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livelaughlove21's avatar

How should I behave around my cat as it adjusts to a new puppy?

Asked by livelaughlove21 (15084 points ) December 29th, 2012 from iPhone

My husband decided we should get a puppy, so we went out and adopted one today. We have a year-old cat that, until now, was the only animal in the house. She’s usually a sweetheart, loves to sleep on us, and is never mean to anyone.

I know the puppy is a huge adjustment for her and she feels jealous and threatened by it. She has hissed at it a few times, but has yet to swat at it. It’s only 6 weeks old, so it has mostly been sleeping. The cat has seen both my husband and I holding the puppy, but we’ve been giving her extra attention and love.

The puppy was lying on the floor sleeping and she kept walking up to it, sniffing, sometimes hissing, and then backing away. I was sittin on the couch, nowhere near the puppy, and she climbed up on me like she always does, so I was petting her and talking sweet to her. Suddenly, she hissed at me. She hasn’t done this to my husband at all. Now she won’t come near me.

It’s only day 1, and I know it’ll take time, but the cat still has her claws and I’m worried she’ll scratch me if I try to love on her when she’s obviously pissed at me. She’s now sleeping on my husband’s lap, no hissing.

What should I do? Give her space or be persistent?

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16 Answers

newtscamander's avatar

From what I’ve heard, pets tend to adapt to situations better if their humans aren’t fretting and nervous, so I would suggest that you try to behave normally around her, petting her as often as you used to before, playing the same games, etc. If she reacts badly, you can still give her some more space.
Maybe she will be, or is already, a bit jealous of you puppy. To avoid this, take care to establish set rules that distinguish her as the alpha. For example, when it’s dinner time, she is served first and you wait until she is finished, then the pup can eat his food.
And, whenever she lets you, show her that you like her and think she is a great cat.
My mother experienced something similar with our cat shortly after I was born, she was carrying me around in our apartment, and all of a sudden our cat jumped onto her back, clearly jealous that this small human was suddenly getting all the attention he usually got. She then paid more attention to him and everything was alright.

pleiades's avatar

Equally as loving.

gailcalled's avatar

The professional advice seems to be very slowly and very carefully.

Here are some ideas

And some similar ideas by a different author.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, I’d say read some articles on introductions and give plenty of attention top the kitty and don’t fawn too much on the puppy in front of her. The good news she is very young and should adjust well. The bad news is, SHE is number one on her turf and the most important thing will be to teach the puppy that it cannot, ever, show aggression or dominance over the cat.
She will adjust but if the puppy is after her as it grows and harasses her, she will be one very unhappy and pissed off cat.

She should not have to give up any of her freedoms in the household.

Self_Consuming_Cannibal's avatar

I would suggest giving her some space for the time being and maybe if you and your husband could spend some alone time with the cat (maybe put the puppy in another room, while it’s sleeping) to let her know she’s still just as important as always she’ll probably come around sooner. Cat’s have personality and attitude and it seems to show the most when they’re pissed. I’d say with a little time all will be well. Good luck.

livelaughlove21's avatar

We normally keep the door to our bedroom closed because the cat will drive us nuts if we let her in, but tonight we’re going to let her in with us while the puppy is contained in a different room. We’re hoping the extra treat will show her we love her the same as we always have.

Luckily, the puppy hasn’t gone after her or tried to play. She’s so young that she mostly sleeps, eats, poops/pees, plays for 10 minutes, then goes back to sleep.

This whole process is stressful to me. I don’t want the cat to hurt the puppy and I don’t want her to hate us for bringing it into her house.

Self_Consuming_Cannibal's avatar

I think that is a great idea It is strange that the cat seems to be taking its anger out on you though. When the puppy was first brought into the house, were you perhaps the one that was holding it. If so that could be why the cat seems so mad at you, because you brought in the enemy.

I would say and I hope that I’m right, since you got the dog as a puppy the cat will adjust to it as it grows and not try to hurt it before it can defend itself against the cat. And then by the time the dog can defend itself the cat will probably have learned to either tolerate the dog. Or best case scenario; the cat and the dog will become friends.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Self_Consuming_Cannibal No, my husband brought it inside. But it slept on me for awhile, so the smell was probably lingering. I don’t know, but we had to give the puppy deworming medicine a few minutes ago and she hissed a few times while watching us.

glacial's avatar

Introducing a new pet can be so stressful for cats. Based on my experience, I’m not surprised she lashed out at you; she is stressed and trying to figure out how to handle it. I think your idea of keeping her with you overnight is good – but @gailcalled‘s advice is good, too. Take it very slowly and carefully. You want to have as few negative interactions with her as possible, so that this doesn’t become your new dynamic with her. Don’t push your love on her too hard. Let her come to you, let her run away when she wants to. Make sure she has places to hide and feel safe. It will take time, but eventually she will calm down.

