Introducing a New Feline Family Member

  • By Kathy McRoberts
  • 01 Jul, 2012

Original article by Virginia Simpson, Unleashed Canine Obedience, July, 2012

Anytime you welcome in a new member to the family, it is a time of happiness, excitement and joy! Helping your dog welcome a new member without resentment or a poor show of behavior is an important factor in the success of solidifying healthy relationships for all.  

Firstly, not every dog should be around cats. Some dogs have an extremely high prey drive, were not well socialized with cats as pups and/or just don’t like them for no other reason than they just don’t like them.   Probably best to keep your home a cat free zone in those cases. Signs that a dog is not going to get along with a new cat are if they become obsessed with the cat when they see or smell it and bark or growl at it without ever letting up. If you have trouble breaking their gaze and they are overly excited by the sight of a cat, they may not make a good cat companion.

As far as cats or kittens go, the preparation and choice method should be similar to picking out another dog. You want to find a cat with a temperament that will fit well into the existing family pack. For example, if I have a rambunctious and energetic home with a young and bouncy dog, I probably don’t want to get a cat that is on the timid and shy side. You’d probably never see or hear from the cat again after you set it down the first time. You probably wouldn’t want to get a tiny kitten ora much older cat as they may get hurt. A younger and playful cat would be best.

If I have an older and quieter dog, I will probably get a cat that is a little older, has been around dogs before and has the maturity to listen and control itself when the dog indicates he’s had enough interaction. If I were to get a rambunctious and outgoing kitten for this home, the kitten may get snapped at by the dog due to its inability to read all the signals and the older dog may not be as tolerant as he once was in his younger years.

Kittens are best suited for dogs that have been well socialized with cats and have good self-control and a calmer temperament. These are just some generalized guidelines I go by and there are definitely exceptions to every rule! But you don’t want to spend years trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. Takes the fun out of the game!

Proper socialization will make for successful integration of canines and felines. Younger cats will accept dogs a lot easier than older ones and the same goes for dogs. Additionally, if you can socialize your pup before the age of 6 months with cats and teach them an acceptableway to interact with them then it’s a breeze when they are older.

The first day home: when you bring your new cat/kitten home the first day, you might take the first day to limit any face to face action and actually keep the animals separated. Don’t rush the introduction! It is extremely important to take your time here and do it at the animal’s pace. Let them be in separate rooms for 24 hours and give your dog a chance to get used to the sounds and smells of the new addition and vice versa. Then the following day, take your dog and run him out. Get him good and tired!   Bring him back home, drink some water and rest for a few minutes. If your dog has not been paying a whole lot of attention to the sounds and smells of the cat,go ahead and bring the cat out. This preparation will help to keep the intensity level down when the actual meeting takes place. And that will increase the chances of a good interaction overall!

Have your dog on a leash, a water bottle in hand if your dog tends to respond to a quick redirecting squirt and make sure the cat has a quick getaway if things don’t progress to his liking. Keep your energy and everyone else’s energy calm and don’t do a lot of talking. Let them move at their own pace and make sure there is a clear path to safety for the cat. Do not try to hold the cat. If the cat becomes frightened, you’ll end up with 20 claws dug into your skin. This way he can just scurry under the bed if necessary.

Unlike another dog, the cat and dog relationship usually takes quite a while to develop fully. Very rare for these guys to become best friends overnight, so don’t worry if the first time doesn’t go perfectly. As long as your dog was not acting aggressively and trying to snap, jump on or bite at the cat, there is still hope! Just be patient and pay close attention. Never leave dog and cat unattended until you are completely certain they have reached an understanding of mutual respect. When you have to leave the house prior to the relationship gelling, make sure the cat is closed up with his litter box somewhere.

Cats and dogs can get along and serve as a beacon of hope for all of us that even though many of us differ in pretty dramatic ways in our looks, beliefs and faiths, we too can learn to coexist happily!


