Introductions to Resident Pets

Cat-to-Cat Introductions

Cats are very territorial animals, and bringing a strange new scent into the home like a newly adopted kitty can bring some chaos.  Slow introductions will help prevent fearful and aggressive behaviors.  As you go through each of the steps below, let the cats dictate when they are ready to move to the next step.  Look for the cat to approach the closed door where the other cat resides with confidence and a curiosity to know what is on the other side of the door. Read below on the steps to integrate multiple cats. 

  • Keep Cats Separated

    Establish a home base room for your new cat that will serve as a safe zone.  The best space is usually a spare bedroom or office.  Take the cat directly to the room and make sure to keep the resident animals out of the room by keeping the door closed.   Leave the cat in the carrier while you set up the room and put everything the cat needs inside this room.  Keep water and food bowls far apart from the litter box. 

    Open the carrier and let the cat decide when to explore the room.  Many times a cat might want to remain inside the carrier for hours.  Give the cat time to adjust to the new territory.  Help the cat feel more comfortable by spending time with the cat inside their environment, you can sit and talk quietly to the cat.  Lots of love, treats, and playtime will help the cat adjust in due time just do not force it.  

  • Scent & Site Swapping

    Scent before sight is how cats will get to know, and begin to trust, one another. Feed both cats near the closed door to the home base room so they learn to associate the smell and sound of each other with a positive experience. Doling out a highly valued food or treat near the closed door is an effective method that they will learn to associate good things with scent.  A great way to scent swap is using a clean sock, towel, or blanket to rub on the cat’s face to capture the facial pheromones and then leave the item near the other cat so they become familiar with the new scent.  You can also swap toys and beds.  After about 2-3 days depending on how the cats are doing, swap the location of each cat so they can freely investigate each other’s space to experience each other scents but do not let them see each other or have access to each other yet. 

  • Slowly Let Them See Each Other

    After about a week if all seems to be going well and your cats are no longer hissing or growling under the door at each other, you can start visually introducing the cats. It is best to install a screen door or high baby gate that neither cat can jump over.  Make sure not to place furniture near the baby gate that the cat can use to jump over.  Continue feeding and playing with the cat within view of the other cat, but do not force it!  If one cat does not want to eat near the gate, try moving the food a few feet away and make sure to give each kitty a high valued food or treat.

  • Face-to-Face Interaction

    The final step is to let the cats be together with no barriers for supervised face-to-face interaction.  It is best to have a favorable distractive activity when you are letting new cats be together for the first time.  If you don’t redirect their attention, they will direct all their energy to each other.  Play interaction with each cat is one of the best methods which can be playing with teaser toys, interactive toys, and giving the cats highly valued foods.  If either cat becomes fearful or aggressive, separate them to their respective spaces, and start over with the introduction process in a series of very small, gradual steps. Be careful not to intervene directly to separate the cats if a small spat does occur.  It is best to make a loud noise or throw a blanket over them.  Give them a chance to calm down and make sure not to punish them.  Take your time and always try to end each meet-up on a high note. 

  • Additional Resources

    Here are some great instructional videos and materials:

Cat-to-Dog Introductions

Cats and dogs are very different species.  They do not share the same set of body language postures or even the same social structure so they do not know what to expect from each other unless one was exposed to the other during the critical phase of social development.

Dogs with a high prey drive may never be trustworthy around cats and must be leashed at all times in the cat’s presence.  These dogs are highly motivated to carry out predatory behaviors like chasing or stalking animals and playing competitive games like tug.  Dogs bred to hunt or to herd generally have the strongest prey drives.  Dogs that are socialized from a young age with cats are far less likely to develop prey-killing behavior.  Every case must be evaluated to determine the safest course of action to avoid animals getting severely injured or much worse consequences.  Read below on the steps to integrate a “multi-species” home.  

  • Keep Animals Separated

    Establish a home base room for your new cat that will serve as a safe zone.  The best space is usually a spare bedroom or office.  Take the cat directly to the room and make sure to keep the resident animals out of the room by keeping the door closed.   Never allow a dog to sniff around a cat inside a carrier because that creates an extreme fear situation for the cat, and could ultimately result in territorial battles. Leave the kitty in the carrier while you set up the room and put everything the cat needs inside this room.   Keep water and food bowls far apart from the litter box. 

    Open the carrier and let the cat decide when to explore the room.  Many times a cat might want to remain inside the carrier for hours.  Give the cat time to adjust to the new territory.  Help the cat feel more comfortable by spending time with the cat inside their environment, you can sit and talk quietly to the cat.  Lots of love, treats, and playtime will help the cat adjust in due time just do not force it.  

