INTRODUCING A DOG INTO CAT'S HOME
DEAR DR. FOX: My boyfriend and I are getting ready to move in together (into a new-to-us home). We each have a pet: I
have a 7-year-old formerly feral cat, and he has a 2-year-old golden retriever mix from the pound. Both pets are extremely
important to us.
My cat can be grumpy. She loves me and she loves my boyfriend, but it takes awhile for her to warm up to most people;
and forget about dogs. She's met a few in her life, but it usually ends up with her hiding in various places and not showing
her face for hours.
The dog is wonderful. She's sweet and well-trained, but she has no experience with cats, and she's very energetic.
I'm nervous about how to introduce them. I'd really like these soon-to-be sisters to get along. My worst nightmare would
be that the cat ends up spending her whole life in the basement, trying to keep away from the dog. (We are designating the
basement as a cat-only zone, complete with a cat-sized entrance, to ensure that she feels safe.) Is there anything we can
do to make sure our pets like each other? Thank you so much!
E.P., Mission, KS
DEAR E.P.: First, I trust that your cat is a good judge of character. That she gets on with your significant other is
an important test!
Hoping that you have several days before the interspecies co-habitation commences:
1. Have your boyfriend bring over a blanket or towel that his dog has been sleeping on for a week and switch it for one
your cat has been sleeping on. This way the animals will get to know each other's scent. Also switch grooming brushes.
2. Have a tape recording of the dog's barks and play it occasionally at low volume for the cat.
3. Your cat-only basement safe-zone may work but she may hide there for ever when the dog is in the house. Steps to take
below may help avoid this. Be sure there is no place down there where she may get trapped between wall and pipes because you
will have to bring her up to spend time with the dog and overcome her fear. Set up a baby-
gate with sufficient space beneath it for your cat to slip under so she can get to her litter box. Otherwise the dog may
start cleaning out the litter box.
4. You may want to set up a separate feeding and drinking area temporarily for your cat in a 'safe room'; with a similar
gate set-up to keep the dog out if you are not using the basement for this purpose.
5. If your cat is not too spooked, leave her drinking water in the usual place ( presumably upstairs) and with the dog's
water bowl next to it. Eventually they could share the same water bowl.
6. Initially, after the dog has been fed ( and let the cat see this), restrain the dog when it is time to feed the cat
in her usual place upstairs. If you opt for basement-feeding and litter box for the cat she may prefer to start living down
7. Keep the dog on a leash when she first comes in to your home. The cat will probably hiss and run away. Putting a couple
of drops of essential oil of lavender on your cat's neck prior to this first introduction may have some calming effect.
8. It is debatable if one should allow the cat to run away and hide rather than facing up to the dog while being held
in your arms (protected by a padded coat) or in a harness and leash or in a wire crate so she can see the dog but not flee.
This is 'total immersion.'
9. My choice would be over a week-end before dog and boyfriend move in, ( ideally the next long weekend) keep the cat
in the same room, one way or another---and you humans be calm---with the dog leashed but allowed to sniff around and settle
down. Groom and pet her and give her treats. Ditto your cat if she is not too out of her mind. Maybe put on some music or
watch TV. Then your boyfriend should leave with the dog and come back after 2-3 hours for another session and more through
Best wishes to all of you and consider having a video camera on hand to record this for internet posterity! Cats and
dogs do not have an innate animosity so much as cats have an instinctual, self-protective fear of larger animals and their
flight response triggers the dogs' chase-reaction. Our ex-feral cat Mr. Mark Twain chooses to go into threat-attack mode
when ever a friend comes over with his huge black Labrador who would never hurt a fly. Once these innate reactions are defused,
cats and dogs can be buddies for life. One cat I know of became a seeing-eye guide for her blind canine companion!
Check the link below for a Dr. Fox C-Span feature concerning
Dr. Michael W. Fox on C-Span
OUR ANIMAL RELATIONSHIPS:
THE MOMENTS OF TRUTH PROJECT
Dr. Michael W. Fox
What right do we humans have to exploit other animals?
Where does that right come from and what are the limits if any? What duties or obligations do we have in our relationships
with our dogs, cats and other animals domesticated and wild?
and support Caroline Kraus and her Moments of Truth Project documentary film as she travels across the U.S. asking people,
who variously live, work with and care for animals, these and other relevant questions.
Is there an overriding consensus
and what are the reasons why people respond very differently to these questions, which in part examine our character, culture
The viewing and discussion of this kind of documentary should be part of every school curriculum and
will be of interest to all who work with, profit from and care for animals. Project Home Page: http://momentsoftruthproject.com/ To see the interview with Dr. Fox go to http://momentsoftruthproject.com/dr-michael-fox/