Cats and dogs should be introduced gradually, researchers say

Cats and dogs should be introduced gradually, researchers say

Cats and dogs can form friendly relationships, but a lot depends on how they are introduced to begin with.

In a study involving owners who introduced a new puppy to their existing cat, researchers at Dogs Trust and the University of Bristol found that the pups tended to play, become over-excited and chase their fellow furry housemate — behaviours that to the puppy may be friendly, but might not be perceived as such by the resident cat.

Puppies were more likely to show only desirable behaviour towards the cats (from the feline perspective) — such as remaining calm and uninterested — if they were introduced at under 12 weeks old, gradually and/or if they lived in a household with another dog.

“Cats and dogs are extremely popular pets, and although they can live amicably together, understanding their relationships is highly important because the quality of the relationships can impact both animals’ welfare and potentially the owners’ wellbeing too,” said Dr Sara Owczarczak-Garstecka and Rachel Kinsman, who led the study.

When introducing dogs and cats, Dogs Trust recommends using their different smells to introduce them to each other before you bring your new pet home. Once at home, create separate areas for each pet where they will feel secure and have all they need, including access to the outdoors, without having to pass each other.

Consider using physical barriers such as baby gates to keep them separated, in the short term at least, and make sure you are there to watch them and reward good behaviour. Keep your dog on a lead until you are confident that they are calm and relaxed around one another.

Introductions should always be made at your cat’s pace and the cat should be able to move away if they want to. Reward your dog for being calm in the presence of your cat, and if your dog tries to chase or is over-excited, move them away or out of sight and build contact more gradually.

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