Tips for Introducing Cats and Dogs

You’re ready to turn your home into a multi-species household. Tomorrow, you’ll bring home Lucy, a friendly four-year-old retriever mix who charmed your socks off at the animal shelter. You know your human family members will gravitate to this easygoing girl who seems to love everybody. However, your eight-year-old cat Duke might need some convincing. Although your veterinarian has provided specific advice for introducing the two pets, here are some general guidelines.

Start With Separate Living Quarters

Keep the pets separated until Lucy has gotten a clean bill of health. You want the animals to acclimate to each other’s presence without having a face-to-face encounter.

Begin Close-Proximity Feeding

Feed Lucy and Duke on different sides of a closed door. This way, they’ll connect the other pet’s presence to something positive, such as a tasty meal. Gradually move the bowls closer to the door until they’re just a few inches away.

Teach/Refresh Obedience Skills

Ensure that Lucy has mastered a few basic obedience skills. Using short training sessions, teach her essential commands such as “Sit” and “Down.” Reward her each time she demonstrates the correct behavior.

Launch Face-to-Face Meetings

Bring your canine and feline housemate together in a common area. Keep Lucy on a leash, and allow Duke to pad around freely. Avoid holding either animal, as you don’t want to confine them.

When Lucy sits calmly at your command, reward her with a treat; and acknowledge Duke with a snack. If either pet shows aggression, distract them before returning them to separate areas. The next day, repeat this face-to-face meeting, rewarding each pet with their favorite tidbits when they’re together. Ideally, you’ll end each session before either animal displays stress or signs of aggression.

Allow Supervised Freedom

When Lucy and Duke seem to tolerate each other, allow them to interact freely in the same room. Keep Lucy’s leash attached so you can control her if she becomes too excited. If tension seems to be building, or you witness aggressive behavior, return to the earlier steps. Give Duke access to a dog-free space that contains everything he needs. Keep the pets separated when you’re not available to supervise them.

During Lucy’s next physical checkup, your veterinarian should meet a well-adjusted girl who coexists nicely with her human (and feline) housemates. For expert pet socialization advice, contact us for an appointment.

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