6 things I learned when I brought a cat home to my two dogs (hint: mayhem ensued)

I never intended to live a catless existence. My older dog got along great with cats, but when my cat Johnny Boy passed unexpectedly, I held off on adopting a new cat for a while, as I was already planning on bringing a puppy into my home. Time passed. The puppy grew into a dog. Finally, two years later, I decided I was ready to adopt another cat.

Little did I know the surprises that were in store for me. I learned many things about bringing a cat into our dog-dominant home, and it was an experience I don’t think any members involved will soon forget.

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1. The cat + dog equation

My puppy had met quite a few cats by the time I adopted Kitty Friend (the name was an accident), but I found out there was quite a difference between meeting cats while on a leash and having one in the house. During this time, I had plenty of opportunities to reflect as I lay awake at night. I came up with two equations that summed up my experiences.

  • Puppy + older cat = respect
  • Kitten + young dog = mayhem

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2. First impressions are not always an accurate guideline

Kitty Friend came to me unexpectedly. A co-worker had a young cat just out of kittenhood that she was unable to keep, so I brought Kitty Friend home with what I thought was a brilliant plan to introduce her to my two dogs. I knew the older dog would be fine. I was less sure about the 1-year-old German shepherd.

The first meeting went well. The dog was very interested and sniffed the kitten enthusiastically. The cat, who was used to dogs, tolerated this with remarkable patience. Satisfied that I was on the right track, I put the cat in a room by herself to settle in, and began a series of slow introductions over the next few days.

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3. Cats are freaky fast

All went well until the dog realized that cats move fast. Really fast. So fast that it is almost unnatural. Dog chased cat. Cat chased dog. All was mayhem. It didn’t seem fair to correct the dog when the cat went out of her way to leap on the dog’s head and bolt, but I kept a leash close at hand to prevent accidents. The kitten, defying logic, seemed to enjoy a friendly mauling and constantly looked like she had rolled in hair gel. The two were clearly friends, but their games wreaked havoc on the household.

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4. Cats understand revenge

I kenneled the dogs while I was at work (I worked close enough that I came home on lunch breaks), which was a comfort during this process, as I knew the kitten would enjoy some unmolested hours. At least, that was what I thought, until I came home three days in a row to find the kitten perched on the German shepherd’s kennel, batting at her ears. Suddenly, I was not sure who I should be protecting from whom.

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5. Sleep is optional

Kittens believe the best time to play is when humans are sleeping, studying or otherwise preoccupied. This meant that the best possible time for playing tag with the dog was while I — and the older dog — were sleeping. Anyone who has ever had their face pounced on by a cat and an 80-pound dog in the same two seconds will understand my pain.

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6. Shoulder cats are a real thing

The best place to escape from a dog is either under the bed, in a closet or by climbing a human. I contracted chronic shoulder cat syndrome within a few weeks. And the German shepherd discovered that while the back of the couch looks like it should only be occupied by cats, it is, in fact, the perfect place for a very large, very hairy dog.

Everything worked out in the end. I had a cat in my life again, my young dog had a new bestie and the cat got stuck with the name Kitty Friend for life — something I never asked her opinion on. We were lucky. Introducing a cat into a dog-dominant home is not always a smooth process, and it is a good idea to talk to an expert about the best way to introduce your dogs to a cat — ideally, before the cat arrives on your doorstep.


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