Wouldn’t it be nice if your pets could introduce themselves to one another with nothing more than a friendly hello and a paw shake?
Whether you’re introducing a puppy to a kitten, or an older dog to a senior cat, these pets do have their own languages. And as a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to learn the lingos of your cats and dogs and help facilitate a harmonious meeting to ensure they get along —-safely and happily ever after.
Now, there are plenty of variations when it comes to introducing new puppies to territorial kittens (or vice versa). And sure, you pick up a new furbaby hoping you’re about to witness love at first sight and the cutest “how do you do” ever… but that’s not usually the case.
So, here are a few tips to help your cats and dogs get through their first ice-breaking moments.
Tips for a Healthy Pet “How Do You Do?”
The first thing you’ve got to do is prepare yourself.
The introduction of your favorite cat and dog may take days, weeks, or even months.
Since your animals can read and respond to your energy, you’ll want to exhibit patience and confidence as you get them acclimated.
Also, be open to the idea of bringing in help. When it comes to how to introduce a cat to a dog, you might want to bring in a professional animal trainer.
And if you have the chance, allow your current pet to meet your potentially adoptive pet before you actually adopt. Often, an animal rescue will want to see the animals interact and will allow you to bring in your current puppy or kitten for a little meet-and-greet.
1. Work Your Way to Closeness
Realistically, your cat and dog are not going to fall in love at first sniff. That’s right, dogs and cats use their snouts to explore. Allowing them to sniff out the other animal gives your pets a chance to decide if they feel the other could be a safe pal.
And because both animals can get pretty territorial, it’s best to introduce them in a neutral space — a park, a tennis court, a shelter.
If you’re moving a new pet into your home, you want to give them a space that’s theirs and theirs alone. This way, they’ll be able to explore — tracking their scent through your home so your other pet can get used to it. But your new pet will always have a home base, or protected spot, to retire to should things get too stressful.1
2. Keep Watch
When your cats and dogs first get together, keep a close eye on them. In fact, you may want to keep a leash on both pets (just to maintain control). Give them a chance to suss one another out — your cat may assert dominance if he’s lived in your home for longer.
While hissing and barking can be a sign of frustration, stress, or fear, playing is to be expected. Just try to be mindful of certain cues that could signal potential aggression (lunging, growling, snapping).2 And if you have to take a break and try again later, it’s more than okay to separate your pup and kitten.
3. Unleash the Beasts
So, let’s say your pets seem to be hitting it off. It’s likely time to take them off their leashes. But that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. You’ve still got to watch them closely and track their behaviors.
In the case of introducing baby kittens to larger dogs, you’ve really got to be present the entire time they’re together. Your large pup may be super sweet, but they likely don’t know their own strength. Sometimes, your pup can harm newborn kittens by just wanting to play with them or protect them.
So, it’s imperative you keep a good watch.
You’ll know when the time is right to start leaving your cats and dogs alone together.
Before you go down that road completely, let them cohabitate while you’re in another room. This way, you can hear them should a problem arise.
And start in smaller increments. For instance, the first time you leave them alone together, let them be for about 5 or 10 minutes only. Then gradually increase the time to 15 or 20 minutes. Keep tacking on 5 or 10 minutes at a time, until you’re confident your pets can occupy the same space without issues for at least an hour.
At that point, you may finally be ready to leave your animals alone together.
How long will it take to get to this point? It depends. Every animal introduction is different.3
In the End…
You want to treat your fur babies with care. You don’t want to start neglecting one simply because you brought home a new playmate. Give your animals the time and space they need to bond… it may take days, or it could take months. There really is no set rule.
But rest assured if you’re diligent and mindful, your animals will get used to one another and hopefully form a bond for life. Hopefully, they’ll become family.