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Healthy Cats

When Dog and Cat Meet

Tips for introducing your newest member of the household.
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WebMD Pet Health Feature

It's exciting to add a cuddly new pet to your life, except maybe when you have to introduce it to another pet that has already staked claim to your home. That's especially true if one's a dog and the other's a cat. But whether you're introducing a new dog to your cats -- or a new cat to your dogs -- it doesn't have to be hard. Here is some expert advice to help keep peace during the transition.

Watch the Dog

If there's going to be a problem during cat and dog introductions, says Katherine A. Houpt, James Law Professor of Behavior Medicine - Emeritus at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine, it's usually caused by the dog.

Most dogs will chase a rapidly moving object. So if a cat gets frightened and runs, "a dog often feels honor-bound to chase it," Houpt says. "It's important to nip that in the bud." If you don't, the result can be injury, and even death, for the cat.

Basic Rules

  • Make sure your cat can run and hide if it wants to. Whether your cat is the newbie or the senior pet in the house, the cat needs to be able to move freely when the introduction is made. Christopher Pachel, DVM, a veterinarian who focuses on animal behavior issues says there should be perches or cubbies for hiding, someplace where the cat can get off the floor and settle in. "You basically want an elevated resting place [for the cat]."
  • Make sure your puppy or dog is well restrained. Your dog shouldn’t be able to chase, even if the cat darts away. "This is a bigger issue with herding breed dogs, who have a prey instinct," Pachel says. "But it's really a hardwired response in all dogs to chase small fluffy things that run away quickly."
  • Consider baby gates. Gates can help you gradually introduce dogs and cats, and the barrier minimizes danger to the cat. Houpt says a baby gate is often better than a cat carrier because it gives the cat much-needed freedom.

 

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