Labrador retrievers are known to be wonderful family pets and excellent companions, but their exuberance and natural energy--particularly when they are puppies--make some pet owners hesitant about adding them to a household that includes cats. When you are introducing a Labrador puppy to a cat, it is important to make sure that you are in control of the situation and that your puppy gets the right idea about how to interact with your feline pet.
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Keep the Labrador puppy in a restricted environment for the first few days. This gives him a smaller place to adjust to, and it allows the cat and the puppy to get used to each others' scent before they need to interact.
Put your puppy on a leash. If he is too young or too small for a regular leash and collar, think about putting him into a puppy harness.
Introduce your cat and your new Labrador while the puppy is on a leash. This helps you control the puppy if he gets too exuberant.
Allow the puppy and the cat to get to know each other. The first meeting might just be for a minute or so, but keep letting them interact every day, gradually lengthening the time that they spend together.
Enter your puppy into an obedience training course. This will ensure that he knows commands like “sit” and “stay,” which are essential for making sure that you can stop him from bothering the cat even if he is not on a leash.
Allow your puppy and your cat to get to know each other while your puppy is not on the leash. Keep a close eye on him, and make sure that he knows that harassing cats is not acceptable behaviour.
Praise your Labrador puppy when he is calm and gentle with your cat. Do this repeatedly when he is young, and he will realise that behaving well around the cat wins your approval. Praising and petting your cat when she is relaxed and gentle around your dog is also a good idea.
Tips and warnings
- Give your cat some places where she can get away from your dog. Providing a cat tree or some other high perch can give your cat some security. You can also install a hook-and-eye latch on a door that allows it to open wide enough for a cat to pass through it yet does not let it open fully and thus keeps a puppy out.
- Labrador retrievers can be dogs with high prey drives, so make sure that you take your puppy out and give him plenty of exercise. A Labrador retriever with a lot of pent-up energy is going to be more prone to harassing and chasing your cat, and exercise can help blunt this reaction.
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