How to Introduce a Puppy to the Resident Cat

Duncan Smith/Photodisc/Getty Images

Much of your success in introducing a puppy to your resident cat will depend on how your cat reacts. Every puppy is going to be curious and playful and will probably try to play with and chase the cat. If you have a calm and dog-savvy cat, this will be much easier on everyone. Always make sure the cat does not have an opportunity to scratch at your dog's face. It only takes a second to seriously injure a puppy's eye but the damage can last a lifetime. If your cat is not declawed, you must be extremely vigilant so as not to allow her to blind the new puppy. If your cat is declawed, you must be careful that the puppy does not hurt a cat who cannot defend herself.

Portrait of Belgian Malinois puppy and Sphynx cat

Keep everyone safe. This should be the objective of the first introduction, especially if you don't know how your cat will react. You don't want your cat attacking and scratching the puppy, and you don't want the pup to terrify the cat. Separating them with a baby gate, large wire crate or ex-pen for the pup keeps everyone safe. Do this until they are curious but not upset at the presence of the newcomer. Until you are sure everyone will get along well, keep them separated in your absence.

Control your puppy. You can't control a cat as much, so control the puppy by having him on a leash. Make sure the cat has a safe escape, and the puppy is trailing a leash. Let them be in the same room. If your pup is being very persistent about chasing, take her leash and distract her with treats or a toy. You want her to realize that she can have fun in the cat's proximity without bothering the cat.

Let the cat teach the puppy. In a best-case scenario, your cat stands his ground, hisses and spits, then boxes the puppy in the face without using claws, and the puppy wisely backs off. Puppies are curious and naturally playful, so don't expect her to completely ignore the cat. She just has to learn manners and the best way is the cat teaching her.

Tips

  • If your cat isn't de-clawed, and you are concerned about injury, consider Soft Claws (look online or ask your vet). These are vinyl tips that glue onto your cat's claws so she cannot cause damage with them. Keep your pup's breed in mind. Sight hounds and terriers are natural hunters and often have higher prey drive than other breeds. A puppy can always learn manners, but it may be harder for some because they have that instinct.

Warnings

  • Do not use harsh corrections with the puppy for being overenthusiastic with the cat. She may associate the cat with punishment and this will not improve her attitude. Worst case scenario: Your cat is utterly appalled and stressed by the puppy and goes into deep hiding. Or your cat goes on the attack with claws, and you sure don't want your puppy's eye getting scratched. In both cases, keep them separated and safe and hopefully over time, with positive reinforcement, they will learn to tolerate each other.

Photo Credits

  • Duncan Smith/Photodisc/Getty Images