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6 Tips for Introducing Cats and Dogs: Featuring First Pets Willow and Commander Biden

The long-awaited White House cat has joined the Biden family. She’s a 2-year-old gray and white cat with big green eyes named Willow. 
 

Gray tabby cat in the White House


At HRA, we are thrilled to see the first family celebrate the human-animal bond. Our animal companions bring joy, laughter and comfort, and never reduce or relinquish their love because of differences of opinion. 

A spokesperson for first lady Jill Biden said Willow is “settling into the White House with her favorite toys, treats and plenty of room to smell and explore.” There’s been no word on whether Willow has met her canine brother Commander yet, but we’re confident the two can live happily together with careful introductions and training.

The Humane Rescue Alliance is offering six tips for how to properly introduce a cat and dog:
 

1. Keep them separate.

Before starting the introduction process, give your cat plenty of opportunity to explore the home and familiarize themselves with the layout without the dog present. This will reduce general stress in the cat and help them learn to navigate escape routes. Use barriers, such as baby gates and exercise pens, to prevent accidental meetings.
 

2. Give your cat an escape route.

Purchase and install lots of vertical space for your cat, ideally before bringing them home. Vertical space is critical; it provides a safe place for your cat to escape where the dog can’t follow, and it provides the perfect vantage point for your cat to observe the dog and gather information.
 

3. Take safety precautions.

When you’re ready to start allowing your cat and dog in the same room, have your dog wear and drag a leash. This can act as a safety break if needed.  
 

4. Train your resident dog beforehand.

Ideally your dog should have the commands “down” and “stay” rock solid to help with management. 
 

5. Reward, reward, reward.

Have plenty of yummy treats handy for both cat and dog, and reward them when the other is present.
 

6. Patience is a virtue.

Introducing dogs and cats can take weeks or even months. Consent is important. If at any time the cat or dog does not want to be in the room, they should be allowed to leave. Forcing an interaction will only lead to stress and possibly ruin the opportunity for the two to ever coexist happily and safely.
 

Gray tabby cat in the White House


We look forward to the day when the White House treats us to photos and videos of Willow and Commander playing together and nuzzling up next to each other – one of our favorite types of content!

 

Learn more about HRA's behavior and training classes for both cats and dogs! 

 

PHOTO CREDIT: OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTOS BY ERIN SCOTT

 

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