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Bringing a cat into a dog's home: How to introduce the new cat to your dog

Cats and dogs can be great friends, even if they have no experience with each other.
Cats and dogs can be great friends, even if they have no experience with each other.
Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Is it always a bad idea to introduce a cat into your household when you've got a dog that may have no cat experience? If you're a dog owner who wants to get a cat, but have held back because you're afraid there will be problems, then you might benefit from the following advice.

The ASPCA warns that dogs can easily kill cats. If your dog is gentle and friendly, then you can probably safely introduce a cat, or even a kitten, into your home. However, if he's the type that likes to chase and kill squirrels in the yard, then bringing a cat into the house may not be safe. If you have a dog that may see a cat as prey, then not only are you risking the cat's safety, but also your dog's. A cat that's under attack will fight back, and could seriously injure your dog.

You should also consider the personality of the cat. Laid back dogs won't do well with hyperactive cats, for instance. When you go to the shelter or rescue you're thinking of adopting from, explain your dog's personality, and ask them what type of cat they'd recommend for your dog.

So, after all that, if you've decided that bringing a cat into your home is a good idea, how do you do it? According to an article on St. Joseph News-Press' website, "It’s all about making the introductions and the first few weeks as pleasant as possible." That means that you should introduce them slowly, create positive associations and moments, and allow them time to get to know each other, before you allow them to be together all the time.

When you first introduce them, keep your dog on his leash, and let him see the cat walking around. Heidi Ganahl, founder of Camp Bow Bow, which is a doggie daycare franchise, told the News-Press that you should keep a close eye on both the cat and the dog, to be sure that neither is unduly intimidated by the other. You should also be sure that your dog isn't too heavily fixated on the cat. Hold the leash loosely, so you're not restraining your dog, but be ready to tighten your grip on it immediately if he decides to try and run after the cat.

You should also try and create a positive association for your dog. Try feeding him a few treats while the cat's walking around. You might also want to try giving the cat some kitty treats, so it, too, develops a positive association with being in the same room as the dog.

Laurie Salanski, of the St. Joseph Humane Society, told the News-Press that you can also use a baby gate to keep them separated during other times, but can still see and smell each other. If they behave themselves, you can reward both with treats and priase, creating more positive associations.

Make sure the cat has a good place to escape to if she finds your dog too intimidating, or if the dog starts to chase her. Don't restrict her, though, by putting her in a carrier or holding her against her will. That'll create negative associations, and won't help the situation at all.

Sadly, you may find that your dog and new cat just can't get along. To prevent serious injury to both, along with possible damage to your home, you should return the cat to the rescue or shelter where you got him. Animal rights advocates often strongly decry this, but there are times when it's for the best, and this would be one of them.

However, cats and dogs can and do form close relationships. They even take care of each other and groom each other. In other cases, they simply ignore each other, but can live together.