Can I get a dog if I already own a cat?

Introducing any new animal to a resident tabby can be difficult, but people are especially wary when that new creature is a dog. The truth is, introducing a new pooch to your resident pampered pet isn’t as difficult as you might think – taking the right steps to prepare and being able to control the environment can go a long way to creating a peaceful atmosphere at home.

You’ll find it a lot easier when introducing a dog and cat if you have a puppy, as they’re much more likely to accept a cat as one of the pack, rather than an intruder. You can also have complete control over your puppy’s training, giving you a greater understanding of their moods and how to calm them down.

Taking proper steps to prepare your new canine companion can also go a long way to making the introduction as easy as possible – make sure they’re rested, well-fed and relaxed. You should also make sure they’re wearing a dog collar attached to a lead so you can control any unexpected reactions.

If you have a nervous cat, it might be wise to invest in a high quality cat bed to give them a safe place to retreat to, should they feel too scared by the dog’s presence – cats love their space, so let them have it. If you have someone helping you make the introduction, you may also want to consider a cat collar and lead, giving you control over the distance between the two animals.

You should repeat these steps on a daily basis until each visit is incident-free, before moving on to the next step. You may need to be patient, but most cats and dogs can live happily together without the need for constant restraint by a dog collar or cat collar. When you’re completely comfortable with the way they’re responding to each other, you can move on to free contact.

This involves taking both pets off their leads and getting them together in one of your larger rooms, making sure there’s enough space for either one to run away if they become scared. One of the best things you can do is to reward your pooch for good behaviour towards the cat – when he approaches slowly without scaring them, give him a treat. You should always make sure that your kitty has somewhere to escape to, though, as it’s rare for them to give up all of their territory completely peacefully.

Although, in general, these two animals will get along just fine, there may be cases where they just won’t gel. If this is the case, there are two options – first you could visit a dog behaviourist, and get special advice on training your dog to accept the resident cat. If, however, the problem lies with your cat, you can either continually use the dog collar and cat collar to keep them separate, or consider finding your puppy a new home – it might be difficult but the animal’s welfare should always come first.

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Annabel Karmel

Annabel Karmel MBE is the UK’s leading expert and best-selling author on baby food and nutrition.

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