Saturday, November 13, 2010

Woof and Meow, Part VII: Socializing Your Dog to a New Cat or Kitten

by Carrie Boyko, CEB
© D.R., reader copyright on file
Great Dane, Murphy, and his 
kitten, Fergie Snuggle Sweetly

So you've decided to bring a cat into your dog's domain. You're brave; but it can be done with patience and a few sneaky tactics:
  1. Just before you bring Meow home, take Woof on a very long walk to tire him out and lessen his reaction to meeting his new pack member.
  2. To meet Meow, bring Woof outside to an area he doesn't call home--a neighbor's yard or nearby lot will do just fine.
  3. Leash and hold Woof securely, and ask him to Sit or Down near your car, where Meow will be waiting inside in her carrier.
  4. Allow the two to experience each other from a distance of 10-15 feet initially. Believe me, they'll be able to detect one another. Curiosity is healthy, but do not allow Woof to move forward until he demonstrates a calm attitude and acceptance of Meow. Honestly, this probably won't happen for a while.
  5. Gradually, if successful, move Woof closer to Meow for a better scent. Stop when Woof's body language begins to become heightened: scruff ruffled, ears and chest forward, tail straight up and not wagging, eyes trained on the carrier, barking, growling, or attempting to move toward Meow. Don't try to manage this maneuver by yourself. you'll need a helper--one to hold the dog's leash and control him, and another to handle the kitty's carrier and position it behind Woof for her first good whiff. Finally, do not remove Meow from her carrier, no matter how smoothly this process seems to go. They both need more time.
  6. For best results, stop the exercise at the first sign of heightened arousal of Woof.
  7. However, if Woof is interested yet well-behaved, you'll want to make a judgment call. At some point, Meow needs to be brought out of the car, in her carrier, to get a scent of Woof from behind, and fairly close. It is important that Meow get the opportunity to sniff FIRST. This will give her the upper hand, something that is much needed in this scenario. After all, she is going to be entering Woof's domain. Her sniffing first will send a message to Woof that you have given her a higher status than him--a very important message.
  8. After getting Woof's scent, Meow should be carried, still in her carrier, into the house ahead of Woof. Place her carrier in an area that will be safe for her, and designated for her food and litter area. Give Woof a favorite toy or chewy bone and secure him in another area while you spend some time with Meow settling her into her new digs. Remain calm while she sniffs and gets acquainted. Show her where her water dish and food bowl are, touching a wet finger to her nose, after dipping it in the bowl. Set her gently in her litter box, so she'll remember where it is. Offer her a cozy bedding of towels in the carrier and leave it open for her. She may prefer a more closed in space during her adjustment period. Dont' give much affection if Meow is nervous--which is expected--as this will only serve to encourage her anxiety. Save this for when she becomes curious and wants to see her new home.
  9. Allow Meow to first get used to her new home from the privacy of her personal suite. She'll get smells wafting from throughout the house and will learn a great deal about who lives there and what goes on in the space outside her own area. Then she'll get curious and this will be your cue to let her explore, with supervision.
  10. Before letting Meow check out the house, have a helper on hand to leash and hold Woof. Keep Woof well away from Meow while she explores her new home. Close doors to areas she is not allowed to enter, and continue this practice indefinitely. While Meow wanders the house, allow Woof to follow at a distance of at least 10 feet. It is healthy for him to see that she is allowed to explore at will, and he will understand that you expect him to respect her space--no approaches. This, again, is a message that the cat has an elevated status in the house, another cue that he must respect her and her belongings.
  11. For a while, when Meow and Woof are in the same areas, you may want to leash and work with Woof to learn calm behavior around Meow, using treats and praise to help him understand when he behaves the way you desire. She, too, will be learning that sudden movements will energize Woof. This is a mutual process of learning how to behave around the other.
Eventually, Meow will have her opportunity to snag a piece of Woof's nose. This may sound cruel, but it will likely be the only chance she'll get to come that close, unless the two are both young and bond easily. Woof will learn quickly that her claws are treacherous. This will give her an edge, no matter how large he is. He will have learned an important lesson about his own behavior around her.

In time, Woof will understand what is required of him to live with Meow as a housemate. When he behaves admirably, be sure to continue with praise, affection and treats, although you'll need to wean him of these to maintain his 'figure'. The praise and affection will speed the process of their socialization and one day they will surprise you. You'll arrive hom to find them napping together like best friends on a sleepover. Well, with one exception. Meow's back will be to Woof. It's a cat thing.

We hope to see you next week for the reverse of today's post--how to acclimate a new dog or puppy to Meow's territory. Join us for some tips. 

The big drawing is getting near for the World's Best Cat Litter, Tote bags, cat goodies, and a Litter-Robot. Have you entered? Check out Part II for instructions if you'd like to get a chance at the prizes, to be announced on Saturday, November 27. Good luck!

Full disclosure: The Litter-Robot and World's Best Cat Litter described in this series have been donated to All Things Dog Blog for an independent review. I have not been paid to provide my opinion of these products, and the opinion provided is my own.
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MurphyDog said...

Woof! That's a grrreat post! Thanks for using our picture, I showed Fergie & she was super excited!

wags, wiggles & slobbers

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