Despite what children’s cartoons would have you believe, introducing cats and dogs doesn’t have to be a crazy whirlwind of fur and claws. It’s unlikely that your pets will be best friends still straight away and the ‘settling in’ process is going to take a bit of time and patience but if you stick with it, the transition should be nice and calm for everyone involved.
Scent is extremely important to both cats and dogs so this can be a good place to start when you’re thinking about bringing home a new pet. You could stroke your cat and dog separately without washing the scent off in between to help them get used to the others smell. Another good idea is to use a slightly damp cloth to ‘collect’ scent from the head of your new pet and then spread it around by dabbing it on your furniture and other areas of the home. If possible, you could swap some of their bedding over so they can get used to each other’s scent.
When you finally bring your new pet home, ensure it’s during a quiet period where the house will be calm and only the people who will actually be living in the house will be present. Now is not a great time to invite all your friends round to meet your new family member. To start with, try and keep your new pet in just one room so they can get used to the sounds and smells of their new house and settle in a bit before being introduced to other pets.
When you feel your pets are ready to be introduced, it’s best to keep a protective barrier in place to avoid any chasing or fear from either party. This may be in the form of a leash or a crate; whichever you feel would be more comfortable or appropriate for your pet. Remember that this process will take time and it’s important to be patient and to introduce them gradually. Reward your pets for good, calm behaviour and keep a close eye on their body language so that you can remove them from the situation if one of them starts to get too excitable. Once they have got used to each other a little bit, you can try introducing them without the restriction of a crate or leash, but make sure your cat has a high, safe space they can hide in if they want to escape the situation.
Once they are relatively happy with each other, you can introduce the new pet into the rest of the house. It’s best if they are still able to access their food, water, litter tray etc. without coming into contact with the other animal if they don’t want to. It’s unadvisable to leave your cat and dog together unattended until you are sure that they will be safe together.
Contact your vet if you want further advice on introducing new cats and dogs into your home. They may recommend a clinical animal behaviourist who will have all the best knowledge available to make introducing a new pet a safe transition for everyone.