While you might be overjoyed about the prospect of taking your puppy home, your other pets may not share your enthusiasm. You want everyone in the family to love your puppy as much as you, so find out how to introduce them to your cat so they can start off on the right paw together.
Despite what you’ve been told, it’s totally possible for dogs and cats to get along. However it may take you some time and effort to introduce your new puppy to your cat before you can all live harmoniously together under one roof.
Before bringing your puppy home, it’s worth putting yourself in your cat’s shoes – or paws as the case may be! Most cats are territorial creatures who enjoy routine and are prone to stress when major changes occur. “When introducing a new pet to your family it is important to do so in a slow and positive way,” says Serena Dean, Veterinary Behaviour and Training Manager for Greencross Vets.
Preparing your home for a new puppy
Puppies are very curious and excitable which can soon become too much for your cat to handle. Make sure to provide them with access to spaces that they can retreat to for some time out. Your cat may prefer to perch in high up areas like on shelves and window sills so keep these clear of objects that could get knocked down.
You also need to place your cat’s litter box in an area your puppy cannot access, for example by using a gate that your cat will be able to slip through or jump over. This is so that your cat will not be disturbed when they’re doing their business and your puppy does not become sick by eating your cat’s faeces.
Gradually introducing your puppy and your cat
Introducing your puppy and cat properly so there will be no major problems in the future takes patience. Follow our multi-step process to gradually increase the amount of interactions your pets have until they become friendly with one another.
Step one: Becoming familiar with each other’s scent
To make sure the introduction of your two pets goes as smoothly as possible, accustom your cat to the scent of your new puppy before they meet for the first time. You can do this before your puppy is brought home, for example if you have access to them while they’re still with the animal shelter, stroke your new puppy with a cloth and then rub this scent in areas around your house that your cat frequents.
On the day your puppy arrives make sure your cat is contained while your puppy explores their new home. Once your puppy has settled, secure them in another room and let your cat out to investigate these new smells. Repeat this process for a few days so that your pets become familiar with each other’s smells before they meet.
Step two: Face-to-face meetings through a barrier
We recommend that during your puppy and cat’s initial face-to-face interactions, they are not allowed to physically interact. This can be done by placing a barrier between them or keeping one of them in a crate while the other pet is allowed to walk around and sniff them. Serena’s advice is to “slowly introduce your new puppy to your resident pet in short positive sessions starting with a visual introduction through a door screen or on lead with lots of love, praise and reward”.
Alternate which pet you keep in the crate until they can see each other without becoming overly excitable or aggressive. Remember to reward good behaviour, but do not punish your pets for bad behaviour as they may associate this with your other pet which damages their future relationship.
Step three: Controlled physical interaction
Now it’s time for your pet’s to truly be physically introduced to one another. During these first few interactions, you should still keep your puppy on a lead and make sure that your cat has a vantage point they can escape to. “Allow both your new puppy and current pet to have their own personal space as they may be excited, nervous or overwhelmed,” says Serena.
Keep these meetings short and sweet and “reintroduce your new puppy several times in the day, slowly increasing the time spent together and decreasing the distance between them. If your new puppy looks frightened or wishes to retreat, let them”. It’s likely your cat will try and bat your puppy over the nose and growl or hiss at it, which you want to discourage but try not to overreact. When your pets act well, praise them and offer a reward.
Step four: Supervised co-existence
Soon you will feel comfortable letting your pets interact without you controlling their behaviour through barriers or leashes, though you should still keep a close eye on them. Make sure that once your puppy off their leash that they do not chase your cat.
Remember to spend quality time alone with each of your pets so they feel loved and do not become jealous of each other. Don’t feel like you’ve done something wrong if your pets don’t bond immediately. In problematic cases it can take up to six months for pets to get used to one another, but rest assured they will eventually become pals.
- Ensure your cat and new puppy are up-to-date with health checks and vaccinations before making introductions
- Use positive reinforcement and rewards for good behaviour
- Feed your pets individually and keep their toys separate
- Don’t force the interaction, let it develop over time
- Exercise your puppy to tire them out. This will minimise the risk of them annoying your cat
- Supervise your pets’ interactions
- Don’t stress!
If you’re having trouble helping your new puppy and cat get along, see your local Greencross Vets for some personalised advice on how to improve your pets’ behaviour towards each other.