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Healthy Cats

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When Dog and Cat Meet

Tips for introducing your newest member of the household.

Age Can Make a Difference

When introducing a new pet to the household, youth can be a virtue. That's because puppies are much less dangerous to adult cats, and kittens can be quite fearless with adult dogs, Houpt says.

The same safety rules still apply, though. When adding a kitten or puppy, you may want to enforce separation longer or extend your period of supervision. That's because kittens tend to scurry (an enticing behavior for dogs) and puppies "are just goofy and will want to pester the cat," Pachel says.

4 Don'ts

Here are four common mistakes you don't want to make when introducing cats and dogs:

  • Forcing physical proximity: Picking up your cat and holding it in your dog's face by way of introduction will tempt your cat to scratch the dog and encourage the dog to not like the cat. Always let kitty decide when or if it will approach the dog.
  • Not knowing the background of the dog you adopt. Adopting a dog from a shelter is often a wonderful idea, especially if you don't have other pets. But Houpt notes that people rarely know a shelter dog's past. "If a 2-year-old dog is looking for a home, there's usually a good reason," Houpt says. In some cases, the dog may be aggressive, destructive, or have other problems. If you want to bring a canine into a feline household, Houpt usually recommends getting a puppy.
  • Not preparing your pet for change: Pachel suggests making changes -- like moving your cat's litter box, putting up a baby gate, or closing certain doors -- before you bring your new pet home. That way, your long-time pet has a chance to get used to the changes before the new pet shows up.
  • Not thinking about your pet's reaction. Try to think about the changes you're making in your home from your pet's perspective. For example, be aware that if you move the litter box and the cat has to walk past the dog's kennel to get to it and the dog is barking -- that's going to be stressful for the cat.

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