Welcome back PetParents new and seasoned! Today I am going to be sharing my love story…ok well not love, but story on how I introduced my cat to my new dog Penny. Bringing a new dog into your home can really shake your cat’s world up. So stay with me for this dog-cat love-ish story.
I was a little nervous to introduce Penny to my cat Bridgette..aka Regina George. Bridgette is used to being the queen of our castle, so I knew bringing a new dog in was not going to go well with her highness.
Before you bring a new dog into your home, do your research. I did a TON of research before even committing to adopt a dog. I researched online, and I asked many of my other PetParent friends who have experienced this for advice. I would highly recommend that you do a lot of research first before you bring a dog home to your cat. This will help you prepare for what could be the biggest cat-fight of the century.
1. Work With Your Cat
First make sure that you can deter your cat’s attention to you at any given moment. I know you are probably thinking ‘Umm it’s a cat, they only pay attention to me when I feed them or when I am wearing black pants.’ I know this is an uphill battle, but it is a battle worth fighting. First I would recommend to practice getting your cat’s attention with food. I would randomly, during the day, say Bridgette’s name, and when she paid attention to me I gave her a treat. We did this repeatedly until she was the most attentive cat you have ever met. Make sure you treat your cat when they give you their attention. You want to make sure there is a positive and meaningful (food) reward with their cooperation. Getting your cats attention can help during their first meeting with a dog. If things get tense, being able to deter their attention away to you can calm the situation.
2. Baby Gate=Safe Zone
Get a baby gate. First off, you are going to need one with your dog anyways. Secondly this will be a great way to give your cat a ‘safe zone’ I baby gated my bedroom off during the day, so Bridgette can roam dog-free in the bedroom while Penny is hanging out in the living room. When you bring your dog home, your cat is going to feel like a bull just came running through their China cabinet. The baby gate will allow them each to have their space away from each other, so that way your cat can ease up to the dog. If your cat wants to jump over the gate (as Bridgette did) and investigate the dog, they can. However your dog (unless you have a high jumping dog) will not be able to pass the gate.
3. Structure is Key
You don’t want to let your new dog charge into the house frightening your cat. Before I brought Penny home, I made sure Bridgette was in her baby-gated area. Before I introduced the two, I took Penny for a run. I made sure she was good and tired, so she would be at least too tired to mess with my cat. It is also important to know if your dog has a strong prey instinct or not. Penny does not, but I thought she may want to play with Bridgette (which most dogs may do with a cat) which would scare Bridgette. After running I let Penny explore her baby gated area a bit, and had her sit on her dog bed with her leash on. I then removed the gate, so Bridgette could investigate for herself. I held onto the leash and had treats for both of them in case I had to create a distraction. Try to also keep the mood light. I know this sounds crazy… but if you are nervous and tense your dog and cat will feel that. In the past I have always found this to be true, so I tried to keep my mood relaxed. Bridgette was very unsure of Penny. But she did come up to Penny, smell her, and then backed off. I thought this was pretty good for a first encounter. Penny did not even snap, nip, or bark at Bridgette. I treated them for being good girls and then put Bridgette back in the baby gated area. If things do get a little tense, try to get your cats attention away from the dog (as you have practicing) this will help them calm down or back off if they are wanting to swat at your new dog.
4. Repetition is Key
Make sure to repeat the above process at least once or twice a day. After a while, both of your pets will get very used to each other. Bridgette eventually started jumping over the gate to investigate more, and Penny (could really care less) continued to be patient with Bridgette. Again, my dog does not have a strong prey instinct so this was a much different experience than you would have if your dog does have a strong prey instinct. I also made sure (and still do) continue to exercise Penny every morning and evening. We go for a little jog or walk, but this helps to keep her calm so she doesn’t try to play to rough with Bridgette. You may not always have a good encounter during your ‘meetings’, but you have to keep at it if your want the two to get along.
I cannot say that Penny and Bridgette are best friends, but they are on the right track. I have now been able to take down the baby gate without worry. Both of them will roam the house without causing a commotion with the other. I have only had Penny for a short time, but I know in a few weeks that she will be one of Bridgette’s best friends, along with mine.
Thank you ASPCA for your wonderful advice!
Grumpy Cat: Thanks for the ‘Little Mermaid’ picture. Bridgette, Penny, and I got a real kick out of it.