Cats are territorial and need to be introduced to other animals very slowly in order to give them time to get used to each other before there is a face-to-face confrontation. Slow introductions help prevent fearful and aggressive problems from developing.
A peaceful relationship between a new cat and a resident cat or dog requires work, time, and patience. It can take a few to several weeks, but taking the time to do it right pays off. If you have both cats and dogs in the house, introduce the cats before introducing to the dog.
Cat to Cat Introductions
Provide a “safe room”. A smaller, confined space allows the new cat to feel safe and to adjust to his new home. Provide a litter box, scratching post, toys, food and water and a little time to adjust. Cats like routine, not change. Allowing a safe space for your new pet to settle in will help the introductions go more smoothly. It also allows the resident cat to get used to the idea of a new cat in the house. For the first week the only interaction between your resident and new cats will be playing with paws under the door.
Introduce via scent. You can brush the cats with the same brush to get their scents on each other. Feed a special treat when they are meeting under the door. This will help promote positive feelings toward the scent of the other cat. Exchange places; take the new cat out of his room and take the resident cat in. Let the cats explore each others’ spaces to learn the scent of the other.
After they have met via scent you can do a face to face introduction. Put the new cat in his carrier and let the resident cat(s) come into the safe room. This protects the new cat while you observe the interactions between the cats.
The initial face to face introduction often involves some hissing and/or posturing. If it appears the interaction might result in aggression, repeat the in carrier introduction a few more times before you let the cats meet without it.
If the cats just appear to be wary or curious and there are no signs of aggression, open the carrier door and let the new cat walk out. Do not rush this introduction, the cats must proceed at a pace that is comfortable to them.
Monitor the interactions between the cats during the first few weeks. Don’t leave them alone unsupervised. The new cat should stay in his safe room while you are gone, until you feel confident that there won’t be aggressive behaviour.
If there is a deterioration in their behaviour toward each other, return the new cat to his safe room and start the introductions again.
To maintain a harmonious relationship between your cats:
- Provide plenty of comfortable, elevated resting places. Cats are not always as social as dogs and might prefer to sleep in isolation.
- There should be an adequate number of litter boxes, the general rule is one box per cat, plus 1 more.
- The litter boxes should be in quiet and accessible locations. You want the locations to not provide opportunities for the cat to get cornered by the other pets.
Cat to Dog Introductions
Provide a “safe room”. A smaller, confined space allows the new cat to feel safe and to adjust to his new home. Provide a litter box, scratching post, toys, food and water and a little time to adjust. Cats like routine, not change. Allowing a safe space for your new pet to settle in will help the introductions go more smoothly. It also allows the resident dog to get used to the idea of a new pet in the house.
Build the cat to human relationship prior to introducing to the dog. Often cats will hide for a couple of days when introduced to a new home. Given space and time the cat should become comfortable with the human. Once that cat is comfortable and interacting to you, you can begin to introduce to the dog.
Introduce via scent. Feed a special treat when they are meeting under the door. This will help promote positive feelings toward the scent of the other. Exchange places; take the new cat out of his room and take the dog in. Let them explore each others’ spaces to learn the scent of the other.
During initial introductions the dog should be leashed or crated and the cat can approach the dog when he decides. The cat will probably want to explore the room before he explores the dog. Both cat and dog should demonstrate calm behaviour. It could take several of these supervised and controlled meetings before you let them roam freely.
When the two appear to be calm and curious and you feel comfortable with proceeding, you can allow the dog to drag the leash, maintaining supervision. Practice calling your dog away from the cat and exhibiting calm behaviours such as sit, down, and stay in the presence of the cat. You can use these behaviours to keep everyone safe if the dog gets excited and/or plays too roughly with the cat. Feeding both animals special treats when in the presence of each other can foster positive feelings toward the other.
Have a towel or two metal pans handy to interrupt if there is a spat. This can allow you to help everyone safe. Toss the towel over top of the dog or clang the pans to startle. This can buy a few extra seconds to get control of the situation and separate the two if necessary. If either one gets too excited, keep them apart to calm down.
If there is a big size difference between the dog and cat take extra care for control of the dog during the introductions. The dog could accidentally harm the cat not understanding how fragile the cat is.
Even when your pets appear to be getting along well, you cat should have an escape option; be able to get away if the dog gets too rough. Place a baby gate so that the cat can leave the dog behind or provide a safe and high perch out of reach of your dog.
If your resident and new pets are not getting along despite repeated introductions, you might need assistance from a trained professional. Call the Behaviour Yelp Line at 204-988-8808 for free help over the phone.