Advice from the Pet Expert: Introducing New Dog to a Resident Cat

Pet training guru at Miss Lola’s Academy for Pets, North Bend resident and guest writer, Melissa Grant, is extremely excited to welcome her new puppy by month’s end, but with a puppy comes LOTS of adjustments – and not just for the humans involved, but also for residents pets whose lives will change.  So here’s some advice from Melissa….

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This is my new dog Bee. She isn’t home yet, but will be at the end of August.

And this is my 14-year-old cat Aknot.  He doesn’t know about Bee yet, and I’m frankly a little afraid to tell him. Wouldn’t you be?

Bee

Bee

cat

Aknot

Upon moving out here to the wilds of North Bend, my late dog Lola and I came to live with three kitties. Two of the kitties, who are now deceased, had no real problems adjusting to us, but Aknot was a tougher nut to crack when it came to canine/feline relations.

Lola was an extraordinarily gentle dog with little to no instinct to chase; even so, Aknot wanted zero to do with her at first. He would hiss and hide upstairs.  The other two cats would snuggle up to Lola on the couch, sling a leg over her and nap contentedly all day long, but Aknot glowered from his perch upstairs. Eventually they came to an uneasy truce and could tolerate being in the same room together, but were never truly friends.

Now I have Bee coming and my thoughts are turning to how I will introduce her to crotchety old Aknot. I would like the kitty to have the freedom to move about the house unmolested and not have to return to his upstairs perch.  It literally took years for Lola and Aknot to develop a somewhat trusting relationship, so I realize this won’t be an easy task.

I’m expecting that one of a couple of things may happen with the puppy:

  • The new puppy may see the cat as a playmate and try to play with him.
  • The pup could see the cat as prey and try to chase him
  • Or the pup could be afraid of kitty and practice avoidance (probably the best choice all around)

As far as the cat goes he could:

  • Be cautious and practice avoidance, going back up to his upstairs safety zone
  • See the dog as an intruder and react defensively
  • Or snuggle up on the sofa happily with his new friend (sigh….doubtful)

I need to be sure that this introduction goes smoothly and set everyone up for a successful outcome. These first couple days will be crucial for our animals’ future relationship and safety.

In Their Own Time

In my experience with cats, first impressions are very important. Aknot needs to be able to approach the Bee in his own time, at his own pace. His environment should not be changed significantly. Bee will not be allowed off-leash freedom when the cat is present. I could be one merry chase away from a bleeding pup and a cat who no longer trusts me.

Rewarding Appropriate Behavior

I will bring the cat to the steps, out of reach of the dog, and reward him for showing benign interest with his favorite treats. The dog will also be rewarded for calm attention. When Aknot wants to leave, he can leave. There will be no forced interaction with Bee. At no time will either animal be punished for misbehaving around the other animal. I do not want any negative associations to develop between these two potential friends.

Crates & Gates are Your Friend

If, in time, Aknot comes downstairs, I will put Bee behind a gate, in a pen or crate, and again reward Aknot for showing interest or for approaching the dog. Any barking, chasing or rambunctious behavior will be interrupted and redirected.

Hoping for the Best

My hope is that in time Bee will learn (with help from me and a few obedience commands) to control herself and Aknot will come to see Bee as a new friend and not a threat.  In the meantime, the cat will always have escape routes and high perches to observe her new friend.

Wish me luck! I think I have my work cut out for myself. Woof!

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