Should you ask your cat to live with a dog?
If you have cats that are not used to dogs, you should think carefully before doing this. If you must, then make sure it is a puppy as young as possible. Chasing breeds like greyhounds or hounds, or terrier breeds, are more likely to go for small furry running things like cats than gundog breeds like Labs or spaniels.
NEVER ever expect cats to live with a dog that hates cats or, worse still, has been trained to chase them. It is cruel. What is a joke to some humans is death or severe injury to the cat. In this case, either cat or dog must be re-homed. Cats that are chased will probably leave home eventually, if they are lucky enough to survive the attack.
How to make the introduction
The best way to proceed is to start with the cat, and only when the cat is established in the family, add the dog. Both should be young – before 6 months of age in cats and before one year in dogs (though a dog this age should only be introduced if it has a known record of not being hostile to cats). They need to be young so that they can learn each other’s body language.
The cat must be able to go towards and retreat from the dog without being chased or needing to run. Borrow a dog crate, where you can put the puppy with his bedding and bowls. When he comes out for walks, make sure he is on a lead. Let the cats first see him when he is safely in the crate. “Do not let the cats get scared in the first place. For them it is life or death. One snap of a big dog, and they’re dead speak to your vet and use a Feliway Diffuser plug-in in the main room to reduce stress to the cats.
If you can’t get a crate, keep the puppy on a lead every single moment. Tie him to furniture, when you are not holding the other end. While he is tied, or in the crate, make a fuss of the cats so that he realises they are valued family members. Take this process carefully over several days. The aim is NEVER to let a chase occur in the first place. If things are going out, let him out of the crate but with a houseline (made out of old rope) trailing from his collar, so that you can grab it if necessary.
You can also mix their scents, by pieces of an old towel in the dog’s bed and in the cats’ beds, then swapping them round. Remember, at this point the cat’s welfare must take priority.
Introducing a new cat to existing dog
This should only happen, if the dogs are already accustomed to and friendly to cats. This time, the cat (which should also be used to dogs) should be in the pen/crate whenever the dogs are let into the room. Only when they are out of the room, should the cat be let out. Let it get accustomed to one room first. This can take several days. The aim is for the dogs to get used to it. They should settle down and not harass it. The aim is NEVER to let a chase occur in the first place. Swop dog and cat bedding so their scents get mixed. This will take several days.
Use a Feliway Diffuser in the room. Put it on a week before the introduction.
Once they are absolutely used to it, keep the dogs on leads, and let the cat out of the crate in the same room. Make sure they are completely under control at all times. The cat needs high furniture to retreat to out of their range. If the cat runs away just the one time, it may set off the dog’s chasing instincts so try to make sure they are at total ease before introductions without the pen. Chasing will set back the whole process and perhaps make a good relationship impossible.
Take it incredibly slowly. If you go go too fast and the dogs snap at the cat, it may never ever be at ease with them. If they do persist in harassing and barking, then this probably isn’t going to work out. Once dogs have got into the habit of seeing cats as prey, it is difficult to change their attitude. Equally well if the cat is absolutely terrified of dogs — some are because of bad experiences — it may not work.