Cats and dogs: 10 tips for making introductions
1. Start young
Puppies and kittens usually haven't had unpleasant experiences with other cats and dogs. So if you're thinking of having a cat and a dog in your home, it's a good idea to get them both at the same time—and at a young age.
2. Pick the right pets
If you’re looking to unite a cat and dog later in life, consider this: A good cat-dog match is a cat who is curious and not afraid of dogs and a dog that’s familiar with cats. Strays or animals that have been rescued from upsetting circumstances can still live together, but they'll probably need extra socialization and care. And some dog breeds are instinctively driven to catch and shake prey, so they shouldn't live with cats.
3. Take it slow
Since cats are territorial and don't usually like unexpected changes to their environments, it's best to make introductions gradually. Be patient and let your cat and dog get to know each other over a few days to several weeks.
4. Keep a short leash
It's a good idea to keep your dog leashed when you're introducing him to a new cat. It keeps you in control and makes you better able to intervene if play turns too rough. You can also introduce your pets with one or both of them in a carrier or crate to keep them physically separated.
5. Create a room of one’s own
Whichever pet you're introducing to your home should have a safe, private space to hide and rest. For example, your new cat should have her own room away from the dog. It should have a door or gate, along with a litterbox, scratching post, food, water and toys.
6. Mix their scents
Cats and dogs learn about one another through smell, so before you introduce them, it's a good idea to transfer scent from one to the other. You might rub your dog down with a towel, which you then leave in the cat's sleeping space. After a few days, move the towel somewhere your dog likes to rest or play.
7. Privacy, please
Keep the litterbox somewhere your dog can't get to it. This is important to your cat's sense of safety and privacy—she may stop using the box if the dog interrupts her. It's also important to your dog's health, since some dogs will eat cat feces.
8. Monitor manicures
An instinctive swipe from a cat's paw can both upset and injure your dog. So keep your cat’s nails trimmed or capped with vinyl covers to help protect your dog.
9. Dining alone is key
Cats and dogs have different nutritional needs, so keeping them separate during meals is important to their health. And since many dogs like to snack on cat food, having separate feeding spaces keeps your cat from losing meals to the dog.
10. Not everyone becomes BFFs
Remember, a happy home with pets at peace is still success. Even if your neighbor's dogs and cats have become best friends, don't worry if yours level off at polite acquaintances—they may still surprise you by curling up together on the same couch.