The cat owner should already have had one or two dogs visit the cat's household before contemplating dog adoption, so they can sense their cat's reactions, and see if the family think they can manage what could be at least a 2-5 week desensitisation period. Please be advised, some dogs are never able to settle with cats.
With all early indoors cat encounters, the dog should be on short lead, with no tension. The handler should talk to the dog to distract its attention from the cat, and call the dog away when it sees the cat. Or the handler can do the same in the garden, with the dog in the garden, as the cat comes into the garden. Activity should be conducted and attracted away from cat's area, so the cat can feel safe, and sit and watch in a position of its choosing. If the dog sees the cat, the dog is called away and given a treat.
Be alert and ready to use your voice very strongly.
Calm, Settled Atmosphere:
Animals pick up on a handler's mood or demeanour. Keeping calm and relaxed will help the dog and cat to feel more relaxed too.
Don't allow the dog to focus or fixate its visual attention on the cat. You want the dog to 'see and move on', 'see and move on', and repeat. The end goal: you want the dog to see the cat and think, 'so what.'
Protect the Cat:
Always prepare escape routes for the cat. Keep the dog on a short lead and use a muzzle if the dog has been muzzle trained or is at least muzzle-tolerant.
Crates Can Help, if Done Right:
If you need to separate the dog and cat using a crate, use a wire crate rather than a covered carrier or crate. The latter can create a barrier and will put the cat on edge when it hears the dog's mysterious, sinister, muffled sounds emanating from inside or outside a covered crate. The cat can't use its body language to show the dog anything - it can only attack the crate if it's scared. The dog won't be able to see the cat properly - only smell and hear it - two vital senses, but loss of vision can worry a dog.
Short lead, muzzle, and a consistent and controlled voice to recall the dog. The cat should feel you're in control and that it is safe, and the dog should feel safe and guided also.
Sense of Smell:
Allow the dog to smell cat's areas, bed, and resting places, so it can accept it into the pack/family environment.
Your voice is the best shock to use, but sometimes a more extreme method may be required. Keep a water squirter nearby, just in case either animal goes for a grab. Squirt directly in the offending animal's eyes. Ensure the water is fresh and changed daily.
Have you found a dog you would like to adopt? The process is explained here and includes a link to our online Homing Questionnaire
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