Getting a puppy can be an incredible experience for both owner and pet. Getting a puppy when you already have a cat, however, can be a stressful idea. Introducing a puppy to a cat’s household can be a difficult process, but it’s not impossible. Puppies are easier to introduce to cats than adult dogs because they’re still learning and can adapt their behavior more easily. To make that first meeting go as smoothly as possible, here’s what you should know:
Start With Separation
It’s vital to consider, when first getting a puppy, how they might act around other pets—especially cats. Puppies are very social animals, while cats are very territorial and may become suspicious of a new guest. So, it’s critical to take very small steps when beginning introductions. The first step is to keep them completely separated, with their feeding and playtime essentials in their own rooms.
Next, you can begin to introduce their scents to one another. Start by placing blankets and towels with their scents in each other’s rooms. That way your cat can be familiar with your dog’s scent and vice versa. After they’ve become familiar with each other’s scents, you can then start switching their rooms. Begin by putting your cat in your dog's now vacant room and your dog in the cat’s old room. This will make them both more accustomed to being around each other. After switching their rooms several times, you can then start thinking of how to introduce your new puppy to your cat.
How to Introduce a Puppy to Your Cat
After they have learned each other’s scents for a bit of time, it’s time to introduce them to one another. Alternating confinement is a great way to begin the process. Start by confining your puppy first. Cats are very cautious creatures by nature so they won’t go directly after the puppy. They will watch him from afar to better understand their new guest. After your cat has begun to understand that a puppy will be in their space, switch confinement.
Place your cat in a safe and well-confined space, and let your puppy explore their new home and introduce themselves to your cat. Keeping your puppy on an indoor leash will help prevent and correct any aggressive behavior. A leash also helps you to keep a close watch on how your pets interact with each other. Your puppy may begin to sniff and paw at the door in which your cat is confined. This is perfectly normal behavior, and the confinement will help introduce your cat to these behaviors as well.
Another method of introducing your puppy and cat is to place barriers around the house. The barriers will likely be easy for your cat to climb, while keeping your puppy’s space limited. This will give your cat the comfort of having some free space away from your puppy. After plenty of mild separation, you’re well on your way to having your puppy and cat live harmoniously together.
Contrary to popular belief, cats and puppies can live together. Introducing your puppy to your cat takes a lot of discipline and understanding of your pets needs. Cats are happy being alone and observing, while dogs love to mingle and chase. So, cats need high perches and escapes to feel safe and comfortable in a home, especially when living with a dog. While your pets are getting used to each other, you might want to crate both of them while you are out of the house to keep them out of trouble.
Understanding and disciplining your dog’s behavior around a cat is a critical part of being a pet owner. Be sure to reward them when they show positive behavior around the cat. There will also be lapses in behavior between your cat and dog. It’s imperative not to immediately punish your puppy, as this could be counterproductive and create a more stressful living situation. Instead, try distracting your puppy with a toy, food, or an uplifting voice. Then when he leaves your cat alone, reward him with a treat.
Cats and puppies living together can seem like a very stressful idea. But with the right discipline, technique, and understanding, puppies and cats can grow into best friends, creating a wholesome and enjoyable living experience for pet owners.