Introducing New Cat to Cat + Dog

Danneq

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I recently bought a house with my brother's family. It is a big house, and we have it divided up--top floor is theirs, middle floor is communal, bottom floor is mine.

They have a dog (Puck, 5yr old terrier) and a cat (Braeburn, 4yr old DSH). Braeburn and Puck get along very well (though I sometimes think there are times that Braeburn could use a break; just because something is positive doesn't mean it isn't stressful, and Puck is very high energy). Braeburn is very clear about the fact that Puck is, in fact, his dog.

I recently (literally a week ago) adopted a new cat (Lexi, 1yr old DSH). The past week has been getting her adjusted to my floor, settling her in, and getting her to gosh dang eat something already. (Her appetite is much improved!) She has full access to my bedroom and sitting room, with supervised access to the kitchen (it's not fully set up yet). So far, she has shown some interest in the stairs to the communal floor, but hasn't tried to go up them yet. I know she's not ready yet and have no intentions to push her past her comfort zone.

Puck is the kind of dog who just wants cats to love him and play with him and doesn't understand why they hiss at him when goes to say hi. Braeburn is a pretty chill dude, very food motivated. I'm still getting to know Lexi, but she seems very friendly/snuggly, and I know she has lived in a house with another cat and a dog before.

The hope is for the cats to eventually have access to all three floors, with a cat door at the top of my stairs to stop the dog from getting down here (there is no cat door yet). However, if it turns out that actually hate each other and we can't work past it, we have the ability to keep them separate. Lexi will stay on my floor and Braeburn/Puck will be on the other two floors. But, ideally, we'd obviously like everyone to at least tolerate each other!

Like I said, Lexi isn't ready yet, but she is, I'm hoping to have a plan in place. I have done cat-cat introductions before, but I've never done cat-dog introductions (my brother and his wife introduced Braeburn and Puck by bringing Braeburn home and saying "here, Puck, meet the new kitten," so they're not a very good model to follow...). I have a few questions about timing and a few more about logistics.

1) Braeburn (and Puck) have only been the house for a month. Would it be better to try for sooner rather than later so that they don't have established territories they feel they need to defend from her (and her from them)? I know I just said that Lexi isn't ready yet, but would it actually be easier in the long run because everything is new, so what's one more new thing? I am not leaning this way, but I do worry that the longer "the boys" have to make themselves at home, the harder it will be for them to welcome a newcomer. Also, the longer Lexi goes being an "only cat," the harder it will be for her to accept new animals in her space.

2) I'm going on vacation in three weeks. This is poorly timed--I am expecting Lexi to regress while I'm away, even though my brother and his wife will try to take good care of her--but it is what it is. I am assuming that being in the process of introductions only to stop for a week while she's stressed out is a bad idea. I don't like her being alone for a week but I can't think of a better way.

3) We have a joint vacation in late October. This one's just for a few days, and the dog will not be home during that time. Should we wait to do introductions until after that, too? Or would it be better to have introductions out of the way by then, so that maybe Braeburn and Lexi can have a chance to get to know one another without Puck around?

Waiting until November seems like an awfully long time, but that's how long it'll take for everything to be completely stable (no going away, Lexi will presumably be comfortable in my space, etc.). Or, I guess we could start the process off, introducing them to each others' scent etc, but wait until November to let them start to see each other?

If this were a cat-cat introduction, I'd be completely confident. If it were a cat-dog introduction, I'd be nervous but I know what steps to follow. I can't wrap my head around the logistics for this, though.

4) Giving the boys cloths that smell like Lexi is easy, but should I get her used to both their scents at the same time? A joint towel that's been rubbed over both of them, or one each but at the same time? Or Braeburn first, get her used to that and then do Puck? Or, like, alternate...? Here is a towel that smells like Puck, the next day here's one that smells like Braeburn?

5) Scent swapping I understand--Lexi goes upstairs, Braeburn goes downstairs... but Puck is not going to have unsupervised access to my floor (he chews on things...). Does he come downstairs with Braeburn, just for the smells, even though he won't be down here very much? Or do we skip that step with him, just keep on with a Lexi-scented towel while the cats get used to the new space?

I think I have it from there--we feed everyone at the same time, getting closer to each other, with Puck on a leash or in a crate at first. And obviously no plan is perfect. Is this as complicated as I think it is? I can think about different permutations until I get a headache.
 

susanm9006

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Cat and dog introductions work much better if the dog is trained with basic commands like “sit”, “stay” and “leave it”. If this dog hasn’t learned the basics I would see of the dog can be taught at least one. The goal is to have the dog stay in place while the cat is in the room. This makes makes him less of a threat to the cat and gives her the opportunity to get used to him without having to defend herself. Another alternative is to let her into the room while he is kenneled. But I wouldn’t do anything until you are back from vacation. This gives your girl enough time to get comfortable and relaxed in the new space. Then I would have the other cat and dog contained while she gets to explore some before moving on to introducing the other cat or the dog.
 
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Danneq

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Thanks! I thought that after the vacation would be best (and give it maybe a week later, so she can settle back into a routine) but I have anxiety so I second guess myself.

Edit: Oh, and he knows "sit," "stay," "down," and "off," though he's not necessarily good at them, especially when he's excited. (He is always excited. I don't dislike dogs I just don't understand them.) He will definitely be on a leash at first, to reinforce the commands. I'm going to ask my SIL about speaking with his trainer, just to make sure our bases are covered.)
 
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Danneq

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Only good news to report so far! I only just got back this week, and so we're going to start site swapping this weekend. However, Lexi has now met Puck and seen Braeburn, and things went fine! Neither of those things were supposed to happen yet, but she's taken to sitting at the top of the stairs when I'm upstairs. Yesterday, I picked her up to take her back downstairs, and Puck came trotting up to see what's what. And they were fine? He didn't bark, she didn't puff up, nothin'. So I decided to push it -- told Puck to sit, grabbed his collar, and set Lexi down. They sniffed noses, Puck got a little wiggly ("oh boy, a new friend!") but didn't bark or try to lunge at her. Lexi sniffed at him and then decided that she was more interested in exploring the rest of the house. At that point, I put her back upstairs, told Puck he was a good boy and gave him a treat, and then went downstairs and gave Lexi a treat, too, because why not.

Tonight, something similar happened, with Lexi waiting at the top of the stairs, and Braeburn saw her. No hissing or puffing up! They both hunkered down on the floor and kind of looked at each other warily. Lexi got her confidence back first and took a few steps forward. This made Braeburn cry and scoot back a bit, but no aggression. I gave them both some treats and then took Lexi back downstairs. Braeburn was back to his usual self about five minutes after she left.

So I think this is good! Puck doesn't bother her, and she seems curious to meet Braeburn. He could maybe use a confidence booster, but that's easy, food is the way to that boy's heart. Part of me feels like I could just let them fully meet and sort it out themselves, but I don't want to risk any backsliding if something happened.
 
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