If you’ve already got a dog and are looking to introduce a cat into your home, it will take some time to create a harmonious environment where everyone can live safe and happy.
The process can be slow and will not happen overnight. You will need to be patient and ensure you are as prepared as possible to support the physical and emotional needs of all parties ensure a peaceful home well into the future.
Here’s a step by step guide to introducing a new cat into your home:
- Make several preparations before you bring your new friend home: Ensure you have adequate materials to keep both dog and cat separate should they need an extended settling period. Baby gates, separate rooms or outdoor runs are all options to consider.
- Allocate a room for your cat: This dedicated space should be set up exclusively for your cat and contain everything they will need to be comfortable (food, water, litter box, toys and scratching surfaces ). Use a carrier to bring your cat inside and go directly to this room.
- The smell test: Let them sniff each other through the door (the gap underneath the door should be enough to let them get a good whiff of each other). Use the behaviour you observe from each to gauge their compatibility. If your dog appears to be getting very tense and/or excited, call them away from the door and give them something calming (like a long lasting chew or a treat scatter outside) to help them settle.
- Exploring: Once your cat is comfortable in its new room, allow it to freely explore the house while your dog is confined elsewhere. It’s important that your dog is both out of sight (to avoid your dog getting frustrated) and occupied doing something they enjoy (see examples in previous step)
- First face to face introduction: The next big step is to let them meet each other face to face. How your dog reacts to your cat is crucial in deciding the next steps:
- Use a baby gate in the doorway to the cats’ room to ensure that both animals are still separated
- Have some of your dog’s favourite treats on hand to help divert their attention and reward calm behaviour. With greyhounds, a muzzle should always be fitted first for all meetings with cats.
- Open the door to the room and observe your dogs’ reaction
- If your dog becomes very still and tense or appears overly excited, shut the door and try again later.
- If your dog shows no real interest in the cat, this is a great sign that they’re almost ready to cohabitate. Note: getting this reaction from your dog may take days or weeks.
- Once you are happy with step 5, it’s time to let your kitty explore the house while your dog is on a lead and muzzled.
Watch your dog closely during this time. It is often best to have at least two people help with dog to cat meetings as it can be hard to gauge a dog’s facial expression from the other end of the lead. If your dog appears to be fixated on the cat and cannot be distracted away, it’s best to immediately separate them to ensure the safety of both.
Signs that a dog to cat meeting is going well:
- The dog’s facial muscles seem to be relaxed, no intense staring and their mouth is open and relaxed
- The dog’s body appears relaxed, tail is where your dog holds it naturally or loosely wagging (not a high and stiff tail wag)
- Dog’s attention can be called away from the cat by gentle calling them away (and rewarding them if they do!) and the dog does not immediately return to staring at the cat
- Your dog shows no signs of frustration (such as whining, barking or keeping pace with the cat’s movements) and no attempts to chase or otherwise injure the cat
It’s important to remember that all dogs and cats are individuals and some might not be suited to living with the other species. Understand your dog’s preferences before making the decision to add a cat into the home. If in doubt, consider enlisting a friend to introduce their sociable cat to your dog using the process detailed above.