Even if your dog or cat has successfully lived with another dog or cat before, their interactions and relationships may vary with the new four-legged addition to your household.
The most important thing to keep in mind when preparing to introduce a new animal to your home is to make sure that you don’t rush any part of the process. Not taking your time could damage the relationship between your existing animals and the new arrival, and effectively mean that they’re not suitable to live together.
The time frame for introduction should span between 3-10 days. Besides taking your time, another helpful tip is to use plug-in calming products before, during, and after the introduction is complete. This may help to get the friendship flowing!
Below, we’ve outlined a step-by-step guide on how to introduce a cat to your dog, and how to introduce a new cat to existing feline(s).
Introducing a cat to your dog:
Step 1: Make sure to allow your cat and dog to settle without any face-to-face meetings. Make your home smell like your dog and cat so that they each know that the other animal is present in the house before meeting face-to-face. You can take some of your cat’s toys or blankets, and vice versa, and place them in the space the other animal is in.
If possible, prepare a room in your house where your cat can settle in, and have the room all to themselves.
Step 2: In the cat’s settling room, give them plenty of places to hide, and somewhere they can sit high-up. Hiding places can be anything - from cardboard boxes filled with blankets and bedding, or igloos. Height and shelter help to make cats feel more relaxed in new environments. Also, make sure to provide food, water, a litter tray, and some toys, too.
If you don’t have a suitable settling room, another option is to use a crate or a pen to introduce your dog to your cat. This method is more preferable if you are introducing kitten(s) to your dog. Make sure the crate or pen is raised off of the floor and is partially covered - to help avoid stress. In the crate or pen, place food, water, and a litter tray. Your cat should be calm and relaxed before you introduce them to your dog, as they’ll not have anywhere to run if they’re scared during their first introduction to the dog.
Step 3: Once your cat appears to be settled in their room, usually after a few days, you can now start introducing them to your dog. It’s vital that you make sure your dog is on a lead, and that you remain calm and relaxed during the process, as dogs take cues from their owners. Reassure your dog, and reward them for good behaviour (plenty of treats in your pocket!). Ask them to sit quietly in the doorway of your cat’s settling room, and let your cat take things at their own pace. Ideally, your dog will be relaxed and non-reactive, and your cat curious. If your dog becomes too excitable, take them away from the room and remember patience is key, and never force an introduction.
Step 4: Repeat the controlled doorway meetings, to ensure that your cat and dog become more familiar with each other. As time passes, they should become more relaxed in each other’s company, and at this point, should be ready to interact outside of the settling room. For this part of the introduction, you can use child gates so they can see each other but still remain in a safe and controlled environment.
Step 5: It’s important to allow your cat to dictate when they feel comfortable once they have met your dog a few times, if your cat is comfortable, you can then let your dog into the room. The dog should still remain on a lead like they were for the doorway introductions. Remember to reward positive behaviour. If your dog shows any signs of wanting to chase the cat, remove them from the room immediately and repeat Step 3. Allow for your cat to feel in control, and make sure there are hiding places nearby.
Step 6: If the meetings go well, you can give them access to meet each other around the house on their own terms. At this stage in the introduction process, it’s common for them to form routines that allow them to coexist happily. Never leave your dog and cat unattended in the house until you’re absolutely sure that they’re comfortable with one another.
Note: At all times, make sure both your dog and cat have access to the resources they need: food, water, and litter trays. Without access to these resources, they may become unnecessarily stressed out. After following these steps, hopefully, the process has been successful and you have a compatible dog and cat who’ll be able to live together for years to come!
Old cat to new cat: a safe introduction
Step 1: Allow your cats to settle without meeting face-to-face. If possible, allocate a settling room for your new addition, and keep everything as normal as possible for your existing feline(s) - no major changes to their routines, such as feeding times. Try swapping their scents by putting bedding or blankets that smell like one of your cats in with your new cat. This will make them aware of each other’s presence before having their first face-to-face meeting.
Step 2: Provide safe places for your new cat to hide in, such as boxes with bedding and blankets, or igloos, and a high-up spot for them to sit in their settling room. Having both height and shelter readily available in this room will help your cat feel safe and relaxed in their new environment. Make sure to place food, water, and a litter tray in the room as well. If a settling room is not available, you can try using a crate or pen to introduce the cats, as mentioned in our introducing a cat to your dog advice.
Step 3: Once your cat is relaxed in their settling room (usually after a few days) you can begin the full introduction. The easiest way to do this is to open up the door to the settling room and sit in the doorway. Watch your cat’s body language, and gauge what their initial reaction is. Ideally, you want your cat to be curious, and not display any telltale signs of aggression. You also want them to be a bit disinterested in each other at first, and go at their own pace. Remember patience is key, and never try to force an introduction.
Step 4: Repeat these controlled meetings so that your cats can become familiar with each other. Over time, they should become more relaxed in each other’s company. At this point in the introductory process, they should be ready to interact with each other inside the settling room.
If you’d like, you can use child gates so the cats can see each other, but remain at a distance in a safe and controlled environment.
Step 5: Allow your cat to decide in their own time when they feel comfortable. After meeting the new arrival a few times, you can allow the cat into the settling room. It’s important to always allow the cats to feel in control, and be able to hide if necessary.
Step 6: If these meetings have been successful, you can let them meet each other around the house. As time goes on, they’ll form routines that’ll allow them to live happily together in your home. Remember, never leave your cats unattended until you’re completely confident that they’re comfortable together.
Note: Remember to ensure that your cats have access to all of the resources they need: food, water, and litter trays. Without access to these resources, they may become unnecessarily stressed out. After following these steps, hopefully, the process has been successful and you should have a compatible multi-cat household in which the feline members can live together for years to come!