Introducing Your Cat and Your Rescue Chessie

Many cats and dogs can live happily together. A few dogs are confirmed cat-haters and are dangerous to cats. Cats can also do serious damage to dogs.

(Please do not declaw a cat that is going to live with dogs--not only does it remove a cat's ability to defend itself when necessary, it also can cause a cat to become more aggressive toward dogs and humans and even lead to other behavioral problems.)

But many cats and dogs can work it out...eventually. It can take several months. The introduction is very important. DO NOT THROW THEM TOGETHER. It sometimes works, but if it doesn't, it will set things far, far back.

Maximize your chances for success by confining the cat to a room where he feels comfortable. Equip it with food, water, and litter box. Start by keeping the door closed. The cat will know there is a new dog dog in the house, just as the dog will know there is a cat. Do this for several days to a week.

The next step is to allow them to see each other. I use a device I made out of 2 lengths of coated wire closet organizer shelves---hanging them lengthwise in the doorway of the cat's room like a double door. You could also use a screen door. Correct the dog if he barks obsessively or tries to get into the room--correct and distract the dog away from the room.

Keep this up for at least another week. During this time, hopefully, both the dog's and the cat's reaction will decrease.

The next step is to the allow the cat out of the cat room while the dog is crated. Don't react too much if the dog barks and carries on. Make sure he has something to play with in his crate--perhaps a Kong with a little peanut butter smeared around the inside. Do this step for several days. When the dog is out of the crate, put the cat back in the cat room.

Next allow the dog and cat out together when you can supervise. Let the dog drag the leash around. Do this for several days. Continue to supervise all interactions for a while depending on how well the animals adapt. There will still probably be some skirmishes--you can't totally prevent them. Don't kill the dog, but let him know this displeases you.

Doing this gradually is the key--you can't screw up by going too slowly, but proceeding too quickly can really reduce your chances of success. You can skip the step of the cat room barrier, going from a closed door to only letting the cat out when the dog is crated, but it really makes the process much easier.

- by Elaine Bloom

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