the presence of the other animal. Training together also can help to build a bond with them. You can train your dog on the floor and your cat up on a table or counter. It will be mentally stimulating and fun for everyone!
As always, if you need further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me for a consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-808-7297. We want you to have a happy, harmonious home for all of your pets!