Before we moved to Louisiana, I
obsessed researched like crazy, read everything I could find, and talked to people with combined households about introducing dogs and cats. Emmett, Lucas, and Cooper had almost no experience with cats, and Newt had no experience with dogs. The one factor that I thought would work in our favor was that neither the dogs nor the cat were “resident animals” since we were all moving into a new place at the same time. No one would feel like their space was being encroached upon since it was neutral for everything.
We started with a three-pronged plan: Get the used to each other’s smells and stuff, let them see each other at a safe/restrained distance, and (eventually) allow them to meet directly.
I wasn’t sure how long each step would take, but we wanted to make sure they were all comfortable before we increased the difficulty.
One crucial aside: The house is set up to make this process super easy. The dogs have the first floor. You go up a flight of stairs into a large living room – the neutral zone. Then there’s a flight of stairs from that room that goes to the second floor, which is Newt’s area. Each zone is separated by a door, but we also have a series of baby gates set up in each “hot spot” to make sure that there’s no way the dogs can get to Newt until we’re ready for that to happen!
A week into it, we’ve had to make some adjustments… Here’s where we are and where (I think) we’re going:
Smells and Stuff
Before beginning this whole process, we made a few predictions. First, Emmett wouldn’t care about her one bit. Second, Lucas would be incredibly interested, though playful. Finally, Cooper would go nuts.
Our predictions have been pretty darn accurate!
We started this first phase by putting the dogs in the downstairs bedroom with the door closed, taking Newt into the kitchen, then letting the boys upstairs. They had ample time to explore her space, sniff every corner, test out her toys, and generally just to understand that there was a living creature up there. Meanwhile, she prowled around downstairs, climbed into their beds, sniffed their toy box, and got a sense of what she was up against. We did the same thing with the “neutral” room – the dogs got a turn in there, then we’d switch them out for Newt, repeat. We’ve done this several times a day without problem.
Seeing Each Other
After a few days of sniffing, we decided to allow them to see one another. We took one dog at a time on leash into the neutral room. Then we’d open the door that led upstairs and let Newt decide if she wanted to come down or not. The entire time, we clicked and treated for calm behavior and every single time they’d look away from her. I didn’t want them to stare her down! The first time, Emmett looked at her once, then was like, “If she’s not going to give me cheese, then I have no business with her.” She crept quite close to him, I think because he had no interest. Lucas was very interested. His eyes were round, his ears were perked, and his back was tense. He cried and cried (and cried and cried). But he was responsive. He sat. He did watch mes. He did a down. I think all the reactive dog training really teed us up for success. She didn’t want to get too close to him that first time, but she did watch him for a while from a safe distance. Cooper was incredibly aroused, so we cut his first view very short. As soon as we got a sit and a watch me, we ended the session so as to end on a positive note.
We’ve repeated this several times with each dog. Cooper has improved substantially. Lucas is still a little too hyped-up. Emmett still couldn’t care less. Which brings me to…
Newt got brave. I had Emmett on leash on the couch while Newt observed him from under the side table. Then she got a wild hair and decided that his tail looked FUN! So super FUN! Must get it! So she leapt onto the couch and sunk her nails into his wagging tail.
What did Emmett do?
Nothing. Of course, I had cheese, and Emmett gets hyper-tunnel-vision for cheese. I, on the other hand, had a heart attack. 🙂 Then, a few moments later, Emmett turned his head and nosed her!
We also set up a gate on the steps going upstairs. Instead of letting them meet face-to-face, we’ve let them approach each other from either side of the gate. This has been incredibly successful because they can sniff each other while feeling safe. Cooper and Lucas both licked Newt right in the face, which I took as a good sign, though I’m sure Her Royal Highness was horrified.
So that’s where we are… They can’t be totally free around each other yet, but it’s only been a week! We’re going to keep repeating these exercises every day until they seem nonchalant. I don’t know how long that will take, but I think once we get there – where they’re totally “eh” about each other’s presence – we’ll work out a plan for off-leash introductions (I’m thinking squirt bottles need to be on hand just in case). We’ll see when we get there.
Have you ever had to figure out a plan for introducing dogs and cats? Any tips or strategies? Or, perhaps more importantly, things not to do?
Pamela | Something Wagging This Way Comes says
Wow, impressive. And perhaps Emmet will be able to teach Cooper and Lucas to calm down by his example.
You know, that’s a good point. I think we need to start doing two at a time instead of one-on-one. Maybe Emmett + Cooper then Emmett + Lucas so he can be a good role model for them. Excellent suggestion! I’ll let you know how it goes!
