I have never owned a cat or raised a kitten before, but my wife really wants to get one. I have no objections to this, actually I think it will be fun, but am worried about our puppy.
We’ve got a 10 month old German Shepherd who’s really a great dog, but kinda big – about 75-80 lbs. She’s very well socialized, but has never had a good experience with a cat yet. She loves to meet people and most especially other dogs of all sizes. She tends to get over enthusiastic though, which I think would really scare a small kitten. For a 10-month old pup, she’s rather well trained.
For those with multiple pets, How should I go about introducing them? What things do I need to avoid? Is there a certain kind of kitten I should look for that would fit into the household better?
My wolf hybrid and cat are bestus buddies. Don’t let age old stereotypes put you off. Talk to the folks at your local humane society. See if they have a cat that is totally dog adjusted. Bring your pup down to meet the animal and see how they get along. This would be a good first step.
A kitten may be too vulnerable for a larger ten month old dog. All of this depends upon your animal’s temperment. If your dog is truly well trained then you should be able to control her. Are you able to put a treat on the floor and verbally restrain your animal from going after it?
If your dog is at that level of training then you should be able to keep it from doing a “plush toy” number on the cat.
I agree with Zenster about going to your local shelter. Lots of cats are dropped off for a variety of reasons and I have seen more than a few who came from dog households. Kittens are great, but the older ones tend to hold their own better. It may be a better way to go with your puppy, as a full-grown cat will not be as small and enticing as an afternoon snack. (Full grown doesn’t mean 8 years old, although my 7 year old still acts like a kitten half the time.)
If anything, I’d think that your shepherd will try to well, shepherd the cat, which would be funny.
If you want a kitten, or really – if you want to introduce any feline to your puppy, first keep them in separate rooms. You may want to contain one animal and let the other “investigate” this other furry being. After a while they will be used to the smell and you can slowly let them interact face to face and increase the visitations over time; never leave them alone together at first.
As Zenster points out, your dog needs to be voice trained to the level he points out. You may have to keep him on a leash attached to you at first.
I don’t think there’s a certain kind of kitten you want to look for – maybe just one that’s at the shelter and basically free.
Here are a few sites offering suggestions:
http://cats.about.com/library/weekly/blss_dogmeetscat.htm (stupid pop-up warning)
While that is all excellent advice, MHO is that you really don’t need to make a big deal out of introducing the two, look for special kinds of cats or adopt at a certain age. I think it’s all bunk as long as you’re looking out for everyone’s safety in general. (I would not leave a puppy alone in the house un-crated while a new animal was being introduced, for example.)
I have two dogzillas (Boston Terrors – and that is NOT a typo) and two random former street cats. Dogzilla #1 was first. Then I got Random Cat #1. Brought her home, dumped her on the living room floor and that was about it. She hid under the bed in the spare bedroom for three weeks, then gradually made her presence known. I believe I kept the dogzilla1 out of the cat’s room for a while, so RC1 had a safe place to go when dogzilla1 got wound up and was a bit too spring-loaded.
Then I got Random Cat #2. He was sick, rescued off the street, although I didn’t know it at the time. Brought him in the house, dumped him on the living room floor and sat down to monitor dogzilla1 and RC1. They all sniffed, then RC2 climbed up in my lap and began to purr. RC1 took to hiding under the bed for a week or so. (They were acquired about a year apart from each other and all animals mentioned above were adults when they were brought home.) After RC2’s digestive problems were resolved, he was a little more skittish about dogzilla1, but he always had an escape route or three and always a safe place (up high or under furniture) to get away.
Finally, I acquired Dogzilla #2. He was a rescue from a puppy mill and the least socialized of all the above mentioned beasties. He stood in the corner, stared at the other three and did not move… for about three days. He had no idea that he was supposed to chase cats and as far as I could tell, basically thought of the cats as funny-looking dogs that were part of his new pack. He could care less what species you are, if you let him sleep with you. He currently sleeps spooned up with RC2.
Basically, within a month of being assimilated into Dogzilla’s House of Wayward and Rescued Orphan Pets, everybody was sleeping together on the bed and I had to move out to the couch. Just keep an eye on the pup until he/she learns how to treat the cat, and be sure to leave the cat a safe getaway/hideaway spot. All will be well and you will be a multi-species household. Good luck.
Thanks for the advice! Mia (my German Shepherd) has no problem with “leave it” command. In fact I can place a treat or her favorite chew toy on her paw while she’s laying down and if I say leave it, she won’t move until I say take it. She’s not even allowed to step through a door without me saying ok. She’s so trainable that none of these took more than a couple of patient repetitions and then a reminder command each time.
As for being in the house, she’s not trustworthy to be left alone inside during the day anyway. I built a dog run off the garage with a dog door for her to go into the garage. This is where she stays during the day.
My concern more or less stems from her never having a good cat experience yet. Our first vet (we switched, long story) had a lot of cats running around the office when you first walk in. Mia immediately wanted to investigate these creatures the first time she got there, so I allowed her to slowly approach (on lead) and the cat hissed and ran. Since then she just got hissed at from them. The worst has been my in-laws cat though. At their house Mia just tried to sniff the cat, but got hissed at and then batted in the nose (good thing it didn’t have claws.) After that, Mia kept seeking out the cat and then barking when she came close. I started giving her time-outs in her crate everytime she barked which fixed the barking, but only has led to semi-peaceful coexistence.
I do like the humane society plan Peg and am planning on doing that soon. Our local Mounds is associated with the humane society and has plenty of cats/kittens. I was thinking of using it to have a controlled little meeting of species. But after finding one, I was hoping to go more with Dogzilla’s plan of just letting them be in the house, maybe doing a bit more than just putting them in the living room together though.
I read something fairly interesting somewhere along the line. It posited that one of the reasons that dog/cat confusion arises is because when a cat lies on it’s back, it is an agressive posture (all claws engaged and ready for action) while to a dog it appears to be a submissive posture. So the dog thinks “Oh, great, they’re submitting, I’ll give 'em a friendly sniff and that will be that” and then gets an unexpected faceful of furious cat.
Remember that a cat is not a pack animal and does not care about it’s status… it will NOT give the dog an “okay, you’re the boss” reaction, it WILL defend it’s personal space by retreating, hissing, and possibly swatting. The experiences you describe as “bad” sound about normal for a cat who is faced with a predator larger than itself who won’t leave it be. This does not mean to say that cats and dogs can’t live together in peace and harmony and even be friends. They can, but it might take some time for them to get acquainted.
PS – I know Boston Terriers can be “big little dogs” but they’re only a little larger than a cat – you can’t compare the percieved physical threat from a half-grown German Shepard who could literally crunch it in one bite (if so inclined, which I’m sure the OP’s is not).
I forgot to add, anytime you introduce a cat to another animal (including another cat) the cat should have a “private space” of territory where the other animal is not allowed for a time.
Moving to a new space with new people is scary for most cats and they need to get used to you, your house, and your dog in that order.