We have two cats, and we’re thinking about getting a puppy. The cats are two years old. What suggestions do you have for introducing a new pet into a home with other pets?
– Leslie Mallard, Norcross, Georgia
The good news about bringing a puppy into a cat home
Introducing puppies to older cats is often simpler than cat-to-cat and dog-to-dog introductions. That’s because puppies arrive without a lot of ingrained behaviors, and older cats often sense the newest arrival is still a “baby” and are initially more patient.
Steps for introducing puppy to your home with cats.
- With any pet-to-pet introductions, it’s important never to rush things. For example, don’t hold one animal and walk over to the other animal for nose-to-nose introductions. Your feline could smack your puppy on the nose for getting too close, too quickly. First impressions can create lasting impressions that can impact every aspect of their “sibling” relationship going forward.
Instead, let the puppy and cats discover each other naturally. Older cats will likely keep their distance by getting up on the furniture so they can watch the puppy from a safe vantage point. Your cats may hiss and look stressed, even from this far away. This is a normal behavior to something new in their environment. It could take hours, days or weeks before they want to meet the puppy up close and personal, so be patient.
- Keep your puppy on a leash for a few hours or days, as needed, so you can control his impulses and keep any bad habits from starting. To start, the puppy will notice the cats up high, but he or she will likely be more interested in you at first. Your puppy will pay more attention to the cats when they come down to his level to eat or use the litter box. Your cats may bolt because they are nervous, which could trigger your puppy’s prey drive to chase them. Don’t let that happen lest you allow bad habits to form.
- If your cats are lap cats, don’t suddenly displace them for the puppy either. In fact, give your cats more attention for the first few days, so your puppy learns the cats are part of the family. These small gestures help your new puppy become more respectful of the cats in your home.
- Finally, give your cats and puppy spaces of their own. If the cat’s litter box is in a room or closet, keep the puppy out by putting a baby gate in the doorway a few inches off the ground so the cats can slip under, but the puppy stays out. Or attach a litter box door latch, available at pet stores, to keep the puppy from slipping through a doorway. Also, consider kennel-training your puppy to provide a quiet place for your puppy to rest while giving your cats a chance to watch the puppy without fear of being chased.
When they finally decide to meet face-to-face, your cats may still hiss and whack the puppy on the nose if he oversteps their perceived boundaries. Don’t worry; your cats won’t hurt the puppy. They are simply educating your new arrival and letting him know who runs the place. The cats are always in charge.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal