Bringing a puppy home is a time of excitement, enthusiasm, and sheer ridiculousness. After all, there is nothing quite like watching them wake up in the afternoon, fall asleep still chewing their new favorite toy, or trying to scramble up your leg when it’s too cold outside.
When you introduce this puppy into a home that already houses an adult cat, the process can get a bit more complex. Which does in no way mean it can’t be done – quite the contrary. With a little bit of foresight and a careful plan of action, you can ensure your new pup, and your resident feline become best friends.
It’s not unlike introducing a kitten to your adult dog — but with some notable differences. Let’s explore!
Know your cat
Before you actually begin the process of choosing a puppy, make sure you consider if your adult cat would take to the idea.
Some cats love to be around dogs, some will be just fine with a puppy, others may dislike cats but be OK with dogs — but some cats won’t ever settle down with a dog in the house.
Try introducing your adult cat to other dogs first. Have a friend bring their pet for a visit and see how they get along. Make sure you choose a dog you know is relaxed and unfazed around cats.
If it goes OK, you can start your puppy hunt!
Choose the breed carefully
Just like some cats will not get along with dogs, there are dog breeds that won’t tolerate a cat, even if you train them to live with one from a very early age.
To avoid any potential disappointments and stress, consider a dog breed you know is likely to get along with cats.
Of course, no two pups are the same, but selecting a more relaxed and friendly breed will be a great way to get off on the right foot.
Cats rely very heavily on scents, and suddenly adding puppy smells to their kingdom can cause a lot of unwanted stress. Try to change one thing at a time instead, and slowly introduce the puppy’s scent to your cat.
If you can visit your puppy before you bring them home, take a soft cloth with you and stroke them with it. When you get back home, rub the cloth at cat-height around the home — or just in the room the puppy will initially live in. Focus on door frames and furniture corners — places the cat likes to rub against too.
Once the puppy arrives, keep leaving dog-scented items around the rooms the adult cat has access to, but the puppy does not. You can do this in reverse too, and add one of the cat’s beds or blankets to the puppy room.
Provide room for an exit
Before you bring the puppy home, reorganize your space, so it suits the cat. Provide shelves they can climb up to if they feel they need to escape the puppy and allocate space for the new member of your family where the cat won’t enter for a while.
Make sure your furry feline east uses this space. Ensure their litter and bowls are not moved and that they can still sleep in their favorite spots.
If you live in a small space, you can use baby gates to separate the puppy from the adult cat, at least initially. And even when you introduce them, provide an exit route for the cat — an open door, a surface to climb onto.
Wait a while
Try not to execute your introductions on the very first day. Wait as much as a week or even several weeks if you can, as it will allow the puppy to settle in, and feel less threatened both by the new space and the other animal.
When making the introduction, make sure both animals are calm. A good time for dogs is after a walk or vigorous playtime. Don’t wake the cat up — time the event to be already awake but not too playful.
Keep the puppy on their lead or in their puppy crate so that the cat does not feel threatened. Prevent the puppy from chasing the cat, as this can be a difficult habit to break once established, and the cat will certainly not like it.
Don’t try to force your adult cat to do anything. They need to feel in complete control. Let them get close to the puppy at their own pace and reward positive behavior in both parties with treats. Keep the puppy a bit distracted, too, with a toy or a treat, so the cat has time to explore them.
You want that initial meeting to be a positive one and keep it short. If there are any positive body language signs from either of them, that’s great! Wrap it up and do it again the next day.
If either of them appears anxious or threatened, go back to scent swapping and try again.
Keep your initial meetings short and as positive as possible until the two show signs of spending time together without incident. Then you can have them in the same room, ideally sleeping. Ensure you never devote all of your attention to just one of them and that you don’t force them to act in a certain way (this especially goes for your cat).
The more they get used to each other, the more time they will spend together without it being a big deal, and you’ll soon find they are happy to keep each other company.
To sum up
With a little bit of patience and perseverance, you should be able to introduce your puppy to your adult cat without the situation being too stressful.
Remember that animals take a lot of cues from their owners, so the calmer you are, the easier it will be on them too.
Julia Robson is the very proud owner of two Chocolate Labradors who make every morning that much more exciting. She’s a runner and a writer, and you can find some of her stuff at Dogs Planet.