I am so impressed! although I don’t know why, with your devotion, love and passion for your dogs,(and cat) I knew you would make it work. the gates are a great idea,they can see each other and sniff without anyone being in any danger. hoping the next steps go well
That’s so nice of you to say, Sofia. But you hit the nail on the head: My whole goal is to make sure that everyone is safe!! However, we were talking tonight and wondering if we’re being too cautions. If they never attempt to chase Newt, she may not figure out to go up high to get away from them… or if she’s never close enough to swat them, they won’t learn not to chase to begin with. I’m not sure what the right answer is: How much freedom should they get?
Jodi, Kolchak & Felix says
This seems like a pretty darn good plan. We hope to one day adopt a pair of kitties from our local orphaned kitty rescue and one of my big concerns has been Kolchak. I’m book marking this in case I need it later.
Oooh, how exciting!! I can’t wait to follow along on that adventure! 🙂
Elizabeth K says
Congratulations on the move and on getting the two species to interact so civilly in such a short time! You’re doing everything right – better than I have done with my own, I confess, and I’ve got (entirely too much) experience. 🙂 Just always provide Newt some space to go and be out of the dogs’ reach, and you should be okay. It’s incredibly rewarding to live with cats and dogs who not only get along, but are friends!
Oh, my gosh. Elizabeth! Can I ask your expert advice?? We’re stumped on two things: toys and chasing. Is it okay for them to play with each other’s toys? Or is it better to separate their belongings? My fear is that Newt will pick up one of Cooper’s toys and he’ll pummel her. Also, if they do chase her, do you correct that in any way? She has tons of escape routes, but I don’t know where the “play” line is between dogs and cats! Any tips would be MUCH appreciated!!
Elizabeth K says
OK, so I’ve never in my life had a cat who went for the dog’s toy (not that it couldn’t happen), but food? I would keep the dogs’ and cat’s food (even treats) separate (as in, until they all know each other better: don’t feed one species in the presence of the other) just in case there is jealousy (on a dog’s part). You shouldn’t have to remove all of Cooper’s toys from Newt’s presence, though. 🙂
I am hyper vigilant at my house about leaving the cats’ toys lying around, only because the dogs destroy/eat them. Poor kitties never have nice things.
As for the chasing, (sigh) it makes me nuts. It doesn’t happen often, thankfully, but when it does (I have herding dogs), and the cat is in visible distress (no escape route) and/or getting humped (yes, humped), the dog goes to time-out. This is not ideal, as I should be rewarding the dogs for NOT chasing the cats; however, I am far too lazy. 🙁
Truth be told, the best way for a dog to learn not to pester a cat is for the cat to correct the dog (e.g., a swift swipe to the nose). So, if Newt is a confident kitty, she will most likely not have any trouble maintaining her ground. (And from your account of her going for Emmett’s tail, I have a feeling she is.)
Honestly, it sounds like your little blended family is off to a marvelous start. Trust me, I’ve seen a lot of cat/dog interaction, and what you’ve described here is just about the best start anyone could hope for.
Have fun with them! Their inter-species antics will make you laugh!
Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this advice! I was hoping Newt would correct them, but I wasn’t sure that was the right approach. We had a little setback yesterday – Lucas got frustrated that she wasn’t approaching the baby gate to greet him, and he LUNGED – which set a bad tone for the rest of the day. We’re going to back up a step and go back to frequent short visits. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your experience and advice!! Thank you!
Jan K says
It sounds like you are doing great! I think you are doing everything as you should be. It’s been quite a few years since we’ve added a pet to the household, so I can’t think of anything we might have specifically done differently. It really sounds like you have a great setup and the gates help a lot. Hope it continues to go so well! I had to laugh at Newt going after Emmett’s tail though! At least she chose the right dog to try that with!
Thanks, Jan! I think the gates are going to be the thing that saves us because Newt can get away and they can’t chase. Secretly I had hoped they’d all just get along right away, but… 🙂 Ah, well!
Jan K says
It’s too bad it couldn’t be easier! It actually was fairly easy for us but that’s because Kobi is the only one that joined the crew as an older dog, and he is like Emmett and nothing phases him. The other three dogs came in as puppies and I think that made a big difference. Hang in there, you’ll get there in time, even if you have a setback here and there.
You’re doing great! And you’re putting so much more work into this than I would! Our dogs live downstairs and the cat lives upstairs. They’re leery in each other’s presence. And that’s it. The rabbit has been the wrench in the works, chasing the cat all over the upstairs.
Glad to see you’re moved in!
That’s actually our back-up plan if we can’t get this smoothed out! I think right now the problem is that Lucas and Cooper want to CHASE, and I just don’t know if their intentions are good (play) or not (prey).