A common belief is that dogs and cats are natural enemies and will instantly hate each other upon first seeing one another. In truth, their interactions with one another are a bit more complicated than that. Dogs and cats can actually get along with one another and even become good friends. If you’re a cat owner and you’re looking to add a puppy to the family then we have you covered with the best tips and tricks for introducing your pets to each other and increasing the likelihood of them becoming friends.
Know Your Cat
While it is heartbreaking to say, some cats just don’t like company. They may enjoy your company but the company of other people and pets may not be their thing. Cats are a lot like humans in the fact that they have personalities that vary from cat to cat.
Before bringing a new animal buddy home as a permanent member of the family, test the waters to see how your cat responds to other animals. If your friends or family have pets, bring them over one at a time and see how your cat reacts to having another pet in the home. So long as your cat is not immediately hostile you should be safe to try introducing a puppy to your cat. You may find your cat responds to the other animal in the following ways:
- Ignore: Your cat simply doesn’t care that there is a new pet in the house and will continue its daily routine undisturbed.
- Cautious/Afraid: This is one to look out for. If your cat is cautious but curious that's a good sign, but if your cat is showing signs of being genuinely afraid of the other animals you may want to reconsider getting a new pet.
- Playful: This one is probably the most ideal if you're looking for your new puppy and cat to become friends. A playful cat will likely have few problems adjusting to a new pet in the house.
The Puppy's Personality
Here is something else to consider that may be a bit harder to pinpoint with a puppy. What kind of personality does your puppy have in comparison to your cat? If your puppy is one that really enjoys playing around and is super curious while your cat prefers to be left alone, the two probably won’t get along too well. However, if both your puppy and cat enjoy being left alone the two will likely get along fine and live in peaceful coexistence respecting each others’ space.
A beautiful thing, isn’t it? Image courtesy of Americanhumane.
Now that we have initial consideration out of the way let’s get into the actual introduction process. One method you can use for introducing your cat to the new puppy is to place the two animals at eye level with each other while maintaining a hold on both pets. We do this in order to make both pets aware of one another and to test the level of aggression of each pet. If either pet shows signs of aggression, separate them from one another and try again at a different time.
We want our animal buddies to get used to each other's presence. Because of this, it’s important to never leave the two pets alone with one another until you’ve been made absolutely certain that the two are fine with each other's presence. Having you there to supervise their engagements will calm their nerves a bit and will help them associate the new pet with you.
Make sure they are at eye level! Image courtesy of Countryliving.
Learn to Read the Room
During the introduction process, you're going to want to pay attention to each animal's body language. You're mainly watching for signs of fear and aggression.
Cat Body Language
When observing a cat's body language you need to be keeping a few body parts in mind, the tail, ears, eyes, and body orientation. The tail’s position is a great way of identifying how your cat feels at a given time. If your cat’s tail is raised up high, he/she may be feeling confident and comfortable. Be cautious and aware of the other body parts because this may also be a sign that your cat is confident in its ability to defend itself.
When a cat is cautious or angry it will oftentimes try to make itself appear as big as possible. It may arch its back, lower its tail, and stand to the side so that its entire body is visible to whatever it’s afraid of. A raised tail that is flicking back and forth is also a sign of aggression. Ears that are pointing flat may also be a sign of aggression. Take all of the small indicators into consideration when viewing a cat's body language. It will take some practice before you’ll be able to read your cat’s body language accurately.
A hissing cat is also a sign of aggression, but we’re sure you already knew that. Image courtesy of Petmd.
When a cat is scared or anxious it may crouch down and lower its ears while also curling its tail. This is to make the cat appear as small and non-threatening as possible while also enabling it to spring off and run away if need be.
When a cat is standing with its tail raised, facing you, flat backed, with its ears standing up that means it is comfortable and receptive to attention. This is the ideal body language you're looking for when introducing your cat to your new puppy.
The process of successfully introducing your new puppy to your cat is actually a pretty simple one. A good bit of it really comes down to knowing your pets before the introduction even begins. You should know your cat's personality pretty well if you’ve been taking care of him/her for a while, so anticipating their reaction to another animal should be child’s play. Even so, keep those safety precautions in mind, it isn’t uncommon for pets to get along fine with one animal and greatly dislike another.