So you have a cat but you just bought a dog and you don’t know how the introduction is going to go? What a pickle you’re in. There are many ways you can introduce your dog to your cat or your cat to your dog.
Option 1: Desensitization
Trust me, it’s not as bad as it sounds. The goal of this method is to reduce your dog’s reaction to your cat by gradually increasing exposure to them. A way of doing this is to put your cat in a room with a tall baby gate or that the dog can’t access. The goal is for them to view each other at certain times during the day without touching. It is important to keep your dog on leash and praise them for being able to focus elsewhere. At times, dogs are way too excited to see cats for the first time. If this is the case I suggest you separate both of them, feeding each one on the other side of the door. Although they can’t see each other, they can smell each other, associating this smell with what they love most. Over time, this process allows the dog to be accustomed to the cat and allow them to be desensitized to each other.
Option 2: Face to face
This speeds up the process just a little. Although it is a little more risky, I have seen it more often. When choosing the face to face option, it is important to hold the dog by its leash, watching the dog’s body language. A partner, friend or family member should also watch the cat’s body language. If the cat isn’t aggressive, he can be allowed to move freely. Cats aren’t usually a threat to a dog but some cats will be on the offensive when they first meet a dog. If your dog is calm around the cat, try getting them to sit or lie down (if taught) allowing the cat to move around freely. If the cat doesn’t infact come up and sniff the dog. Reward the dog for not paying attention to their feline friend. If the dog reacts, try another option (1 or 3).
Option 3: Look at that
This method consists of getting your dog to look at your cat then to look back at you again. When your canine turns to you, give them a treat as this will teach them to ignore your cat in exchange for something better. Use the clicker or a verbal marker and give them a pea-sized treat. At first, you may need to place the treat in front of their nose but over time, your furry friend will react quickly to your verbal marker or clicker. It is best if you do this on a leash to prevent any accidents. Prior to this exercise, it is important to understand your dog’s threshold. What do I mean by this? A threshold is at what point your dog notices the cat, but still respond to you when you say her name. For every dog this is different that’s why it is important to keep your dog on a leash when you do this. If your canine starts barking or lunching at the cat, you know you have gone way too far.
There you have it Dr Doolittle! You now have a dog and a cat who don’t want to kill each other. A personal tip, it is important for you to be completely calm when doing one of these exercises. Animals are smarter than we think so they are able to recognise anxiety and worry. If it doesn’t work, don’t worry, try again. I also recommend seeing a trainer if you attempted these several times and it still does not work.