Virginia L. Simpson
Certified Dog Trainer
Unleashed Canine Obedience, LLC  
IACP Member #3141
Phone: 513.317.7484

Cincinnati Dog Knowledge Center

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Many people are afraid of pet insurance because of the issues associated with human health care, but the systems are very different. In the human managed health care system insurance companies make agreements with networks and the insured person has little to no say. Because of the way human managed care works, insurance companies have a lot of control over which doctors humans can use, what services they can receive, and how much they have to pay. Conversely, in the pet insurance market, pet owners have more control because pet insurance is an individual contract between the pet owner and insurance company. Pet insurance companies can’t tell pet owners what network of veterinarians to use and decisions about the care of a pet remain entirely between the veterinarian and pet owner. All the pet insurance companies do is pay out their portion of care as detailed in the policy or contract.
By West Chester Pet Resort & Spa 20 Jun, 2017
Now that summer is just around the corner, family vacations are about to be in full swing. While traveling with your pet certainly has its benefits, there are things that you need to know before jet-setting with Fluffy in tow.

First and foremost, having your pet as your co-pilot completely alleviates the worry of who is going to care for them while you're away. This question is always an anxiety for pet owners. The option of traveling with them is especially beneficial if your pet has behavioral issues such as separation anxiety.

Crating your pet while driving to your destination is never a bad option. They're confined and safe, and you as the driver are less distracted. Just be sure to remove collars and leashes to prevent a strangling incident and keep the air flow on them.

If your pet has never been crated, you can find a great video here  by "Dog Guru" Cesar Milan on tome tips and tricks to crate training.

While the car is in motion, feeding your dog is one big "Don't!" If you are on an extended road trip and your pet needs a meal, the next time you stop, feed a small snack- preferably high in protein. And remember to never leave your furry friend in the car, especially during these warm months!

Now, traveling with your pet in an airplane is a much more complicated process as you will more than likely want to book a direct flight. Communicating with the airline prior to travel dates is absolutely imperative. Many airlines have strict regulations for canine and feline travel and their regulations may vary based on the airline and the destination.

However you decide to travel, always remember that if you are taking a not-so-pet-friendly vacation, we would love your pet to stay with us while you are away.  West Chester Pet Resort offers a variety of services to make your pets stay a fun- filled adventure. Call to book your pet’s adventure today!

-West Chester Pet Resort & Spa
By Kathy McRoberts 03 Dec, 2014

Original article by Marybeth Bittel, Tails Magazine

When I was a young music student growing up in Chicago’s western suburbs, my family adopted an Airedale puppy we named Beethoven. I picked Beethoven out at the shelter because all the other puppies rushed forward to greet me, while he hid shyly in the corner. Most trainers agree that’s not necessarily the ideal benchmark for selecting a furry friend, but we got lucky. Beethoven matured into an outgoing, even-tempered, fun, and affectionate family member who sternly guarded our front yard one minute, and romped through our sprinkler the next.

But then came the Fourth of July. Fireworks went off at random intervals around the clock. We discovered that when it came to loud noises and ear-popping explosions, Beethoven was absolutely terrified.

At first we wondered how this could have happened. After all, we’d never left our beloved boy outside while pyrotechnics peppered the sky. He hadn’t been exposed to extreme noises as a puppy. In all likelihood, Beethoven’s fireworks aversion, like so many pet fears and phobias, was just one of those things that took hold when his sensitive hearing encountered a sudden trigger he could neither see nor anticipate.

So we did what numerous pet parents do when their cherished companion is struggling: we cuddled him, coddled him, and cooed comforting words of reassurance. We also sat, feeling helpless, watching him cower and hide as the problem held steady each year. In fact, through all the years of Beethoven’s life, he never overcame this disabling sense of distress, no matter how soothing or supportive we attempted to make his surrounding environment.

When my husband and I began working with abused rescue dogs, we noticed that most arrived with an array of deep-rooted anxieties acquired over time. One Bichon was terrified of rotary fans. A Shih Tzu mix became a jittery mess during thunderstorms. A sweet and docile Foxhound routinely hid from houseplants. These fears ran the gamut, but they had one thing in common: They were exceedingly real to the dog, and they had a great impacts on the entire family.

We began working with local animal behaviorists, and that’s when we learned an invaluable truth:  The way we, as caregivers, react to our pet’s anxieties can actually perpetuate the patterns.

