Even if your pet already at home is sociable with other animals, it will be important to respect a gradual adaptation between them. Also, before you bring the new animal home, always ask the previous owners or the shelter if the dog or cat can live with a different species, so as not to have any nasty surprises! Here are a few tips to help you make a good first impression and who knows, possibly the beginning of a long friendship!
If you have just adopted a cat and you already have a dog at home: when you arrive home, it is best to leave the cat in a room (door closed and with everything it will need) and not to make contact with the dog before 24 to 48 hours. Afterwards, if the cat seems comfortable (eat well, drink well, use its litter box) you can make short eye contacts under supervision. It is best not to let the dog into the cat room and let the cat out on its own away from the dog’s field of view. Afterwards, gently bring the dog on a leash to avoid prosecution.
If you have just adopted a new dog and you already have a cat at home: on arrival, leave the cat free on its territory and keep the dog on a leash to prevent it from chasing the cat.
Afterwards, take the cat and place it in a high position (chairs, table, cat tree, etc.) It is important not to force contact or hold the cat in your arms, as it may feel taken and panic more.
Make sure the dog has expended its energy before contact to make it calmer. Don’t reprimand, just encourage the dog to relax by asking him to sit down or go to bed with treats. He will learn to behave well in the presence of the cat.
Also let the cat set its limits, it may spit, do a round back and it will be willing to kick if the dog gets too close. It is normal for the cat to be more “marabou”, need its “bubble” at the beginning and that being petted is not his priority. It is better that it is the cat that is the boss with the dog!
Offer the cat “highly paid” treats (canned food, for example) to associate their new companion with something very positive. If the cat refuses to eat, it is because the dog is too close, so it is important to find the comfort zone of your cat (distance where he agrees to eat even at the sight of the dog)
Be sure to finish the contact on a positive note and repeat in the following days so that they gradually adapt to each other.
Afterwards, offer your cat places to sleep high (cat tree, tablets) as well as hiding places (boxes, holed plastic bin, etc.). He will also have to have a place to eat and go to the litter box where the dog will not be able to disturb him. Installing child barriers or a cat flap in a door can greatly facilitate cohabitation between dog and cat.
Also use a dog cage or room if necessary, especially for the night and your absence from the house, to avoid altercations when they are not under supervision.
Using the Feliway or Adaptil sold at your vet (soothing cat and dog pheromones) can go a long way to relaxing your pets in the home.
For prevention, keep the claws of the dog and cat short enough so that they do not get hurt if there are ever small paws!
If your dog exhibits aggressive or predation behaviour (hunting) towards your new cat, avoid contacting them, secure your environment and quickly consult your veterinarian and/or an animal behaviour worker who is travelling home. The same is true for cats that do not adapt (terrorized, very aggressive, stop feeding or using litter) despite the above recommendations.