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Getting a New Dog? How to Acclimate the Family Cat

 by wai on 13 Feb 2014 |
1 Comment(s)

Bringing a new dog or puppy home is an exciting and joyful time for families, but the furry newcomer may not be a welcome addition for every family member; namely, the resident cat. Cats don't always take well to change, and when a new pet enters their domain, their stress levels can rise. The good news is, cats and dogs can and do live together in peace and can even become the best of friends. What's important is to make sure the cat is properly acclimated to the new family member. Here's how:

Give the cat a space of her own. Cats need a place where they can feel safe from outside stressors. A separate room where the new dog or puppy can't go works well. Or, block off the upstairs so the cat can roam freely on a different level of the house. Be careful not to isolate the cat completely, though; instead, allow the cat to view the new pet from a distance and to become familiar with its scent. 

Show that the new dog isn't a threat. Have the cat observe your behavior with the new dog to prove that the newcomer is not a threat. By watching and listening to your gentle interaction while you're training the puppy or just quietly bonding, the cat will associate positive feelings with the new animal. Crating the new dog at night or when you are not home also helps alleviate threat issues for cats.

Supervise the cat and dog during early introductions. Always supervise the cat and new dog while they are getting acquainted to avoid harm to either animal. It's a good idea to keep the new dog on a leash during early introductions, too, so that you can restrain the dog if it gets too rambunctious or tries to chase the cat. Praise and offer treats to both pets for good behavior.
 


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Keep cat routines the same. Showing resident cats that nothing concerning them has changed, despite the new dog, helps them feel secure. Keep the cat's feeding schedule the same, continue daily play sessions, and let the cat spend time snuggling with you--even if this means separating yourself from the new dog. If you have other pets, let the cat spend time with them too, away from the new pup.

Expect the cat to hiss. Cats often hiss at new pets. It's a natural defense mechanism and a way to show seniority.  A resident cat's hissing or batting at a new dog or puppy may actually be a good thing because it helps avert further negative behavior; most dogs will back away when a cat offers this type of warning. Be sure to intervene if the dog or cat shows signs of aggression.

Don't force the relationship. Forcing a cat to like a new pet before the cat is ready could backfire. Give the cat opportunities to get comfortably close to the new dog, and don't worry if the process is slow. Some cats adjust quickly to change while others take a long time. The cat will eventually realize that the dog is here to stay and will adjust.

If you're bringing a new dog into the home, take the time and effort to acclimate the newcomer to the family cat. Doing so is key to a happy, stress-free environment for your pets--and you.

Comment(s)1

Merrilyn - Comment
Merrilyn13 Feb 2014Reply
In this neighbourhood, six cats won't eat, despite the fact they are all fed different things.
Put out a plate and they race towards it, then turn up their nose and walk away. They haunt us for more food - only eating meat/chicken/fish meant for humans.
What are they putting in the cat food now, that they never used before?

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