Congratulations on your newly adopted cat (or kitten)!
Bringing home a new cat is an exciting time for the entire family! For any canine members of your pack, though, adding a new cat to the fam can be a little stressful. But it doesn’t have to be! Here a step-by-step guide to ensuring a stress-free introduction of your cat to the family!
1. Give Your Cat Space
Start by providing a safe place for your cat to get comfy. Choose a place away from other pets and busy areas in your home (kitchens, living rooms, etc). Ideal spots are large guest bathrooms, quiet guest bedrooms, and home offices. Wherever you choose, ensure your cat has room to comfortably play, eat, sleep, hide, and use their litterbox.
Be sure your cat’s hideaway includes: a clean and easily accessible litter box, food and water, and a bed, all separate from one another. It can also be helpful to use pheromones diffusers such as Feliway in the room as these can help alleviate stress and anxiety.
This is also the ideal time to begin interacting with your cat. While young cats may be eager to play, older kitties may need more time to adjust; be sure to pay attention to your cat’s behavior and plan your interactions accordingly.
Be sure your cat is first comfortable with you before moving on to any dog introductions.
2. Begin Scent Introduction
Here’s how to successfully introduce your two pets via scent!
- Make mealtime intros
Feed your cat and dog on opposite sides of a closed door. Avoid having the pets too close, this can distract from the food and cause stress. Feeding your pets in proximity helps them associate something rewarding (food) with each other’s smells and sounds. Once both animals seem comfortable while eating, gradually move the dishes closer and closer to the door, always keeping it closed.
- Scent Swap
Take an item from each pet’s bed (a blanket, pillow, or towel) and place it in the other animal’s living area. This will help both your dog and cat adjust to the other’s scent, ensuring a calmer introduction later. Be sure to change these items regularly to keep the scents fresh.
3. Have a Leash Introduction
Take your pup for a walk or let them outside to release some energy.
Once your dog is calm, while still holding the leash securely, have them sit or lay down and begin rewarding them with treats.
Next, have a friend or family member bring the cat into the opposite side of the room; give both pets treats at this time. If your dog becomes over stimulated, remove them from the room until they’re calm and repeat this introduction.
Have leashed interactions several times a day, keeping them short to avoid stress for both pets. Continue these steps until both animals feel consistently comfortable.
3. Progressive Interaction
Allow your cat/kitten to choose when they want to approach your leashed dog. There’s no definitive timeline for when this should happen; your cat will approach your dog when they’re ready.
During this time, focus on positive reinforcement. Anytime your cat goes near your dog, give them both a treat. The first several interactions may be chaotic, resulting in your cat hissing or your dog barking. Ensure your cat has a way to escape your dog, and never punish either pet for aggressive behavior; simply remove them from the area and allow both animals to calm down.
Once you’re comfortable with leashed interactions, drop the lead and allow your dog to interact with your cat independently. Always be ready to grab the leash if needed. Continue with this slow interaction (only as long as both animals will allow).
Have treats on hand to distract either pet if they become overly stimulated and be ready to separate the two if there’s a sign of stress or anxiety. Ensure you’re always present to supervise during the phase of interactions.
Preparing your pets to get along is important, but so is preparing to provide veterinary care in the event of an unexpected accident or illness. With Companion Protect® coverage, you can rest easy knowing your furry family is covered from nose to tail!
Prior to Companion Protect, Jordan worked as a veterinary technician for 6 years in both private practice and animal shelters. She’s a proud animal advocate, strong anti-BSL supporter, and active dog foster. She’s also a proud mom to loveable pittie, Brewer, sassy boxer mix, Ellie, and a toothless cat named Drools. In her free time she enjoys yoga, breweries, patio sitting, and adventures in her local Kansas City area.
Wilson has written for brands in the tech, e-commerce, construction, health, and finance industries. In his free time, he enjoys cooking for friends and family, spoiling his dog-daughter (Penny), painting, and playing music with friends. And speaking of food, his favorite meal is his mom’s pot roast and mashed potatoes!