Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My two kitties are pretty much living above the wall around my kitchen. I have adopted an 8-year-old Brittany Spaniel they are so frightened of. However, when I lock the dog up, then they come down and play their usual games. They take their toys up to the top of the wall, and when they are down I give them lots of loving. Any suggestions?
Thomas: Well, Mimsie, what you’re witnessing is what naturally happens in a home with cats when a dog comes into the mix.
Bella: It takes time to properly introduce a dog to your feline friends, and we’ve got some tips that can help you restart the introduction process.
Tara: I don’t know if I’d like a dog to come into my house. It sounds scary!
Thomas: But you’re such a brave kitty, Tara, there’s no need to be scared.
Tara: I suppose. But Mama says we’re not going to get a dog any time in the foreseeable future, so I guess I’ll be okay.
Bella: First of all, Mimsie, your cats are reacting in a totally natural way to the introduction of a dog into your family.
Thomas: There are lots of old wives’ tales that cats and dogs hate each other, but it’s very possible to introduce a dog in a way that helps them to be friends.
Bella: The first thing to do is make sure the cats’ resources–food, water, and litter boxes–aren’t in places where the dog can get to them.
Tara: Put their food and water dishes on the counter or other elevated space. Keep the litter boxes in a room behind a baby gate…
Thomas: … That’ll keep the dog from startling the cats or eating “kitty roca,” also known as cat poop!
Bella: And do you really want a dog licking you when they’ve just eaten the cat’s poo? Yuck!
Tara: Then prepare for the introductions. Take the dog for a long walk to work off energy. Then when you introduce dogs and cats is to make sure the dog is on a leash.
Thomas: If the dog is restrained, the cats will feel safer on the floor. (Be sure not to use a retractable leash, though. Lots of dog experts say to avoid them for a variety of reasons.)
Bella: Gradually allow the dog to get closer to the cats. If the dog tries to pull on the leash or bark at the cats, give a gentle correction. Reward the dog every time he acts correctly.
Tara: Let the cats set the pace for the introduction. And make sure they always have an “escape route” to the room blocked off by the baby gate.
Thomas: The cats are already using vertical space to keep away from the dog, and that’s natural for them. The idea of keeping the dog restrained is to let them get more comfortable with him.
Bella: Basically, it’s just going to take time. And it’ll take less time if the dog is restrained so the cats can play on the floor when he’s around.
Tara: And that’s how you introduce a dog to cats.
Thomas: Our hero, legendary cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett, has a detailed explanation of how to introduce a dog to cats. Or re-introduce, in your case.
Bella: And here’s her advice on how to–and how NOT to–keep the dog out of the litter box.
Tara: What about you other readers? Do you have dogs and cats living together? How did you introduce them? What tips do you have for Mimsie? Please share your own advice and experience in the comments!