  • Scent & Site Swapping

    Scent before sight is how they will get to know each other, and begin to trust, one another. Feed both animals near the closed door to the home base room so they learn to associate the smell and sound of each other with a positive experience. Doling out a highly valued food or treat near the closed door of the home base room is an effective method that they will learn to associate good things with scent.  A great way to scent swap is using a clean sock,  towel, or blanket to rub on each animal’s face to capture the facial pheromones and then leave the item near the other animal so they can become familiar with the new scent.  You can also swap toys and beds.  After about 2-3 days depending on how the animals are doing, swap the location of each animal so they can freely investigate each other’s space but do not let them see each other or have access to each other. 

  • Train your Dog

    Initial face-to-face meetings with the new cat will require that the dog be controlled on a leash.  Teach the dog basic obedience cues with clicker training, such as “sit”, “down”, “come”, and “stay”.  Even if your dog already knows these commands, the dog will need to be well trained enough to reliably sit or stay when asked, even if the cat dashes across the room.  Work on obeying the commands in return for a small piece of food. Keep the training sessions short, pleasant, and rewarding for the dog.

    The dog will need to understand that chasing or being rough with your cat is unacceptable behavior.  As you go through the steps below teach your dog to behave appropriately around the cat and make sure to reward the dog for doing so with a treat. If your dog is always punished when your cat is around, and never has “good things” happen in the cat’s presence, then your dog may redirect aggression toward the cat.

  • Slowly Let Them See Each Other

    After about a week if all seems to be going well and your animals are no longer hissing or growling under the door at each other, you can start visually introducing them. It is best to install a screen door or a high baby gate that neither animal can jump over.  We recommending getting a high baby gate with a small cat door that will come in handy for keeping the dog away from the cat’s litterbox.  Make sure not to place furniture near the baby gate that the animal can use to jump over. Continue feeding and playing with the animal within view of the other animal, but do not force it!  If one animal does not want to eat near the gate, try moving the food a few feet away and make sure to give each animal a high valued food or treat.

  • Short Controlled Open-Room Meets

    Once your pets can eat calmly next to the door, the next step will be to conduct a meet and greet.  This is a two-person process.  Try to do this meet-up in the largest room of your home away from the cat’s home base room.  Have the dog on a leash, already in the room, in a sit, lie down and stay. Distract the dog by talking and intermittently rewarding with treats for keeping the stay position. 

    It is best to lure the cat into the meet room from the home base room rather than carry the kitty. Use an interactive toy, praise, and treats to get the kitty within eyeshot of the dog but opposite sides of the room.  Make sure that the cat is positioned in the room with a well-established escape route.  The goal is to get the two in the same physical space and ignoring one another’s presence for as long as possible.  Lots of short sessions are better than pushing either animal to their energetic breaking point and having either an incident or a need to correct behavior.  Return the animals back to their confinement areas.  Repeat these face-to-face sessions daily.

  • Free the Cat

    Once these sessions are predictable in length and temperament, which may be days or weeks, go slowly based on the schedule of your animals, it’s time to let your cat free from the home base room. For the time being, keep the cat’s key belongings (litterbox and food bowls) in the home base room while spreading out beds and blankets to other parts of the house to increase the cat’s sense of territorial security.  You will want to keep your dog on a leash with you whenever your cat is free in the house during the introduction process. Make sure that your cat has an escape route from the dog, high perches, and a place to hide. Keep your dog and cat separated when you are not around to supervise their interaction.  There is no timetable on this so just trust your gut when you feel certain both animals will be safe to be alone.

  • Precautions with Food & Litter Box

    As a general rule, dogs love to eat cat food, and cat poop. These acts can have disastrous behavioral backlashes from the cat.  If the dog noses in the litter box while the cat is using it, can lead to a lack of confidence in using the litter box and a preference to use someplace where the cat can have a better view to see the dog coming.  Solve this problem by raising the level of the food and water dish to where only the cat can reach it. Similarly, the litter box needs to be behind a baby gate with a small cat door or a Door Buddy that the cat can access but the dog cannot. Remember that an ambush can also happen outside that cat door so make sure to train your dog not to lie in wait for the cat to come out of the litter box area. 

    Be careful about the cat eating the dog’s food because some dogs may not take kindly to it. You may think you know your dog, but depending on its life experience, breed, and general temperament, only one innocent event could make them snap.  It is prudent to make sure there are several totally dog-proof escape routes for the cat should it be pursued at any point.  For every “in” make sure there’s an “out,” so provide a small entry or high place that the cat can access easily but the dog cannot. 

  • Additional Resources

    Here are some great instructional videos and materials:

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