How to Introduce a Puppy to a Multi-Cat Household

How to Introduce a Puppy to a Multi-Cat Household

It’s not thought to be the easiest co-existence of all time, cats and dogs, but if you start them out right – it can be. They can and will be living together in harmony without tearing around the corners after one another (or who knows they could play together and tear around corners together!). Just imagine that!

But don’t kid yourself: it will pose a challenge to bring a new puppy home into your household where you’ve long-had kitties roaming (or as they see it – “managing the house’s four-legged affairs”).  After all, cats are quite set in their ways, creatures of habit, and are usually happy to keep things the way they are without you off and adding to the equation. 

Don't worry, though. Your cats will learn to adjust to the new puppy. Here are a few things you can do to make the transition as smooth as possible.

1. Match Personality Types

According to the American Humane Association (AHA) this is very important, and is actually something I can attest to. You might want to try to find a breed of puppy that is known for being a bit lower-key (for example don’t get a Jack Russell Terrier) if you have senior cats at home already. Try getting a smarter breed of pup or rescue pup for the cats you have that are trained, etc. Smart recognizes smart.

2. Choose First Meet-and-greet Wisely

If you are bringing a new puppy home, don't take your cat to meet him at the shelter, store or breeder for health and safety reasons. Instead, the introduction should take place at home.

3. Be Wary if Your Cats Have Never Met a Dog

Some cats have never encountered a dog, so their first experience probably shouldn't be with the one who will be taking up permanent residence. Have a friend with a very cat-friendly dog come over to your house. This will allow your cats to get familiar with some of the behaviors and smells that accompany a dog. Maybe you could even borrow some doggie blankets or toys with the dog's scent on them to lie around your house so the cats can investigate…

4. Encourage their Parenting Instincts

Most cats (even males) have an inherent parenting instinct and will be more tolerant of a puppy, rather than a full grown dog, believe it or not. They will be much more forgiving when a puppy oversteps his boundaries or breaks the house rules and may even begin to nurture him.

5. Supervise First Few Face-to-face Encounters

Be sure you supervise the first few face-to-face encounters between new puppy and homebody cats to prevent injuries and uncalled for behavior, and, AT FIRST, intentionally keep them separated. They need time – and lots of it - to get acquainted with each other, study each other's behaviors and determine their place. The AHA recommends rotating which animal has freedom and which is confined to allow each animal plenty of time to investigate the other one’s scent for the first few days. Sometimes the dog should be confined to a crate or another room (or taken to another location if he can’t be left alone) to allow the cat time to roam free and investigate the smell of the dog. If the dog obsessively digs at the separation barrier or barks at the cat for more than a day or two, the interaction likely won’t work without proper training. You may need the help of a professional.

6. Give the Dog and Cats Their Own Space

Move all cat food dishes off the floor where the dog can access them. As far as sleeping quarters go, a cat's favorite napping spot is sacred to them. If it is out of the dog's reach all the better, but if not, you'll have to be diligent about teaching your canine friend to leave the kitties alone while they nap. Remember too that cat treats and toys are only for the cats – don’t let the puppy get or have them. 

Remember the cats were there first and they need to feel as though their comfort and security hasn't been compromised by this new addition.