Start by allowing the cat and dog to become aware of each other's scent before any direct contact. Swap their bedding or toys between them so they can get used to each other's smell.
Provide a separate space for each pet initially, allowing them to become familiar with their new surroundings without the stress of direct interaction. This helps in preventing initial territorial issues.
Use a baby gate or a cracked door to allow the cat and dog to see each other without direct physical contact. This helps them get accustomed to each other's presence in a controlled environment.
Reward both the cat and dog with treats, praise, and affection when they exhibit calm and non-threatening behavior around each other. Positive reinforcement can help create positive associations.
When you feel confident about their initial reactions, conduct supervised meetings in a controlled environment. Keep the dog on a leash initially to maintain control and ensure the cat feels safe.
Ensure the cat has plenty of escape routes and safe spaces where it can retreat if feeling threatened. Cats often need vertical spaces, so provide shelves or perches where the cat can observe from a distance.
Pay close attention to the body language of both the cat and the dog. Look for signs of stress or aggression, and intervene if needed. Gradually increase the time they spend together as they become more comfortable.
Building a positive relationship between a cat and a dog takes time. Be patient and allow them to progress at their own pace. Rushing the introduction can lead to anxiety and potential conflicts.