The Bidens Plan to Add a Cat to Their (Two Dog) Household

Tips on introducing a cat to a dog home and vice versa
By Cameron Woo, November 2020, Updated November 2021

News that the President-elect Joe Biden and First Lady-elect Dr. Jill Biden plan on adding a cat to the First Family-elect appears to be another step towards uniting partisan factions—dog and cat lovers. The prospect of a cat becoming part of the First Family-elect would mean joining a household that includes dogs—two German Shepherds named Major and Champ. Dr. Biden previously hinted at the possibility in September when a Washington TV presenter asked her if her husband had promised to get her anything if he won the election.

“Well, I’d love to get a cat,” she told a Fox News interviewer. “I love having animals around the house.” Though the tension between dogs and cats have long been the subject of humor and folklore—many of us know firsthand that dogs and cats can live together harmoniously. Still, when mixing canines and felines into one household, certain precautions should always be taken. We asked The Bark’s resident animal behaviorist Karen B. London, Ph.D. about the matter, and she replied …

Introducing dogs and cats in the most common way—by putting them in a room together and hoping for the best—all too often results in trouble. Even friendly, cat-loving dogs may chase the terrified cat who then never wants to come out of hiding. If an initial dog and cat introduction doesn’t go well, it will be really hard to turn that relationship around, so the most important piece of advice about introducing cats to dogs is do it right because you can’t do it over.

With that in mind, keep them separated for a few days or weeks. Put the cat in her own area of the house with all she needs to be happy—food, water, litterbox, toys and good sleeping spots.

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Spend lots of time with her so that she does not feel isolated.

Accustom the dog and the cat to the sight and smell of one another with a gate between them. Encourage positive feelings by giving them lots of toys, treats and attention.

Once they are calm and comfortable in the presence of one another, begin controlled interactions without a gate, but with leashes, keeping their experiences positive with treats, petting, toys and a calm manner.

Before having them in the same room unrestrained, provide a high spot in every room that the cat (but not the dog) can access and use as escape routes for cats.

Use Felaway, which is an artificial feline scent marking product that helps cats feel comfortable even in new environments that might otherwise upset them. Put a little in the high spots for the cats as well as any common perches or sleeping spots.

Introductions done right maximize the chances that cats and dogs will be friends, or at least tolerate one another.

To help those of you considering combining a canine-feline household, here are some resources to help navigate your decision: