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How to Ease Introductions Between Dogs and Cats

Cats and dogs need help to meet and do well together.

It might be cliché that dogs and cats are mortal enemies, but it is true that they can often misunderstand each other, sometimes resulting in animosity. And most dogs are larger than most cats, so that can create a bit of feline defensiveness, too. If you have a dog or cat already and are getting a member of the other species, be sure you are prepared to help the introductions go smoothly and set the course for a lasting friendship rather than a contentious relationship.

Don't Leave Things to Chance

There's a common belief among pet owners that dog and cat members of the household will "work it out" amongst themselves if left alone. Don't rely on that because it is often not the case. Instead, early negative interactions between a dog and cat can lead to long-term problems and even injury of one or both of them.

Instead, the introduction of your dog and cat should be planned, orchestrated, and supervised by you. Remember, even if you think you know your dog well, if you've never seen him interact with cats, he might surprise you and act in an aggressive manner. This can happen quickly and be a surprise.

If you already have a cat and are getting a new dog, look for one that is used to cats and has a track record of being good with them. Alternatively, if you have a dog and are going to bring a cat home, be sure your dog is well leash-trained, knows how to sit and lie down on command, and responds reliably to the word "no."

Separate the Dog and Cat at First

When you first bring home a new pet, it's good to confine the cat to a small room. This is the case whether the cat is the resident or the new arrival. Set up a nice room with a cat bed, litter box, food, water, and a scratching post. People should visit to pet and play with the kitty often.

The cat will be able to start getting used to the dog's scent and noises from the safety of the room, and the dog will probably snuffle around the bottom of the door, too. After a few days, put the dog on a leash and let the cat out of the room. Allow them to see each other, but don't let the dog chase or harass the cat. Don't force the two to play together or even interact, but simply give positive reinforcement to both of them.

Depending on how both pets react during this initial meeting, you can continue to give them short times together like that for a while. Once the dog doesn't seem interested in chasing the cat and the kitty appears comfortable with the dog's presence, you can try letting the dog off-leash. This might take a few days, or it could be months. Go slowly, don't force things, and make sure all interactions are positive.

It's good to keep a place that your cat can go to get away from the dog anytime, even once the two seem to be friends and the cat is no longer confined to the safe room. Baby gates separating certain areas can work well for this.

Consider Soft Paws to Make Things Safer

Using Soft Paws® on the cat can help decrease the chances of the dog being injured by a cat scratch during the introduction period. While supervision should not be replaced by Soft Paws®, it is an excellent tool for easing meetings between the two. A painful scratch on a sensitive nose can make a dog angry or fearful and damage the relationship early and irreperably.

Use Calming Pheromones for Both Pets

Calming pheromones for both the cat and dog can go a long way toward keeping things peaceful between them. Feliway is available in a spray or diffuser to help ease anxiety in cats, and DAP comes in a spray, collar, or diffuser to help dogs feel more calm.

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