It only took Magic a couple days after his adoption to prove that he got along great with humans. He was gentle with children who wanted to pet him, automatically trusted anyone with a house key, and loved to swing in the hammock with my friends. Trying to predict how he would behave around my cat Midnight was a different story. But as a small scruffy mutt who was already missing most of his teeth, he certainly didn’t look like a cat killer.
My family kept Magic and Midnight separated at first by confining them to different areas of the house. We gave their dinner near the door to encourage them to sniff each other through the crack and become acquainted. Both seemed intrigued by the mysterious new animal on the other side and didn’t appear to despise each other like I had expected.
But our meticulously constructed plan soon came crashing down. One afternoon while Mom and Magic were throwing the ball around in the backyard, Midnight slipped outside between my legs as I was on my way out to play. Before we knew it, Magic charged. Midnight instantly became a black streak sprinting across the yard and hopped on top of the deck railing out of Magic’s reach.
Even though Midnight had no problem outrunning Magic, she was shaken up by the encounter and blamed me for bringing this loud, rude beast into her once peaceful territory. While Midnight was much too proud to fear Magic, she now openly loathed him. Rather than sniffing him under the crack of the door, she sat on the opposite end of the room and scowled.
My family’s only choice was to be very patient with them. Rather than becoming frustrated, I tried imagining how it would feel to be in their situations. Until Magic came along, Midnight always had the freedom to go wherever she wanted and had never even seen a dog before. And until Magic was adopted, he was accustomed to living in a chaotic shelter kennel. His impolite behavior didn’t make him a “bad dog”, nobody had ever taken the time to teach him manners.
In an attempt to mend the relationship destroyed during their accidental meeting, we first focused on teaching Magic his “sit” and “stay” commands. His naturally stubborn attitude made our lessons no easy task, but he would do almost anything for a snack. Once he flawlessly demonstrated his newly learned skills, it was time for a do-over with Midnight. Holding tightly onto his leash (and trying to hide my obvious nerves from the animals), we brought them into the same room for an incredibly intense stare-off. Even though Midnight’s death-glare revealed that she was ready to commit murder, Magic remained calm and was rewarded with lots of treats and praise.
After several leashed staring competitions, we were finally able to let them roam the house drama free. While Magic and Midnight never became close buddies like we wished they would, they progressed from pure unadulterated hatred to bickering siblings who still loved each other deep down.
When introducing new pets for the first time, be sure to go slowly. A slow introduction will help avoid an unpleasant and potentially dangerous encounter while helping to build a more stable relationship.
Make sure the cat has private safe spaces to use when they want to be away from the dog. Also make sure cat food and the litter box are kept out of the dog’s reach so they are unable to disturb the cat’s space. Some dogs with more aggressive tendencies are never able to be left alone with cats and should be crated when they are not supervised for the cat’s safety.