How To Introduce a New Puppy to Your Feline Household
You’ve selected your puppy or older dog, are brimming with excitement, and can’t wait to bring them home. It’s the stuff of dreams.
What was previously unthinkable for folks who always wanted a dog in their life (but simply couldn’t, usually due to work commitments and long commutes) has become a very real possibility.
The great migration to WFH (working from home) took place swiftly with headache-inducing speed in 2020. We suddenly had the option to welcome a member of the canine variety into our homes and we were absolutely tickled that the opportunity finally presented itself.
Yes - we could work from home long term.
Yes - the puppy would have company and plenty of training as we were home all day.
Yes - there would still be a lot of puppy learns, but we could handle it, we could handle it all.
The time was right to welcome a puppy or an older dog into our home. We needn’t worry about dog walkers, pet sitters to let the dog out for a wee or a poop, or even finding the time to exercise and train our new charge. We could do all of that!
But there was another element at play here. Failing to have dogs in the past, we were also a nation of avid cat lovers. Instead, we welcomed the feline mystique into our homes.
A puppy or dog entering the mix? This was surely an act of treason! The delicate ‘pas-de-deux’ consisting of owner and their felines, coupled with often lofty cat-titude, was a balancing act that could end up hovering on the brink.
At risk here was the very real possibility of a permanent feline mistrust and infinite disdain. For many would-be dog owners, this outcome hung in the air like a big stink emanating from the litter box.
How to introduce a very active, wiggly bundle of slobbering fur into the rarefied air of sophisticated feline habitat in your home?
We have some essential steps to share with you to make this transition and your life that little bit easier.
Preparation is everything
Don’t expect your cat to feel the same thrill you do about the new interloper.
Your cat will absolutely need its own dog-free zone available to it at all times with a secure door.
These spaces should include:
- A litter box, something to scratch, food and water bowls
- A comfy bed to relax and sleep in when their nerves are frazzled
- Places to hide or perch up high so they feel in control of their surrounding and less vulnerable
The remainder of your home should ideally have getaway points that are up high where your cat can survey its domain and be out of reach of your often over excitable dog.
Keep them separate at the beginning
The first few days will already be fraught just dealing with your new puppy and getting them settled in.
A great tip is to have an old blanket or towel sent to the breeder or rescue centre that your dog can cover in scent for a short while prior to their arrival in your home. While your cat is still unsuspecting of the eventual chaos that will ensue, you can cut up the scented item and place pieces around the home.
Your cat can adjust to the scent of a new animal in their territory, and it won’t hit them like a wave of insult they won’t take kindly to.
The first few days after your dog arrives, you should ideally let them settle in within a contained room or two until they relax into their new surroundings.
This will allow both animals to understand that there is ‘another’ in the home, but without any visual indicators. Scent is all they need.
Bonding over food
You can gradually get them closer to the main event by feeding them on opposite sides of a closed door.
If they begin to associate the scent of the other animal with a happy occasion like feeding time, it might lessen the stress and ease some of the anxiousness. This will also encourage them to learn the sounds of their new housemate which will make it less of a surprise when it eventually happens face to face.
You can start with the bowls some distance from the door barrier and gradually decrease the distance until they are eating without concern.
Are you talkin’ to me???
After a successful period of time achieving the relaxed mealtime, sight-unseen, and scent only meet and greet you will need to make the biggest move of all. That’s right, their first visual.
This has to take place in a common area and should never happen where they each have their own designated turf.
Start small, keep your dog leashed, and let your cat lead the way.
You should probably expect some serious stare downs from your cat who might channel his inner Travis Bickle (that’s Robert De Niro’s unhinged anti-hero in Taxi Driver for the uninitiated).
If you could read their minds they will almost certainly acquire a certain bravado and adopt a New York accent as they say, “Hey, you talkin’ to me?” with the carefree attitude only the unleashed can possess in this situation.
But don’t let it fool you. Your cat is likely to be unimpressed with proceedings and may take the high road.
Be patient and persist. These things take time and they aren’t speaking the same language.
Reward with treats, distract if things get heady, and don’t trap or restrain your cat from retreating if he naturally wants to.
When neither animal seems bothered by the other’s presence, and particularly if you have been able to witness your cat approach your dog (or vice-versa) without incident or even make contact, the time might be right to let them be together loose.
Your cat will be highly aware of any escape routes if he becomes anxious, and you can make dog capture easier if you leave a leash attached for a quick foot stomp to stop them in their tracks if it all goes to hell in a hand basket.
You will need to keep them separated when unsupervised for whatever amount of time it takes for you to feel confident that both feel secure and able to do their own thing without too much stress and bother.
Finally, it’s important to remember that cats and dogs are sensitive souls who do pick up on our own anxiety so try your best to stay relaxed during proceedings.
Cats love affection and interaction as much as dogs, but they can sometimes show it differently, so don’t discount their feelings and give all of your time to the dog because your dog is more obvious about it.
Cats and dogs really can and do get along if they are given the right parameters and time frame with love and patience to adjust to a new character in their fold.
There are plenty of homes that have cats and dogs living in harmony. It can be the most heartwarming thing to see them groom each other, or snuggle together like hot water bottles. Close bonds develop for many and are beautiful to watch.
Don’t be disheartened if your home is destined to have animals living separate lives. They can live together in blind oblivion if they can own their own space and will often tolerate the other well if you keep up the love and attention equally. It only becomes an issue if one pet is deeply unhappy and develops health or behavioural issues from stress, in which case rehoming may be necessary.
A little time and understanding are usually all it takes to achieve inter-species harmony in the home.
Best of luck if you are about to embark on this journey! If you have any pictures of successful unions you would like to share with the Paws-Here team we would love to see them. We would love to use them on our social media for all the feeds too if you like!