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Introducing your cat to other cats, dogs, and new human family members doesn’t have to be a stressful experience for you or your cat. Take your time and follow these tips to help make new introductions smooth and peaceful.
It helps to introduce the scent of the new members of the household to the cat before a full introduction, says Zazie Todd, PhD, social psychologist, founder of the popular blog Companion Animal Psychology and author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy. If you're bringing home a new baby, for example, Todd recommends first showing the cat “something that smells like the new baby. Then give the cat treats to create a positive association.” Creating a positive association with a new household member makes cats more amenable to change, she says.
Some cats and dogs can become the best of friends—or at least peacefully tolerate each other. The relationship depends on the two animals and their individual personalities (combined with history and genetics), but there are some things you can try to start to form some familiarity.
Introduce your cat to a new dog by starting with scent, followed by a slow and supervised meeting. Keep both animals in separate rooms where they can get used to the sounds and scents of each other. After a few days, allow your pets to see each other by putting the dog in a crate or baby-gated space and allowing the cat to have the freedom to investigate the newcomer without being overwhelmed or chased. Then, let the dog roam free while the cat is secured in a safe room nearby. Eventually, you can let them meet face-to-face.
Keep your dog on a leash so you can quickly separate pets if things go south. Todd recommends ensuring that your cat has access to escape routes, vertically (such as a sturdy cat tree or shelf) and lower down (such as behind a sofa or cabinet) so she will feel safer. As they learn to cohabitate, never leave your pets loose alone in the house together when you are not home or without supervision.
It is important to understand that some dogs may never be totally OK with a cat in the house. Dogs that have a history of chasing small animals or are a breed that tends to have a high prey drive may find the presence of a cat just too much to handle. If this is a case, a kitty housemate may just not be an option. Make sure you do your research—and have a really solid understanding of your dog and whether she'll tolerate another small animal like a cat—before you bring home a feline friend.
To introduce two cats, follow the basic rules listed above. Alternate which cat is in a crate or baby-gated in a room so they both have a chance to move about and feel more secure in the other animal’s presence. Also, be sure to feed them separately and provide an extra litter box to avoid any potential scuffles. “Two cats need two of everything,” says Todd. So be sure to feed your felines separately in their own food and water bowls and provide an extra litter box.
Use toys and treats to help relieve anxiety, keep their minds occupied, and associate meeting each other with a positive experience. Some cats are far more accommodating than others and a few felines may never really warm up to their furry roommate. But, as long as their relationship doesn't include any real agitation, your cats will often find ways to coexist peacefully.
Many older cats look on active puppies and kittens more as pests than as cute and cuddly roommates. Start the introduction as you would with an adult cat or dog, but pay close attention so that your new pet doesn’t overwhelm, chase, or annoy the older cat. This means you may need to secure the younger pet for at least part of the day to give the older one some peace.
Never let your puppy chase your cat. That is a hard habit to break once the puppy is older so train your pup early, redirect his activity if he gets out of control, and put him in a crate when you can’t supervise his activities.
Bringing a new baby home from the hospital is exciting. But because cats are creatures of habit, they might not be as overjoyed as you are to have their routines interrupted by the noise and added activity that happens with a newborn. Luckily, you can help your cat adjust with a little preparation ahead of time.
Let your cat investigate the nursery well before your due date to give her time to get used to the smells, sights, and sounds before the baby comes home. You may also want to play recordings of crying babies to get your pet used to the changing noise levels soon to arrive at your home. You should also make sure your cat has a private room of her own where she can hide out in case the baby or visitors become overwhelming. Once the baby comes home, start the introduction with scent by offering a sniff of the baby’s blanket or clothing, then offering a treat or pets so your cat associates the baby with positive experiences.
You can let your cat introduce herself under supervision and if she runs away, don’t force the issue. Over time, your cat will adjust, especially if you give her some extra attention and treats to smooth the transition. Most cats adapt over time, but if your cat shows any warning signs of anxiety, hissing, fear or, worst case, aggression, keep her isolated from the new family member and give her more time to adjust to your family changes at her own pace.