Introducing A New Dog to Your Cat
Many dogs live peacefully with other animals, such as cats, rabbits, birds, and rodents. Not all dogs, however, are suited for a multi-species household. Introducing a dog to a small animal is potentially risky and needs to be planned carefully.
Your Best Bet
You can be more confident that a dog will accept other animals in the home if the dog has lived with other animals in the past. Puppies who were raised with cats or other small pets are much less likely to prey on them. For instance, if your puppy grows up with rabbits, as an adult he will be less likely than a dog who did not grow up with them to chase and kill a rabbit. However, some dogs will learn to accept a particular rabbit, but not other rabbits. There are also dogs who are completely trustworthy with the family cat, but would chase and kill any other cat.
Watch for certain behaviors in the dog that indicate he might not be compatible with small animals:
- The dog has killed another animal.
- The dog is aggressively possessive over food, toys, chew bones, or even the water bowl.
- When on walks, the dog is obsessed with chasing squirrels, rats or rabbits.
- When excited, the dog becomes unruly, uncontrollable, and doesn’t listen.
- When on walks, the dog stares intently at other animals, and perhaps even stalks them.
For introductions, the general rule is to proceed slowly! Enlist the assistance of a family member or friend so there is a person to control each animal in the room. If you don’t have someone to help, confine the small pet (cat or other small pet) in a cage or behind a secure gate. Have the dog on a 4- or 6-foot leash. Have tasty treats (chicken, liver, cheese, etc.) for the dog within reach. Practice each step for a minimum of 10-15 minutes. Remain at this level until the dog is able to stay relaxed and focused on you for at least five minutes at a time. If the dog is unable to remain calm do not progress to the next step.
1. Have the small pet settled in one room, at the far end from the door, attended by your assistant. Bring the dog in the room and remain by the door. Sit down on the floor with the dog and engage the dog to interact with you. Ask the dog to sit, stay down, and any other commands he might know. Keep his interest. Praise him for paying attention to you. Stroke him if this helps him to relax. If the dog is more interested in the other pet and will not attend to you, use treats to entice the dog to turn away from the pet to face you.