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How can I get my cat to adjust to my new puppy?

Brown puppy lying on corner of pillow, with black cat perched in center.

This pup is lucky to get a corner of the bed. (Photo: Flickr/Petteri Sulonen)

How can I get my cat to adjust to my new puppy?

November 13, 2012

Q: My 6-year-old cat ("Bangles") is not adjusting to our puppy. It's been 6 weeks, and the cat hides under the bed is now peeing on things. I've tried to slowly introduce them, but she scratches and hisses -- even when the puppy is asleep. I bought her a calming diffuser and that's been in for a day. Please help! I miss my happy, playful cat.

A: Your cat's inappropriate urinating is most likely due to territorial marking behavior, but it's always to good to get a vet checkup to make sure there's no urinary tract infection or other medical cause. Also, be sure to clean/wash everything she has soiled with an enzymatic cleaner like Nature's Miracle, Zero Odor, or Urine Off, available in most pet stores. If you don't clean the area properly, she will continue to smell her own urine and return to these places to soil again.

I'm glad you're now using the Feliway diffuser. This will be helpful, but sometimes it doesn't work in just a day. Two other over-the-counter calming remedies that may be helpful at this time for Bangles are Rescue Remedy for Pets and Composure Liquid or treats. Both oral remedies may be used in conjunction with the Feliway, but not at the same time. Use one or the other.

I would also suggest taking a slightly damp cloth or paper towel to pet your kitty and then your puppy, and vice versa. Do this frequently during the day to deposit each of their scents on the other's fur. This will help her feel more comfortable with the puppy. In addition, take one of your old T-shirts and pet them both with it. Having your scent on the puppy will help her feel more secure and less frightened.

Continue to give her special attention and try to engage her in play with the puppy, with toys, only under your supervision. Also, give her a few cat-healthy treats at the same time you give the puppy healthy treats, in close proximity of each other, as eating is a pleasurable activity and she will associate the puppy with this.

Allow her some more time to acclimate to the puppy and things should work out well. Some cats will learn to "tolerate" a new pet in the household, although they may never become "best friends." Keep in mind that cats are creatures of habit and also quite territorial, so it sometimes takes quite a while for a cat to accept a new pet.

-- Answer from Cher I., cat behavior specialist on JustAnswer.

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