Introducing Your Cat
Not all labs are meant to live with cats but many have the ability to not only do well in a home with a cat but enjoy having them around. It's important to give your new lab and your cat time to get to know each other; they have a natural distrust of one another and we need to help them grow comfortable in a new blended family.
Below are some tips for making the introduction as easy as possible. It is natural for your cat to go into hiding when a new dog enters the home. This can last a couple of days or several weeks.
Establish a Cat Room
Cats enjoy security as much as dogs and people do. Consider giving the cat its own room. This doesn't mean that you have to give up your living space; it just means that there is one room in your home where the dogs are not allowed to go. The simplest way to do this is to use a simple hook and eye to hold a door open to the point where a cat can squeeze through but not wide enough for the dog to get through. Presto! Instant cat room.
You can also use this room to feed the cat so their food and water dish can stay out. But most importantly a cat room gives your cat somewhere to go when they need a time out from the lab.
This meets with different levels of success but for some people it works well. The goal of this exercise is to introduce and integrate the animals' scent in a completely safe way. Step 1 is to rub down your cat with a towel and have your new lab sniff it. You can rub down your new lab so that they wear the scent of the cat and can put the towel in their crate or under their dog bed. Step 2 is to do the same for the cat; rub down the lab and let the cat sniff it and rub the scent in the cat's areas so they get used to each other.
Even with dog savvy cats or cat savvy dogs it is important to supervise initial interaction. Watch their body language. It is normal for the cat to be wary but that will pass with time. It is also normal for your new lab to be curious about it's new feline brother or sister.
Your new lab needs time to become comfortable with your home and the human family.
It's a good idea to limit contact and supervise all contact between the cat and dog until you feel completely comfortable that they are getting along with each other. This is especially true if your cat has access to the outside. Some labs are comfortable with the cat inside but once they're outside together the cat can be as much fun to chase as a squirrel.
When the cat and dog are together be prepared to step in if needed. If the lab is shying away from the cat and their ears go down on their head it's a good time to separate them until the next interaction occurs. Cats have very clear body language. They know how to tell your new lab when their approach is too brusque or frightening. They also know how to give a good swat when your new lab goes too far.
Keep it Short
Short interactions intially if you're concerned. 1-2 minutes then 2-3 minutes etc...increase slowly over time if you're concerned.
Cats Rule the Roost
And finally - nothing helps establish the heirarchy of the pack more than a good cat swat across the muzzle. The cats need to control their environment and establish their natural superiority.
In the photo to the right you see the Lab Rescue webmaster's cat who, at age 19, was clearly in charge of our house.