Self_Consuming_Cannibal's avatar

I guess that may the puppy sleeping on you has caused your cat to be so angry with you, especially if your cat often did that. She sounds like one jealous kitty.

Me and my wife have a shi-tzu (his name is Cupid, my wife named him) and we got him as a puppy and we had him for two years before deciding to get a chihuahua (his name is Despair, I named him). Now Cupid never showed aggression towards us or Despair, but for about a month he was depressed. All he would do is lay around and if we tried to pet him he would walk away. We could tell he was pissed off at us, but now Cupid is back to his old, obnoxious self. LOL

rooeytoo's avatar

I never worried about this. I owned a kennel and had 4 dogs of my own plus a couple of cats. People were always dropping off kittens, cats, puppies, etc. (humans are disgusting creatures) so I would turn them loose with my crew and sometimes there would be a few skirmishes but soon they would understand the pecking order and peace would reign, well most of the time. I did always have a place where the cats could get away from the dogs if they chose but most of the time they all hung out together.

So I personally wouldn’t worry, I would allow them to work it out themselves. If you had a huge dog and a new kitten I might think differently but since they are both about the same size, it doesn’t seem like a big deal.

Buttonstc's avatar

As humans, we have a tendency to forget how important the sense of smell is in an animal’s world.

If she smelled the puppy smell on you it makes sense that she would hiss since this is a foreign odor which doesn’t belong.

It’s a bit too late for you at this point but that’s why most animal behaviorists suggest new animals not be introduced by sight but rather kept in separate rooms and switched off from one to the other. This way they get to smell each others presence and become used to the idea that this smell belongs. It helps when they finally do see each other about a week or so later since they’re smelling a now familiar smell.

But another thing you might try is to give her treats. And while she hops up on your lap to get the treat, have a blanket or something with the puppy smell on it in your lap. This way she begins to make pleasant asociations with the puppy smell.

You could also try the same thing with feeding. Try putting her food bowl on or near a blanket or toy which has been around the puppy a lot. Animals are very food motivated so the same idea is at play here. If the puppy smell accompanies food and treats, it sets up positive associations in her mind. Puppy smell = good things.

Since she’s young and the puppy is non aggressive, it should work out ok in the long run. When he gets a bit older and more playful with her, she will still have the upper hand (as cats usually do with dogs) as long as she always has an easy escape.

Who knows, since she’s also young, she might also enjoy playing with him. And if not, he may get a swat across the nose and maybe a scratch or two to learn his boundaries with her.

But cats do far more hissing, growling, posturing than body to body fighting. As long as they aren’t cornered with no escape, they are unlikely to physically attack much beyond a warning swipe or so.

But to be on the safe side, make sure to never leave them alone together out of eyesight for the first month or so. If you and your spouse are both out, just put them in separate rooms while you’re gone. After a while you’ll see what type of dynamic they’ve worked out between themselves.

Since they’re both young, chances are good everything will be fine.

Coloma's avatar

I agree with @Buttonstc

The cat is not taking her “anger” out on anyone, she is simply feeling very stressed and agitated that her nice little world has been turned upside down and there is this new creature in her domain.
My female Siamese gets upset when I take my male to the vets or groomers and she will act off and upset for a day or two because of the smells and change in my males appearance after he gets his summer shave job. It is all about scent, and feeling her territory is being invaded, threatened.

livelaughlove21's avatar

Day 2 is coming to an end, and with good news.

There hasn’t been nearly as much hissing as there was yesterday, and the cat (Chloe) seems to be calmer, though not back to her normal self. She spends a lot of time warily watching the puppy (Daisy). She’s even back to sleeping on me and letting me pet her normally.

We got Daisy a crate and Chloe seems much more comfortable when the puppy is inside it, and will go up and sniff it without hissing.

I’m hoping a night of seeing the puppy in the crate while she roams free will calm her down even more so.

Buttonstc's avatar

That’s good to hear. She’s realizing that it’s still “her” house and “her” people and I’m sure she likes it just fine when pup is in the crate :)

But in time they may yet become playmates and friends. Just give it time.

BTW: When I first come home, my cat spends a great deal of time sniffing my shoes thoroughly every single time. She does the same with every single grocery bag I bring in also.

To us this is nothing, but cats and dogs receive a great deal of information about the world around them from their sense of smell. It’s of paramount importance to them.

Cats are very much creatures of habit so anything different really puts them off balance for awhile. It varies from cat to cat. But for most cats there is nothing that would make them happier than for each day to be exactly like every previous one regarding their people and their home. They don’t take kindly to interruptions of their little routines :)

livelaughlove21's avatar

I call this progress! On the same couch together!

Still hissing and batting though.

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