Last updated: September 2, 2016
Have you ever had the unfortunate experience of meeting someone for the first time, looking them in the eyes and immediately disliking them, often without knowing anything about them? There are a million reasons for this which we can often explain with our big clever human brains, but animals aren’t like that. They’re much more sensible. They may not be able to come up and say: “Hi, Rascal the Cat, I’m Rover the Dog. How are you?” then high-five and become friends for life, but they have other ways of sorting things out. Read on and find out how to introduce a cat to other pets.
Moggy to Mutt
Now, I don’t pretend to be a doggy expert but most of the dogs I interviewed said that they really didn’t mind cats very much as long as they were polite, because dogs don’t go for all this hissing and scratching stuff (neither do I!) If you’re introducing a kitten it may welcome the company of a dog, having just been separated from all its brothers and sisters, but then again it depends on the dog. When you’re introducing them keep the dog on a leash to avoid any accidents. If you’re introducing an established cat to a new dog you’ll have to do it little by little.
This Is MY Patch!
Your cat has already earmarked (or lip marked, or cheek marked, or whatever) your home as his own territory, and any newcomer can be regarded as an intruder and therefore very threatening. Also remember that each animal may have a very different character. For instance a shy cat may be overwhelmed by a boisterous dog, and vice versa.
I’m Only Little!
Dogs are bigger and stronger than cats and can easily kill one, even unintentionally, so don’t leave your cat and dog unsupervised for the first few weeks. How to introduce your cat to other animals is to feed them separately and make sure the mutt can’t get to the moggy food, because dogs aren’t as fussy as cats and will chew most things given half a chance, including cat food. (But we love them anyway!) This can lead to tension, fights and unpleasantness.
Slow and Steady…
You can feed each on either side of a closed door at first then gradually open it as they get used to each other. If you swap their bedding around they’ll become accustomed to each other’s smell, since cats and dogs rely on their sense of smell much more than we do, and can identify each other by scent.
Fortunately, cats regard dogs as less of a threat than other cats, so that makes things a bit easier. Don’t punish your dog for bad behavior when your cat is around. It will only make things worse. You can’t explain things to either of them. All he knows is that every time the cat is around something unpleasant happens to him, and that’s the cat’s fault! Reward him for good behavior instead.
New Guy on the Block
Cats, like humans, form first impressions of one another which can be either good or bad, so when you bring your new cat into the territory of another cat it can be amicable or hostile, but it’s best not to take chances!
To start with confine your new cat to a spacious room with all his creature comforts around him. Feed each cat near a closed door so that they can hear and smell each other, and while this is going on, give them each some of their favorite little titbits. If I gave mine catnip, bacon, ground beef and raw chicken he’d follow me anywhere! You can also rub them with the same cloth so that their scents become intermingled. I’ve also found that a good tip is to rub a cloth against your cat’s cheek glands then spread it all over the room where he’s confined for the first few days.
Gradually introduce them by leaving the door open a few inches. By this time they should be talking to each other and playing “pawsy” round the door. At the first face to face meeting they may blank each other totally or give a token hiss or two but as long as they’re not actually scratching each other’s eyes out there’s no need to worry at this stage; they’ll take things at their own pace. If there is a lot of ongoing aggression you may have to rehome one of them or seek the advice of a professional behaviorist. Sadly, some cats, like some people, will never get to like each other!
Junior to Senior
When introducing a younger cat into a house with an older one, it’s preferable that it’s a spayed or neutered cat of the opposite sex. If you prefer two cats, a pair of females is best. Males, like all males of every species, may just want to fight each other. (Men!) The cats should enjoy the same amount of activity. I know that I as a middle aged lady would find it really difficult to keep up with the demands of a toddler or a five-year-old! Your older cat may adapt, but over time rather than straight away. Use the same steps mentioned above to introduce them.
Kittens are much less threatening to older cats than other grown-up cats are, because they don’t yet have any adult body language or attitudes – they still use a lot of “play” signals. As we discussed earlier on, it’s important to mix the cats’ scents, since your resident cat will have imprinted his all over his territory and has to become accustomed to the newcomer’s over time. A kitten cage is useful; it looks a bit like a baby’s playpen. You can leave the kitten safely in this while the big cat and little cat get used to each other. As usual, it’s baby steps at first – literally!
Sometimes you may have to come to the conclusion that there is a chasm between your cats, and they can’t, and never will get on. They may still be able to live together though, separate but equal, and hopefully if you do your best you’ll all do just fine. The key word seems to be: S-L-O-W-L-Y! And remember, love conquers all!