Introducing Dogs and Cats

Last week I finally introduced June to Ellie.  If you recall, June is the dog I adopted from the Humane Society in Golden Valley on July 2nd.  I adopted Ellie, my cat, a year ago from the Animal Ark in Hastings.  I kept Junie upstairs and Ellie downstairs because June had kennel cough, and I had a feeling that neither of them would be excited about meeting the other.  I was correct.  Before I introduced them, I did some research and talked to my vets about the best way to introduce cats and dogs.  I followed these steps, but it will continue to be a long process:

1.  Keep pets separated for at least 3-4 days.  I kept Ellie and June separate for almost two weeks.  June had kennel cough and was so timid as it was, that I didn’t want to make her even more scared.  The goal of separation is to allow animals to get used to each other’s presence in the home.

2.  While the pets are still separate, begin to feed them on opposite sides of a closed door.  This teaches them to associate the presence of the other pet with pleasant things like food.  You should continue this process until each pet can eat calmly right next to the door.  This was not a problem for Ellie and June because they both love food.  Maybe someday they’ll be able to bond over their mutual love for food… hey, I can dream, can’t I?

3.  Teach your dog basic obedience commands like “sit” and “down”.  When the dog does finally meet your cat, she will be more likely to follow your directions.  June has no problem following these cues when there are no distractions, but we continue to work on these commands with added distractions.

4.  When the pets can eat their food calmly near the door, begin face-to-face meetings.  The meetings should be short and calm.  Keep your dog on a leash, and let your cat come and go as she pleases.  Reward positive behavior with treats.  Ellie and June got to this stage, but have yet to show positive behavior around each other.

5.  Repeat face-to-face sessions daily.  If the cat attempts to leave the room, allow her to do so, and don’t let your dog chase her.  Try to end each session before either pet shows stress or aggression.  Unfortunately both June and Ellie have shown aggressive behavior, so we are stepping back to feedings at the door.

6.  When both animals seem to be getting along, allow them loose in the room together.  If stress or aggression occurs between them, go back to earlier introduction steps.  Make sure the cat has a sanctuary from a dog at all times.  Luckily Ellie has the entire basement to herself.  For Ellie and June, this will be a very long process, but although I do not expect them to ever BFFs, I hope they can be in the same room without showing aggression. Here’s a video of June and Ellie interacting.  This actually isn’t too bad–Ellie hisses once, but that’s it. Now June has started barking at Ellie, so I’m going back to earlier steps of the introduction process.

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