If you’re thinking of welcoming a cat home when you have puppy, or a puppy home when you have a cat, there are some important considerations to make for everyone to ensure calmness and contentment occurs.
Being pro-active in this area can help prevent a host of behavioural challenges. Your cat’s wellbeing and good mental health will be your top priority, one because you adore them, and two, because if it is not then they may start to behave in a way that is distressing and upsetting. Cats can internalise stress and at the beginning often display subtle, rather than overt ways of showing unhappiness and stress. With this in mind, it’s important to be able to spot signs of stress before they become problematic and affect your cats welfare. Chronic stress can lead to the suppression of the body’s immune system which can result in illness (Training and behavior modification for shelter cats Kelley Bollen).
Behaviour can include spraying or defecating outside of the litter tray, which can be trickier to handle. Prevention is better than cure.
What makes a cat a cat?
Cats are territorial creatures. They need an abundance of resources to be happy and feel secure. They are both a predator and prey species meaning that it is not ideal for them to look vulnerable. This makes their facial expressions harder to read. While their body language is harder to read, it is not impossible and there are signs that they show that are similar to dogs. This can include licking their lip very quickly, the fur on their back standing on end, dilated pupils and simply moving away.
Middening relates to a cat defecating (pooing) outside their litter tray. Cats can also spray urine. Middening and spraying can be related to stress. Stress can occur if a cat feels threatened and their resources such as food are eaten by the puppy.
- It’s imperative that litter trays are out of reach of your puppy, as well as somewhere quiet and stable (not the top of the washing machine). You can only imagine how distressing it would be for a cat to be doing their business and then a puppy ambushes them. Likewise, if the area for the tray is too noisy or moves this can startle the cat and make them build up negative associations with it.
- A high vantage point such as shelves and cat trees allows a cat to observe activity from a distance. This can help them feel more secure as they can watch people or animals from a place of safety and assess a situation. Fear can trigger stress therefore cat friendly shelving is a great choice.
- Warm and comfortable spots are important for a cat to rest and sleep. A place under the bed that a puppy cannot access or an igloo shaped bed is a feature of a great cat tree.
- A cat who can bat, swipe, and play and exhibit their normal behavioural repertoire will be a happy cat. Da bird toys can be good for this.
Don’t allow your dog to chase your cat – it can be addictive, enticing and real fun for your dog. We do not want this behaviour to happen and be practiced. Maintain safety for your cat and use a lead. Avoid flexi leads as they can be wire and cause pain if they get caught on you or your dog or cat.
It is important that a cat is not backed into a corner and feels the need to swipe at your puppy. This can cause injuries. In addition to this it is likely that a cat will run off after the behaviour and this may entice your dog to chase them which is the opposite of what you want.
Protecting their resources
Food is a precious resource – do not allow your dog to have your cat’s food or the scraps of it. Cat food can be very tasty and appealing. Feed your cat up on a cat tree, or on the table. Ensure the food bowl cannot fall off and obviously it’s important to be mindful of any arthritic conditions that your cat has.
It is imperative that litter trays are out of reach of your puppy, as well as somewhere quiet and stable (not the top of the washing machine). You can only imagine how distressing it would be for a cat to be doing their business and then a puppy ambushes them. Cat faeces can be very tasty to dogs (yuck!). Consider baby gates to make sure your dog cannot access it. Consider getting a cat flap that is microchipped between rooms so that your cat can get through rooms easily.
Cats navigate the world through their sense of smell
It is not enough to allow your cat and dog to simply smell each other in the house. Start preparing your cat for your puppies arrival by bringing a blanket that he has slept on, home.
Build up positive associations with the appearance of the dog
Utilise baby gates so that your dog and cat a separate. Ensure they are at a safe and comfortable distance from each other. When your cat sees your dog provide them with tasty warm food that they love. This way your cat is starting to associate the sight of your dog with something positive.
Teaching your dog to settle at the sight of your cat
As discussed, keep your dog on a lead indoors in times when your cat is in the area. Have tasty kong’s ready to give your dog when they see your cat. By giving your dog something else to do which keeps them occupied, settled and lying down means that they are participating in incompatible behaviours of your cat.
As humans we’re very goal orientated and sometimes patience is not our top priority! Introductions can take time and it is important to not push them as this can result in you moving backwards before moving forward.
If you’re thinking about welcome a puppy or cat home and would like some advice, consider reaching out to me about our cat and kitten advice sessions.