Bringing a puppy into the same home as an older cat can be stressful for all involved. If your feline friend is in (or nearing) her senior years and very much set in her ways, you might be better off rescuing an older dog who is less playful and has previously lived with cats. However, if you absolutely must bring a brand new puppy into the household, here are some tips to help make it a smooth introduction.
Create a Cat Refuge
Before you bring your new puppy home, prepare a refuge for your cat. This should be a quiet space that only your cat can get to and that possesses all the necessities, such as food, water, toys and a litter box. It could be a spare bedroom, an infrequently used room or a large closet. Use a baby gate to close it off, so your cat can get in and out as she pleases but the new pup can't come in. Just be certain that kitty can freely access it, especially if she has any mobility issues.
Considering Your Older Cat's Needs
Think about the needs of your older cat prior to getting your new puppy. Your elderly kitty is less likely to be able to defend herself against any rough play from the new puppy, so you'd be better off choosing a smaller kind of dog who won't dwarf or overwhelm her. Be sure to take things as slowly as you can, as stress can be a problem for older cats.
Where to Put Puppy
When your puppy first arrives, confine him to one room, with the door closed, while your cat gets the run of the rest of the house, including her refuge. This will stop her from feeling pushed out of her own home. However, bear in mind that a puppy needs plenty of care and shouldn't be left alone for long periods of time. Try to make the room you'll keep the puppy in a room you spend lots of time in -- or consider altering your routine so that you're in the puppy's interim space more than usual.
Before your puppy and cat even meet, let them get used to each other's scents. Exchange blankets or other bedding fabrics that each has used so your cat can smell your puppy and vice versa. This can help to make their first encounter less of a surprise.
Make the first impressions between your cat and your new pup as positive and stress-free as possible. Make initial introductions through a closed door. You'll need two people, one on each side of the door so you'll have control over both pets. The person on the cat's side of the door should kneel down and hold onto her at roughly the same height as the pup's head. Praise both pets and give them treats so they associate one another with something positive. Once you're ready to introduce the two face to face, and before you open the door, make sure the puppy is kept on his leash so he can't get too playful with the cat. If your pup gets too rambunctious or your cat gets overwhelmed, separate them and try again later.
For the first month or so, supervise all interactions between your puppy and your cat. Cats and dogs play differently, and your pup could accidentally injure your cat if he plays rough. Conversely, if your cat gets annoyed and strikes out at your puppy, she could severely injure him. Only when you're sure the two can be trusted together should you leave them unsupervised, but you should ensure that your cat has a secure refuge should she need it.
By Lauren Corona
UC Davis Veterinary Medicine: What to Expect When Bringing Home a New Pet
Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Introducing Dogs and Cats
Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Refuge
ASPCA: Introducing Your Cat to a New Dog
About the Author
Lauren Corona has worked as a writer since 2010. She has penned articles for a range of websites and print publications, specializing in animal care, nature, music and vegan food. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and American literature, and a postgraduate diploma in print journalism.