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By Jamie Stowell
2nd June 2022

mixed fur families: how to introduce a new family member

Reviewed by Dr. Ailsa Rutherford
Thursday 2nd June 2022

Despite what popular culture and cartoons lead you to believe, dogs and cats can coexist peacefully in your home and even become friends under the right circumstances.

If you’re a proud pet parent looking to add a new family member, introducing them properly is key to a happy home. Read on to learn tips and tricks to introduce a new pet to your fur family.

How to Introduce a Cat and a Dog

Cats and dogs may differ, but they have much in common. Even though cats have a reputation for being aloof and irritated by dogs, your cat and dog can get along just fine with proper introductions.

It’s always easier to introduce a new pet to the resident pet if you’re bringing in a kitten or a puppy. With that said, it’s also possible to introduce another adult pet to the house; the timeline may just be a little longer.

Here are a few key steps before introducing your cat to your dog.

1.  Keep Your Pets Separated at First

Introductions between your pets should be done slowly and in a controlled manner. Before you can introduce them, keep them in separate areas. If you’ve brought home a new dog, separate the two animals in some way, whether that’s keeping them on different levels of your home, closing a door between two areas, or keeping your dog in one room at first.

If you’ve brought home a new cat, create a private space for them where they can go to be alone and decompress, and adjust to the new sounds and smells of their new home.

While the goal is to have your dog and cat coexist peacefully, the key to that peace is giving them time and a safe distance to get to know each other. Make sure the cat space is completely blocked off from your dog and contains everything your cat needs: food, water, a litter box, a cat scratcher or tree, and toys.

2.  Catify Your Home

While we think of space as something horizontal, for cats, vertical and layered might feel more natural. Having different levels throughout your home where your cat can climb or hide from your dog can help diffuse any potential issues and make your cat feel more secure and safe in your home. Place cat trees, shelves, boxes and window perches around your home, especially in the highly congested and popular areas that can be difficult to escape from.

3.  Feed Your Pets on Opposite Sides of the Door

By feeding both pets on the opposite sides of the door, you’re allowing them to pick each other’s scent. This helps them to associate food, something that’s very positive for them, with the smell of the other animal.

4.  Work with Your Dog on Basic Commands

When it comes to being around a cat, impulse control is critical, especially for dogs with a higher prey drive. Work with your dog on basic commands like sit, lie down, and stay, so you can use these as tools when your pets interact.

5.  Try a Face-to-Face Meeting

You can try a face-to-face meeting when your new pet has had time to adjust to its new home.

Keep your dog on a leash at first, so you have more control over the situation, and ask them to sit while they watch the cat. Reward them for their calm behaviour and offer your cat treats if they seem calm. If at any time either pet shows aggression, remove them immediately.

6.  Manage Your Pets’ Stress Levels

Introducing a new member to your furry family can be a stressful experience. For the new pet, they not only have to get used to a new environment with strange smells and sounds, but they also have to navigate life with another animal in the house.

Hemp seed oil could help reduce their anxiety to make the overall introduction a calmer, more comfortable experience. Try BUDDYPET Marley, 100% raw, organic hemp seed oil from Tasmania.

Hemp seed oil has been shown to reduce anxieties and stress through a combination of effects of the anti-inflammatory actions of the fatty acids and the anti-depressant actions of phytosterols.

Another great hemp-derived oil is CBD oil. Hemp CBD oil works on the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), a network of thousands of receptors all over the body, including the brain and central nervous system. It regulates various functions such as sleep, mood and pain. All animals have highly developed ECS, so treating stress and anxiety symptoms with hemp CBD oil has become increasingly popular with pet owners.

7.  Supervise Your Pets at All Times

Continue your face-to-face meetings daily, supervising your pets at all times to ensure everyone is safe. If aggression escalates at any time, separate your pets and return to the beginning steps, with the two of them separated.

How to Introduce a New Cat to a Resident Cat

If you bring a new cat into your home, where you already have a resident cat, introductions must be especially slow and strategic. Cats are extremely territorial, and change can be stressful.

1.  Create a Sanctuary Room for the New Cat

Even though your home is likely already cat-friendly, the new cat will still want to have a space of its own. Create a room with all their basic needs (litter box, food, water, and toys), and keep your new cat in this room when they first come home.

This gives your new cat a chance to adjust to the new house before they have to adjust to a new furry friend as well.

2.  Introduce the Cats with Smells First

Smell plays a big part in cat communication, so before the cats ever see each other, you want them to smell each other.

You can do this by swapping bedding or toys between the two cats. You can also take a soft washcloth and rub it on your cat’s face and then swap washcloths in each area.

3.  Feed Your Cats on Opposite Sides of the Door

Just like when introducing a dog and a cat, feeding on opposite sides of the door helps establish a positive association with the other pet. It also helps familiarise them with the other cat’s scent nearby while eating, something they might feel most protective and territorial about.

4.  Let Your New Cat Explore Alone

When your cat has had time to adjust to its new environment, place your resident cat in another room and let your new cat explore the rest of the house on their own. This will help your new cat get more acquainted with their surroundings and help to spread their scent throughout the house.

When your new cat is done, you can put them back into their sanctuary room and let your resident cat out. They can sniff around and get used to the new cat’s scent in their territory.

5.  Try a Face-to-Face Interaction

Try a face-to-face interaction when you think both cats are ready. Monitor their behaviour at all times, and be ready with distractions should they get aggressive towards each other. If you can get them to eat or play in the same room, that’s a great sign.

Feliway and hemp seed oil could help if your cats experience extreme stress to keep introductions as calm as possible.

6.  Manage Your Expectations

While you may want your cats to be best friends, that is unlikely to happen quickly. With the slow, strategic introductions, your cats can coexist peacefully but don’t expect them to become playmates soon, if ever. Cats seem to love their human parents more than other cats in their “pride”.

7.  Supervise Your Cats at All Times

Supervise your cats through every face-to-face interaction together until you’re sure you can trust them to be alone. Don’t’ overreact if you see some backs rising and hissing exchanged. It’s all good as long as it doesn’t get physical. Don’t yell at them, but use a stern tone to say a firm NO and step in between to let them know aggressive behaviour is not ok.

Are You Ready for a Mixed Fur Family?

Bringing home a new fur baby is exciting. You want everyone to get along, but to do that, you need patience, and soon, you will have one big, happy fur family!

More insights on bonding with cats in our article How to Build a Strong Bond with Your Cat.


Photo by Krista Mangulsone on Unsplash

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