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Preventing Mean Cats & Dogs in Multi-Pet Homes

tabby cat laying on floor pawing at large brown and black dog with mouth open

Cats are naturally independent creatures that like to be in control of their environment, and prefer to have a certain structure to their surroundings. Other animals in your cat's presence may make her feel threatened and unable to control her surroundings, which can lead to stress and unwanted behavior. This includes not just other animals in your home, but also the friendly (or feral) neighborhood cats and dogs roaming around outside.

Behaviors you might see:

  • Urine spraying or marking
  • Accidents outside the litter box
  • Vocalization/Withdrawal
  • Vertical Scratching

Helping your cat socialize with other animals — whether they're part of the family or just visiting — is important to her overall health and well-being. Scent is very important for cats, and it will be the primary way they get to know other animals.

What can you do to ease your cat's stress around other animals?

Introducing your cat to a dog

  • Introduce via smell: Keep the cat in a carrier or in a closed room and let the dog sniff around before meeting her in person.
  • Protect your dog: Your dog is more likely to be swiped by the cat's paw than do anything to hurt the cat.
  • Protect your cat: Be aware that some dog breeds might instinctively attack a smaller animal, thinking it's prey.
  • Be the boss: Don't leave the animals alone together overnight, or when you're not home, until you're certain they're fully socialized.

A new cat in your home

  • The nose always knows: Introduce the smell of your new cat to your current cat so she won't be unsettled or threatened when they first meet. Give her a blanket or toy the new cat has slept on or played with. Alternatively, let her sniff around the new cat's carrier when she's not in it.
  • Take turns: For the first week or two, play with the cats separately, taking turns so they will smell each other on you and begin to learn to trust.
  • Dinner for two: Using two separate bowls placed next to one another, feed the cats at the same time. They'll learn to associate being fed with being close to the other cat and will be less likely to fight during the day.

A new kitten in your home

  • Keep them separated: For the first few days of a new kitten's time in your home, keep cats apart from one another. Let the kitten have free roam of a closed room in the house. The adult cat will hear the meowing and sense the movement from behind the door.
  • Sniff around: Place your kitten in her carrier in the middle of the living room and let the adult cat sniff around. Don't be afraid if there's hissing and batting of paws, or snorting and hunching of backs. That's to be expected, and it's okay for them both to do.
  • Love them equally: Keep the cats separated in cages or in separate rooms until they accept each other, which can take a few weeks. When they begin to tolerate one another, make sure you play with them equally and show equal amounts of affection. You don't want either one to feel jealous of the other.

Other animals at the vet's office

Many veterinarians have a separate cat area in their waiting rooms, but if that's not available to you, here are some things you can do to keep your cat calm and happy while she's waiting for her checkup:

  • Always, always keep your cat in her carrier. Keep the carrier on the bench or seat next to you so she can smell you and know you are nearby.
  • Don't be afraid to talk to her to keep her calm.
  • If another animal or person gets too close, you can politely ask them to keep a safe distance so that your cat doesn't suffer any undue stress, especially if she's sick or recovering from a procedure. It also protects the other animals from an errant paw swiping from the air ventilation holes in the carrier!

Neighborhood animals near your home

If you're unable to keep other animals away from the yard or the door, or if you live in an apartment building where animals can smell one another through the air vents, use a Comfort Zone Calming Diffuser to help control urine spraying and vertical scratching associated with stressful, overprotective situations for your cat.

Category: Multi-Pet Behavior | Comfort Zone