Time and patience are the keys to successfully introducing a new dog to your resident cats.
A single hostile encounter can set their relationship tone for a long time – so let's keep it positive.
Step one: give them time
Allow your new dog at least 24-hours to adjust to your home and get to know you before beginning any introductions with your cats. Keep your new pet in a separate comfortable area to avoid any unscheduled meetings with your resident cat.
Step two: swap items
Swap a couple of their bedding items so that both pets can adjust to each other's scent. Keep your dog and cat in separate areas and give both pets treats while doing this, so they associate the smell with something good.
Step three: the first glimpse
When your pets are relaxed about each other's presence in the house, you can try opening the door that separates their areas. Place a barrier or room divider between the pets to let them see each other without touching.
Give them both toys and treats on each side of the divider.
It will help to have one person with your dog and one person with your cat, so each of you can focus entirely on one pet.
Step four: practice
With the door open, ask your new dog to focus on you, not the cat, and reward them when they do. You might ask them to sit, lay down, or call their name.
Keep rewarding your cat with treats and allow them to hide or leave the situation.
Repeat this daily, every 30 minutes for around 2-5 minutes per session, until your dog can focus on you entirely and your cat is showing that they're comfortable.
Step five: first meet
Once both pets are comfortable with this limited exposure, bring your dog into the cat's space on a lead. Close the door behind you so that your cat can't escape and repeat the same interactions as in step four until both pets are comfortable.
Step six: gradually increase
Slowly increase the length of their interactions. Hopefully, after a few days of positive interactions, both pets are relaxed and unconcerned about each other.
Things to remember
- Take every introduction at your pets' pace
- Be patient, calm and never force your cat and dog to be together
- A good outcome is that both pets end up tolerating each other. Anything more is a bonus
- Praise both pets throughout meetings and give them treats. Never punish or use harsh tones
- Give your dog lots of attention, so jealousy doesn't become an issue
- Keep the pets separated when you are not home to supervise until you are confident they can tolerate each other
- If either pet becomes fearful or hostile, return to a previous step – a minor setback will not ruin the friendship, but an aggressive encounter could end badly and affect the future relationship
- Remember your pets may take two to three months to reach a comfortable place