Brining a new dog into a household with a cat
What is the best way to introduce a new dog family member to an existing cat family member? The cat is usually pretty tolerable of dogs that I have rescued and returned to their owners but this time I think she figured out this dog wasn't leaving. The dog is not aggressive towards my cats and would really like to play with them.
A new dog family member can be successfully introduced into a cat’s life, especially if the right steps are taken. Just keep in mind that no matter how awesome the dog is, the cat may feel differently and think that this is an intrusion into his or her “territory.” A good first step is to equip your house with cat pheromone diffusers (Feliway). This pheromone helps cats to feel relaxed and aids to prevent anxiety. Another good step is to make sure that the cats have a safe place (or several) where they can go to completely be away from the dog. If your cats like to spend time under your bed, fit your door with a baby gate with a small hole cut in the bottom. This way, your cats can “escape” to their spot and the dog cannot pursue or “invade” their space. Providing ‘cat trees’ or ‘cat condos’ is also a good outlet. Also make sure that the cat’s food and water sources are away from the dog. This way they don’t’ feel like their resources are being put at risk.
Keep in mind that some cats never fully accept their new canine family members. This is okay, don’t force it on them. If the cat doesn’t want to play, allow it to get away and not be traumatized too much. Over time, they may relax and discover that this new dog isn’t so bad after all.
If the dog likes to pursue the cats in a shared space such as the living room, you need to invest in some training. Dogs can be successfully trained to “leave it” or leave the cat alone with reward-based training. If the cat is relaxing on top of the couch (a place where she feels safe, perhaps) and the dog tries to go after her, keep the dog on the leash and pull her over to you. The more the dog pays attention to YOU (getting treats and praise), the less interesting the cat will be. Over time, you should be able to say a key phrase, such as “LEAVE IT” when the dog shows interest in the cat, and he will leave the cat alone and come to you.
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