Why would this be? As Abe Mashal, owner of Marine Corps Dog Training in St. Charles, explains, “Dogs form extremely solid bonds with their humans. That means most canines are highly attuned to any type of interaction with their human ‘pack’ members.” So when something a dog is doing  earns our attention—whether that attention takes the form of praise, pampering, or peevish irritation— the behavior is often unintentionally reinforced.

“Reinforcement,” a common term in the world of animal behavioral training, is really just another word for strengthening. In reality, a reinforcer can be anything that strengthens a behavior.

So for those of you thinking, “I never reinforce my dog’s non-stop barking! I scold her on the spot,” see if these examples sound familiar:

  • You hear your Husky howling, and immediately storm in to reprimand her. How is this reinforcement? To many dogs, having a beloved human present (even a beloved yet annoyed human) is better than feeling lonesome. Your dog begins to think her howling is prompting you to chime in.
  • Your Lab whines pitifully as you begin to leave the house, so you return to take him with you. Over time, your dog starts believing that his whining causes you to come back for him (Pavlov’s theory, anyone?).
  • Your Westie mix cowers and growls behind the sofa whenever company arrives, so you pick him up and coo “Ohhhh, you’re fine, what a gooooood boy….” Soon, your dog begins to equate hiding and trembling with oodles of TLC.

“Every interaction with your dog has the potential to teach and reinforce, merely because you’re paying attention,” explains Sara Swan, owner of Narnia Pet Behavior & Training in Plainfield. How can you tell if this is happening? Simply observe over time. Dogs continue to engage in behaviors that provide some sort of payoff. If you’re dealing with a fear or anxiety response that’s ongoing—such as Beethoven’s abhorrence of fireworks—some kind of inducement is likely contributing to the pattern. In Beethoven’s case, his reactions earned him almost round-the-clock nurturing.

Fortunately, we as dog parents can leverage these same dynamics when it comes to re-programming undesirable behaviors. Let’s say your 80-pound “lap dog” excitedly jumps on you whenever you come home from work. When you withhold the coveted attention—immediately going back out the door, or turning your back on him—many pups gradually begin to seek out a different behavior.

The same thing can work with a fear response. If your pet is terrified of your Swiffer mop, for example, try propping it against the family room couch and just leaving it there. Then, simply act like it’s no big deal and go about your daily routine, even if your pup exhibits an unsettled reaction. Very gradually, over time, as your furry friend begins to approach the mop with quiet but tentative curiosity, reward that calm behavior with brief praise or a small treat. Keep it up, and eventually your dog can learn that “mop = calm = good.”

Helping your dog manage his stress is one of the keys to having a happy and healthy pet. If your animal companion has specific challenges beyond what you’re comfortable handling, always reach out to a certified animal behaviorist who can help you develop targeted interventional techniques that will work on your pet’s unique needs. It will not only help with unwanted behaviors, but strengthen your bond, as well.

Safe, Drug Free Ways To Soothe Your Pet’s Stress

The Thundershirt. The ThunderShirt leverages the age-old principle of swaddling an infant to promote calming reassurance. Simply fasten this snug, stretchy shirt around your pet’s ribcage. During anxious episodes of panting or hyperventilation, it provides ongoing sensory feedback that suppresses this common panic response. ( )

Music or ASMR. As a musician, I can attest firsthand that deep, resonant tones often work wonders on a nervous pup. You can also try leveraging something called ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), which is promoted by many hypnotists and human sleep therapists. ASMR is a subjective, perceptual phenomenon characterized by a distinct calming or scalp- tingling sensation in response to quiet, seemingly mundane sound triggers. Certain pets appear especially receptive, and may even be lulled to sleep. To gauge effectiveness, try playing low, calming music or ASMR audio with your dog in the room. Use a meditation CD, or visit YouTube to access ASMR recordings by reputable “ASMRtists” such as The Waterwhispers.

Calming Sprays. Help create a relaxing environment for your pet by using a calming spray on their bedding or by plugging in a calming spray diffuser. Many cats and dogs experience reduced anxiety and stress after being exposed to these non- sedating sprays, which use soothing scents such as lemongrass, cinnamon, and lavender to encourage relaxation.

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