First make good choices
• Kittens and puppies usually meet and adjust to other species more easily than adult cats and dogs. Animals socialized to other species when they are young are much more likely to be friendly to them as adults.
• Adult cats or dogs that grew up with the opposite species are likely to do well.
• Calmer adults are easier to introduce than young, energetic adolescents.
Things to do before dog comes home
• Set up a Safe Room for the cat where dog is never allowed to go. Could be a spare bedroom, mudroom, one level of the house, a large closet, etc. Use cat doors, baby gates, or doors wedged open just enough for the cat to go through but not the dog.
• Get the cat used to being in this space alone.
• Have high escape places for the cat in other rooms — things the cat can jump up on but the dog can’t.
• Put her food, water, bed and litterbox in the Safe Room (try to keep litterbox away from other items).
• Have a way to contain the dog — a crate or a room with a door or secure baby gate. And of course a leash.
• Plan to be very patient and very slow with introductions.
Things to know
• Cats can hurt dogs badly with their claws.
• Cats do not like their routines upset and often express their feelings by not using their litterbox.
• Cats are often territorial and must be slowly introduced to “intruders”.
• Dogs can hurt cats badly (or kill them) with their teeth and/or weight.
• Dogs may see cats as prey (food). The breed(s) of the dog can affect how interested they are in hunting small animals.
• Fast movement (cats running/jumping) can trigger prey behavior.
• Dogs can be OK with a familiar cat and still attack a new cat.
• Dogs can be OK with a cat in the house and still attack the same cat outside.
• Predatory behavior is usually silent, still and very focused. If you can’t get your dog’s attention off the cat, it’s not a good sign.
• Most dogs can learn the difference between squirrels and cats.
• A noisy, excited dog may just want to play, but may still hurt the cat.
• Always avoid any form of punishment or correction for unwanted behavior. This will only make your pets associate each other with unpleasant experiences.
• There is no harm in taking things slower than necessary, but moving too fast can be disastrous. Both animals should be calm before moving to the next step.
Bringing the dog home
• Have cat in her Safe Room.
• Exercise dog outside, preferably running if there is a fenced space.
• Explore/walk boundaries of yard on leash.
• Hand feed dog some food.
• Bring dog inside on leash and let him sniff the main living area and especially where the cat has been.
• Put the dog in his crate or room with a chewie.
• Let the cat come out and smell the room the dog has just been removed from.
• Note body language and reactions of both as they are introduced by smell only.
• Keep cat and dog in separate rooms for at least a week. When dog is out, cat is in her Safe Room. When dog is crated or outside, cat can be loose in house.
• Begin teaching the dog to respond to his name, to “come”, and to “leave it”.
• Let dog and cat see each other with a barrier (dog in crate or on leash behind baby gate). Feed both treats for calm or friendly behavior. Don’t encourage interaction if they are not interested.
• You should be able to get your dog’s attention off the cat and the cat should not be angry, frightened or upset.
• Have dog on leash, cat loose in room. Feed treats for calm/friendly behavior. If either animal wants to retreat, make sure they can.
• If one animal is friendly, but the other is not, do not allow interaction. If cat is friendly, but you are not sure about the dog, consider a muzzle for first interactions.
STEP FOUR (If cat goes outside)
• Have dog on leash with cat outside. Feed treats for calm/friendly behavior.
• Test steps two and three without treats
• Allow both animals loose in the house together with supervision.