The best solution is to choose very young animals. It’s fairly easy to introduce a puppy to a kitten, or two puppies and two kittens, and have them live together harmoniously. It’s more complicated with adult animals.
You already have an adult cat and want to adopt a new kitten. You will need to plan their introduction to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible. Cats are very territorial animals and hate, or at least dislike, their territory being invaded. This is why they are disturbed when a new sofa, another pet or a person is introduced into their living environment. Sometimes they adapt well, but not always. So you might start noticing problems such as scratching or urine marking (spraying).
Indirect encounters. You don’t actually put the cats together but just introduce them to the other’s scent. Let the new cat into a room in the house for the first time and allow it to sniff out the scent of the household’s resident pet, keeping the latter in another room. After an hour, the cats swap places. The new cat is kept apart and the old one takes repossession of its territory and explores it, discovering the newcomer’s scent. This introduces both cats to each other without them fighting, hissing or running off. Do this several times.
Closer indirect encounters. Place the new cat in a pen and let the old one inspect it and acknowledge its presence without the risk of any fighting. They can see and smell each other. They can also be swapped over so that each cat has the chance to discover its environment in the presence of the other.
Direct encounters. Both cats are put in the same room BUT they must have the option of running off or hiding. Cats are not aggressive by nature. They prefer to take a step back and observe, so it’s very important they have access to places where they can hide or watch from afar.
It’s a really good idea to spray soothing essential oils into the air to facilitate the encounters and ensure they are peaceful. Zen Miloa TM keeps the animals calm and reduces their anxiety levels by interfering with their ability to smell stress hormones.
If the new arrival is a puppy, there’s a good chance the introduction will go well. Arrange for them to meet in an “open” environment, i.e. a large area such as a park, garden or big room, so that each dog can keep its distance if it wants. Games are an excellent way to encourage bonding, unlike food, which can cause jealousy and growling. The encounters then become one big game for everyone to join in, because if you associate them with “positive” and pleasant events, the dogs will eventually start to enjoy them. Walks are another ideal occasion to bring the dogs together.
Introducing two adult dogs is trickier. Use the same approach, organising games and walks so that the dogs start to enjoy doing things together. For individual activities such as eating, sleeping and getting cuddles, it’s best not to force them to do these together if they don’t want to. They will decide when they want to eat from the same bowl or sleep in the same basket. You must never force them. Finally, as hard as it may be, you have to accept that sometimes two dogs just cannot get along. Some may be able to do no more than live together without becoming best friends.
It’s fairly easy to have a kitten adopted by an adult dog. Getting an adult cat to adopt a puppy, on the other hand, is not so simple, but not impossible if you use the techniques described above. However, putting together an adult dog and an adult cat that don’t know each other can be quite tricky. It largely depends on how much they have socialised with other species. If your dog has always lived around cats, there’s a good chance it will accept a new one. Likewise, a cat that has lived in contact with dogs will be more willing to accept another, provided it’s calm and not too lively and intrusive.
Whatever the circumstances, never force contact. Always allow time to adapt! Acceptance won’t happen overnight. You need a little patience and Zen Miloa TM could make things easier.
Dr Eric Witvrouw
DMV | Animal Behaviourist
Veterinary Center ÉducaVet’s