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Once your pets are comfortable spending time near each other with the barrier between them, it’s time to introduce them face to face. You will need one person to handle each animal during the introduction. If you have more than two pets, enlist the help of friends or family members, or, if it’s easier, work the training steps with the new cat and one other pet at a time.
Start slowly: Allow your pets greater sight of each other in a protected manner. During the initial introductions, keep all pets on a harness or leash. Make sure all of your pets, including the new cat, are comfortable wearing the harness before you begin training.
Another option is to put one animal in a protected area, like a crate or carrier, while the other animal is nearby on leash. Have your pets take turns being in the crate and on the leash and offer the pet in the crate a food puzzle to keep him occupied. This approach works well if you are doing this introduction on your own or with minimal help.
Tactics like rewarding calm behavior, asking for tricks, playing with a toy and petting can help your pets stay focused and engaged during this initial meeting.
At the first introduction, keep pets at a distance from each other, moving closer only if both animals remain calm. Once they’ve gotten used to each other, let them approach; a slack leash or a drag line can be used as a protective measure if desired.
If your pets are interested, you can play a low-key game with them. Cats may enjoy batting a feather toy together, while dogs and cats can work on simple trick training. When I introduced my two Pugs to our new cat, we did a training session together first before they fully sniffed one another. The focused attention helped to dissipate the excitement and made this first meeting easier for everyone.
After this first face-to-face meeting, place the animals back in their separate areas. Repeat the same sequence at intervals until they’re fully relaxed with one another. In some situations, pets are immediately comfortable after a first meeting and simply require loose supervision when together. In other cases, though, pets will need several meetings to get used to each other. Go at a pace that is comfortable for all your pets.
If, at any point during the training, any of your pets show warning signals, such as a desire to flee or chase or signs of aggression, immediately stop the interaction and separate the animals. Restart the introduction at an easier level — increase the distance between your pets or separate them with a barrier. If this does not help or if you have concerns about a pet’s behavior, consult a professional, such as your veterinarian, for help.
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