You’ve had a cat for years. She has become such a part of the family that you can’t imagine living without her. But, now you want something more: an animal less independent that needs extra love and attention. Should you get a dog? Will the presence of the dog make your cat crazy? Will they get along? All of these questions are typical questions cat owners ask when considering bringing a dog into a home. The truth is, if introduced the right way, the dog and cat can be the best of friends.

Your best bet for peaceful coexistence is a puppy. More than likely, older dogs have already experienced the exhilaration of cat chasing, so it’s hard to break them of this habit. Some breeders recommend that you get a puppy that is the opposite sex of you cat, but this is completely up to you. Both animals need to be up-to-date on vaccinations and be free of fleas and ticks. Also, make sure your cat is in good health. If your cat has health problems, then you should probably reconsider bringing home a dog. Cats are territorial, and the stress of the newcomer could make your cat’s health worse.

When you first bring home the new pup, make sure he is on a leash. Puppies are rambunctious, while cats are calm. An over-excited puppy will scare your cat, making contact between the two much more difficult. Don’t force the two to interact. Cats are curious and will more than likely want to sniff the pup. Growling, hissing, and barking are normal reactions for both animals, so don’t be alarmed if it’s noisy. Do, however, be ready to intervene in case of a fight.

Once the animals have met, then let all other interactions be natural. Keep each animal's food and water in separate places. That way, both animals can enjoy their food and eat comfortably. During the first few days (or weeks, depending on their progress) of the initial interaction phase, keep the animals separated in different parts of the home. A good way to do this is with a baby gate. That way, the two pets have a chance to sniff and interact with each other, but still have an easy escape route. In case of aggression, cats should always have places to flee that are out of reach of the dog.

Some animal shelters recommend "scent switching" while the animals are still separated by the baby gate. Scent switching is easy, and it allows both animals to get used to the smell of the other. To do this, take a small towel and rub it on your cat, or take a blanket that your cat often sleeps upon. Place the scented towel or blanket near the pup’s food bowl. There are two reasons for placing the towel near the food: 1. the dog will have constant contact with the scent, and 2. the dog will associate the scent with something he loves, food. Repeat this procedure, placing a dog-scented towel near the cat’s food. It's important that you pay attention to their eating habits. Although a rare occurrence, make sure that the scented towel is not causing either animal to refuse to eat.
Once the animals get to know each other, then you can try to take down the baby gate. However, do not leave the animals completely unsupervised. Make sure that the interactions are safe for both animals. As your dog learns commands, it's important that you teach him "down" or "stay" around the cat. That way, if a quarrel erupts, you can call down the dog. Also, keep your cat’s fingernails clipped. You do not want her to scratch your pup’s face and cause an infection.
Even after the animals become comfortable in the same space, you still need to keep them separated when you’re not home. Continue keeping them separated until you are absolutely sure they will not fight.
Introducing a new puppy into the home of an existing cat can be stressful for both animals. It's important that you let them meet slowly and get to know each other on their own terms. In the beginning, keeping their food separated is necessary. You also want them both to have their own safe place. Once acquainted, dogs and cats can be good friends, bringing even more happiness and joy to your home.

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