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Bringing Home a Puppy Into Cat House Part 1: Adoption Story

You all have been asking, so here is how we went about bringing home our our puppy into a cat house, starting with our adoption story. Next week I’ll go over how we did it, and I’ll also give you an update with how it is going!

Introducing a Puppy into a Cat House: Our Adoption Story

How do you go about bringing home puppy to adult cat house? Sharing our adoption story and how we integrated our dog and cat successfully.


Adopting a Cat

Three years ago, we adopted a five-year old cat Zoe from the Anti-Cruelty Society. At the time, I was working full time (mostly nights) at a modern Mexican hotspot in downtown Chicago (aka late nights and long days) as well as marathon training (aka early mornings). Alex, meanwhile, was a few weeks into his intern year as a resident at Northwestern Memorial Hospital (aka 80+ hr weeks on average). We knew that we wanted a pet, but we also knew that we weren’t ready for a dog due to our schedules (and the fact that we couldn’t because of our apartment rules, lol. #details).

Zoe the cat loves her life!

Zoe, our fantastical cat, has been a light in our lives. I will never forget that first week we had her home, and Alex’s complete helplessness with her yowling at night and her standoffishness, and then as she slowly warmed to us and became our true furbaby. She has continued to be particular but has grown increasingly resilient with each year to th point that we can have friends visit and not cause her to go on hunger strike and result in an emergency vet visit (which happened 3 weeks after we got her). 

Adopting a Dog

When we decided to move for Alex’s Chief Resident year, we seized upon the opportunity to choose a pet-friendly apartment, with plans to opt for a small adult dog, preferably a Corgi (as I discussed ad nauseum). At the time, I was working full time, and my work hours were not puppy friendly. This summer, however, I dropped back to part time, and in the midst of everything (anxiety attacks, trying to get pregnant, Alex’s interview schedule), we decided to push forward and adopt a dog. 

We still planned on an adult dog, trying to rescue an adult Corgi, a search that came up dry. I randomly found a Corgi puppy at a shelter, only to have the dog be adopted by the foster family 2 days before we were going to pick up the dog. I was devastated, but we nevertheless decided to go and look at dogs. This time, we opened ourselves up to puppies, but still with the plan to get an adult dog.

Hi, I'm Ridley! I am Susie and Alex's new fur baby daughter, and I was rescued from PAWS Chicago! @suzlyfe

Three weeks ago, we brought home our (literal) bouncing bundle of joy, Ridley, a (then) 14 week-old mixed breed puppy that is likely part Blue Heeler, Lab, and likely terrier (I’m thinking Jack Russell) from PAWS Chicago. She is the opposite of Zoe, with the exception that both are very sweet and non-aggressive. Otherwise, Ridley is a vivacious, vibrant personality that demands attention and cuddles and just wants to flop over and have her belly rubbed and be touched.

Bringing Home a Puppy into A Cat House

When we were at PAWS, we fell in love with Ridley immediately, but we had major trepidation about how Zoe would handle the puppy. We knew that we and the puppy were a match, but would Zoe be okay? 

Concerns with Bring Home a Puppy to a Cat House:

  • Zoe is a loner and rather particular about being engaged–she wants attention when she wants it, she wants you to leave her alone otherwise (cough like her mother)
  • Zoe is an adult cat, making her even more of an old maid
  • Ridley is high energy, very engaging, and a PUPPY
  • Ridley was believed to be mostly Blue Heeler–a herding breed–and we worried she would try to herd the cat. When I realized that she was mostly terrier, the worry became would she torment the cat and try to route her out.

Favorable Aspects of Bringing Home a Puppy to an Adult Cat:

  • Zoe, as the adult and the previous resident of the house, would be able to demarcate her territory and establish a sense of pecking order
  • Ridley is a puppy, and thus shape-able: we would be able to mold her behavior and train her to respect the cat, or maybe just leave her alone.
  • Ridley demonstrated that she was very smart and trainable, which also worked in her favor.
  • Ridley did not show much major reaction during the “cat test,” where you bring the dog to view a cat through a window
  • Ridley, as a puppy, was much smaller than an adult dog, and thus would be less intimidating for Zoe.

Other Considerations for Bringing a Puppy Home to a Cat:

  • We live in a city apartment that is about 800 sq ft
  • AKA close quarters for the dog and cat.
  • We can close the cat up in our bedroom, but that might be difficult for the cat

Considerations of Choosing a Dog over A Puppy when Bringing Home to a Cat:

  • Adult dogs are a known quantity: you know if the dog is going to be high energy and overly engaging, if the dog is going to go after cats, and how trained the dog is
  • Adult dogs are less likely to be able to retrain. Not that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, as it were, but it is easier to train a dog to leave cats alone from an earlier age.

