Cats Meeting Dogs
Introducing your new cat to your family dog
Despite popular belief that cats and dogs are sworn enemies, if introduced correctly they can actually be great friends. This takes time however, and extreme caution as dogs generally just want to play and chase cats, while cats misinterpret and get defensive and afraid.
Dogs are quite capable of seriously injuring or even killing cats even though they could just be playing. And some dogs have such a high prey instinct that they should never be left alone with a cat.
So, how do we manage this introduction?
Before bringing your cat/kitten home
- Teach your dog or make sure neighbouring dogs knows and responds to basic commands: 'sit', 'come', 'down', 'stay'.
- Observe the dogs reactions around other cats and while out for a walk
- Ensure you teach your dog that chasing and rough play are unacceptable and reward them with treats and praise for good behaviour (coming when called, sitting or lying down when commanded). If your dog is always punished or never has 'good' things when your cat is around it may become aggressive towards the cat. Never allow your dog to chase the cat as once this starts it changes from playing to hunting.
- Keep your dog on a leash and at your side the entire time through the introduction process.
- Ensure your cat has an escape route and place to hide. Cats like to be able to climb higher than your dog. Until you're certain that they will both be safe keep them separated when you aren't around to supervise or are going out somewhere.
- In general, kittens are more likely to be injured or killed and will need to be kept separate from an energetic dog until they are fully grown except for supervised play periods.
- When introductions don't go well, seek professional advice immediately such as your vet or an animal behaviour specialist. Animals can be severely injured during fights. The longer the problem continues, the harder it is to resolve. Punishment won't work and is likely to make things worse. Most conflicts can be resolved with professional guidance.