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May I Introduce…Fido?

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When introducing a dog to a cat, the question is really one of proper dog training. Dogs usually want to chase and play with cats, and cats are usually afraid and defensive. After all, the cat has a lot more to lose if the relationship gets nasty. Once the cat is confident that the dog does not pose a threat, then the opportunity opens for a wonderful friendship to blossom.

Keeping the dog on a leash at all times when the introduction is to start, if the dog sees the cat keep them from barking, growling or lunging toward the cat. Reward the dog with treats or a favorite toy if he obeys. (NOT a squeak toy, this will frighten the cat.)  Don’t yell or scream at the dog for not obeying, this behavior will only scare the cat and the cat will associate your yelling and fear with seeing the dog. NEVER allow the dog to chase the cat, if this is allowed to happen, just one time, getting the two to accept each other will almost be impossible. Keep the dog on leash at all times until he sees the cat and does not get aggressive. The dog generally just wants to play and chase the cat. The cat on the other hand associates this behavior with aggression and fear, and will want to get away.

  • As with all animal introductions, scent is the all-important factor in getting acquainted. Before letting the pets have visual contact with each other, let them sniff each other’s bedding.
  • The dog should know some basic commands like “sit”, “down”, “come”, and “stay”. Reward obedience with food treats so that the motivation to comply will be strong enough to withstand the distraction of having a cat in the room.
  • After the basic training is mastered, it is time for a face-to-face introduction in a controlled manner. Wearing a training collar and a leash, give your dog the command to either “sit” or “down” and “stay”.  Reinforce compliance with food rewards. Have a family member enter the room and quietly sit down with the cat on his lap, at first the cat and dog should be on opposite sides of the room. Repeat this step several times until both the cat and the dog are tolerating each other without signs of aggression or fear. Don’t restrain or hold the cat against their will, this will only frighten the cat further and they will associate the fear while being around the dog. If the cat wants to escape, let them and try the introduction at another time. If after you accomplish this step you can move on, but not until all is calm.bernese moutain dog and cat
  • Next, move the animals closer together, with the dog still on the leash and the cat gently held in a lap. If the cat does not like to be held, you can use a wire crate or carrier instead. If the dog gets up from his “stay” position, he should be firmly repositioned, and praised and rewarded for obeying the “stay” command. If the cat becomes frightened, increase the distance between the animals and progress more slowly. It must be on the cats terms.
    Initially, the dog should always be wearing a training collar and a leash when the cat is present so that any attempt to bark at, or chase, the dog can be halted instantly.
  • Praise and food treats should be lavished on the dog when he is calm and obedient in the cat’s presence. (If he is only punished when the cat is around, he may redirect aggression toward the cat, associating the cat with being punished.)
  • Be sure that the cat does not have to pass by the dog’s area to get to the litter boxes or they may look for a safer and more convenient place to eliminate.  As some dogs enjoy “raiding” the litter box, it may be best to place a baby gate across the entrance of the room to allow the cat in, but not the dog to pass through.
     Precautions: Keep the dog and cat separated when you are not home until you are certain that the cat will be safe.

    This needs to be done slowly, once the cat is not afraid of the dog and the dog shows no concern with the cat in the same room you will have peace and harmony. A happy cat and dog. They will become long lasting friends. You may even find them sleeping together.

Golden Retriever puppy and ginger kitten

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