Make sure you have a safe space for your cat that your dog cannot access. Move all essentials here (food, water, litter tray). Use a stair gate, so that the dog cannot access the cats area. Make sure you have enough high spaces for your cat to get to if they get worried or scared.
Never underestimate the importance of smell to dogs and cats, you can introduce their individual scent even before the other pet comes home. Take a soft cloth and gently wipe this over your cats head and body, and then you can introduce this to the dog, vise versa to get the dogs scent. This way they get to know about each other before they meet.
When you bring your new dog home it is really important to keep them away from the existing pet at first, this will allow you to continue the really important process of scent swapping. Stroke each pet individually without washing your hands to mix their scents. You can also gather scent from your new pet by gently stroking them with a soft cloth and rubbing the scent on furniture around your house. For this reason it is good to delay the pets meeting for a few days or maybe even a week or longer. You can let your new dog explore the house while your cat is out of the house.
Before you begin first introductions, make sure you exercise your dog well, this is particularly important if your dog is a puppy or excitable, never, ever let your dog chase the cat, even if he doesn’t mean the cat any harm, the cat won’t know this and it’s likely to be so frightened that it won’t ever want to be near the dog again. Often dogs who get into the habit of chasing find it hard to break or stop this habit, so it’s better you prevent this all together in the first place. Make sure your dog is on a lead behind the stair gate, also make sure you have prepared some treats your dog likes to reward him for calm and relaxed behavior. Allow the cat to see the dog and approach if they want to. Cats like to watch and spend time deciding wether or not it’s safe to approach, it’s important that they are allowed to do this in their own time, never bring your cat closer by picking him up, if the cat panics you are likely to get scratched or bitten. Your dog might become a little bit impatient in this situation, so move them away and give them time to cool down. If they want to look at the cat, let them do it, but if they stare for too long, intervene or interrupt with food, but don’t forget to reward calm and relaxed behavior. Keep these introductions really short and always end on a positive note. If any of the pets are frightened just go back a few steps, continue with the scent swapping and try again the next day. Don’t leave your cat and dog alone together until you are sure they are comfortable in each other’s company. If your dog is used to a dog crate, this will make the process much easier, let your cat out of its safe space while the dog is in the crate and let the cat explore and smell.
If you continue these meetings regularly, you will begin to see an increase in the cats confidence and a reduction in the dogs excitement as they get used to each other’s company. If you don’t see a change don’t and you are worried about either pets safety, seek professional help
All being well, you can allow your dog and cat to interact more freely, to avoid chasing always make sure your dog is on a lead. Cat food is very tempting for any dog so keep it out of the way, likewise a litter tray can be pretty tempting too, so keep it out of the dogs reach. Take extra care with breeds that are bred to chase like greyhounds and terriers or dogs that are generally more excitable, these dogs will have to be kept under control for a longer period of time to assure no chasing will ensue.
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