August 07, 2023 5 min read

When bringing home a new pet to your house, you will be very excited and can’t wait to start your new life with another furry creature running around. However, it’s important to remember, this new change might be exciting for you but might not be exciting for your residential pet. It will most likely be stressful for them. That’s why you need to introduce this new change gradually. Whether you’re bringing home a new puppy to your cat, or bringing home a new cat to your dog, it’s important to introduce them slowly over time. We’ve listed some steps here to help you begin this process of introducing your old furry friend to your new one!

Important Things to Keep in Mind

Always keep safety at the forefront of any introductions to cats and dogs. Dogs can very easily hurt or gravely injure cats. That’s why it’s important to keep the introductions slow and gradual. When picking out a new pet, think about your residential pet’s personality. You don’t want to get a playful dog and a scared cat, as this could lead to unwanted chase sessions. Instead try to get animals who match personalities like a playful dog and a confident cat, or two pets who are calm and relaxed. Be sure your current pet will be happy with a new friend. If they continually hiss or bark and attack all the new pets you try to bring home, they might just need to live without another species. If your cat refuses to eat or use the litter box after bringing home a new dog, you might need to find a better match. Be aware even if you want to get a new pet, it might not work out with your old one. You should be prepared to deal with that if you cannot find a suitable companion for your pet that makes everyone happy. There are ways to gradually introduce a new pet that will increase the chances all your furry friends will get along!

1. Separate

When you first bring a new pet home, it’s important to keep them separate from each other. You want to do this for two main reasons:

1.) You want to take your new pet to the vet and get them a clean bill of health before introducing them to your residential pet to prevent the spread of any potential diseases.

2.) Your dog may get too excited meeting a new cat, and your cat may get scared seeing a new dog. Keeping them separate will allow them to get used to each other’s presence without overwhelming them.

Give the cat a dog-free room or even a floor of your house. Make sure the cat has everything they need in their dog-free space like water and food dishes, litter box, scratching post, and toys.

2. Rotate, Swap Scents, Feed

Keeping your dog and cat separate, rotate them in and out of the confinement room to get them used to each other’s scents. Keep the dog in a room, outside, or in a crate and let the cat explore the house. Or keep your cat in their dog-free room and let the dog explore the house.

Swap blankets, towels, and bedding to let your pets get used to each other’s scents. Increasing the exposure to the other pet will allow them to get used to the new sensations of having a second creature wandering around.

Feed your pets on opposite sides of a closed door. As they get used to each other and become calmer in each other’s presence, move their food dishes closer and closer to the door.

3. Face-to-Face Meetings

Begin face-to-face meetings with a barrier in between them. Although your pets have become used to each other’s scents, the sight of a new creature might excite or stress your pet. Open the door a crack, or set up a pet gate. Make sure your pets can see each other but cannot access the other. Use these meetings as feeding time or use treats. Positively associating the new friend with food with help to lower any aggression or apprehension. If your dog becomes too excited upon seeing the cat, it might be a good idea to go back to closed door interactions for a bit. Use treats to distract your dog from the cat and positively reward your dog when they do. This will help to desensitize your dog to the cat and keep interactions calmer.

4. Leashed Meetings

Once your pets have had calm face-to-face meetings behind a barrier, you can try a leashed meeting in the same room. Let your cat loose in a room and keep your dog on a leash. Be mindful of both pets’ body language. If either seems to be getting aggressive, you should create more distance between them or separate them again.

Keep your dog on a leash while the cat roams the room. Use commands and treats to keep your dog’s focus away from the cat. You do not want your dog to be fixated on the cat to the point where they are ignoring you. Positively reinforce your dog ignoring the cat by using treats.

Try having another person in the room to help and give the cat treats as well. The enjoyable aspect of the treats will make the meeting experience more pleasant and less aggressive.

Be sure to keep the visits short at first so no one is overwhelmed. If you see any aggressive behavior from either pet, be sure to stop it and separate them. You don’t want aggression to become a habit as it will become more difficult to stop later. Don’t punish the dog when meeting with the cat, as this may make your dog associate the punishment with the cat and become aggressive towards it. Instead stick to positive rewards for ignoring the cat.

If the meetings continue to be positive, you can increase the time spent together. After multiple successful leashed meetings, you start letting the dog roam the room too. Be sure to keep the leash on the dog even if you aren’t holding it, in case you have to intervene. Make sure the cat has escape routes and high shelves they can jump to if they get nervous. Keep an eye out for any aggressive body language like barking and growling or intense staring from your dog, or raised fur, hissing and growling, or swatting from your cat. If any animal begins to show signs of aggression, separate them, and start over. Continue with leashed meetings until your dog can remain calm and your cat can eat, drink, and use the litter box normally.

Always supervise the interactions between your pets. When you leave the house keep them in separate rooms. Even after they can be calm together, it’s better to keep unsupervised interactions to a minimum until you are sure your cat will be safe.

Be sure to find a companion that will best suit the personality of your current pet. Introduce them slowly over time and use positive reinforcement to help them get along. Keep an eye out for any aggressive behavior and body language and be prepared to intervene if necessary. The introduction process may not be linear and make take anywhere from days to months to get your pets fully acclimated to each other. If you’re willing to put in the work, then you’ll be able to find a new furry friend!

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