So that sets the stage for bringing Ridley the puppy home to Zoe the cat! Next week, I’ll cover how we brought them together!

Share your pet adoption story + learn the story of Zoe the cat + Ridley the pup! #pets #adoptdontshop Click To Tweet
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Have you read these gems?


  • Reply Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious

    Oh….it’s the story of Zoe and Ridley. I’ve been wondering how those two have hit if off!
    Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious recently posted…Health Supplements I Can’t Live WithoutMy Profile

    October 4, 2016 at 6:16 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Those scallawags πŸ˜€

      October 5, 2016 at 2:55 pm
  • Reply Julie @ Running in a Skirt

    Hopefully everyone will come to a happy co-mingling relationship. We’re been walking the line with Rhett and Makena Rose too. He wants nothing to do with her, and we feel he has the right not to be pounced on… so we’re working on teaching her that she just needs to leave him alone. πŸ™‚
    Julie @ Running in a Skirt recently posted…Pumpkin Pie Overnight OatsMy Profile

    October 4, 2016 at 6:36 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      She’ll learn–he’ll learn her!

      October 5, 2016 at 2:55 pm
  • Reply Kimberly Hatting

    Awe, what a happy-ending kind of story πŸ˜‰ We had a similar experience with a failed adoption (due to the foster family having first dibs on the dog we wanted), but that heartache lead us to Max…and the rest is history.
    Kimberly Hatting recently posted…Holy High Mileage!My Profile

    October 4, 2016 at 7:06 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Hey, it all works out, right?

      October 5, 2016 at 2:55 pm
  • Reply Laura @ This Runner's Recipes

    We put the same type of consideration into adopting Ollie. We had to make sure they got along at the meet and greet. It’s a process at home, but each day is an improvement.

    October 4, 2016 at 7:18 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I wish we could have done a similar thing with Zoe, but we all know that would have gotten nowhere, lol

      October 5, 2016 at 2:55 pm
  • Reply Deborah @ Confessions of a mother runner

    Sweet story and you all look very happy together! Have a great day
    Deborah @ Confessions of a mother runner recently posted…Sweet Potato Pie MuffinsMy Profile

    October 4, 2016 at 7:28 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you, Deborah! You too!

      October 5, 2016 at 2:54 pm
  • Reply Sam @ Pancakewarriors

    I remember who stressful it was when we introduced my dog pepper and Daves cats (all adults) when we finally became one big family. Lots of gates and hissing. It never any aggression. The cats let her know they were to leave them alone and now everyone lives in harmony! Hope you guys had similar luck!
    Sam @ Pancakewarriors recently posted…Pumpkin Sunflower Seed ButterMy Profile

    October 4, 2016 at 7:40 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Definitely getting there!

      October 5, 2016 at 2:54 pm
  • Reply kat

    We were stressed brining Jax [new puppy] in when we had Opie [3 year old dog] as well. Opie is not so dog friendly because she is very posessive of me, but she grew up with other dogs around her so we figured she would be open to having a friend. It took a while [and a few lash outs at Jax!] but she eventually warmed up to her! Once Jax learned NOT to get in Opie’s face [she HATES that!] they became fast friends
    kat recently posted…Tahini Sweet Potato PancakesMy Profile

    October 4, 2016 at 8:02 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I think they will figure each other out. Bringing a puppy in is ALWAYS a huge adjustment for everyone!

      October 5, 2016 at 2:54 pm
  • Reply Lesley

    My friends got a dog this summer, and both their cats immediately had the dog at the bottom of the totem pole. He’s afraid of the cats, who know it, but they’re getting better.
    Lesley recently posted…Bucket List Bolder BoulderMy Profile

    October 4, 2016 at 8:19 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      hahahahah oh cats. So silly. So connniving.

      October 5, 2016 at 2:53 pm
  • Reply Emily

    I’m really curious to see how you mingled them and hear about how it went. It sounds like Zoe was the perfect addition to the house when you weren’t quite ready for a puppy. And now it sounds like Ridley adds a really really sweet element to the house with her vibrant energy. I love puppies so much and sweet kitties.
    Emily recently posted…My Struggles with Real Humility and False ModestyMy Profile

    October 4, 2016 at 8:29 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      More info to come! Ridley is such a great addition to the energy of our house!

      October 5, 2016 at 2:52 pm
  • Reply Gretchen

    More Ridley!! I loved reading about your experience. I’m so happy that you got a dog to be your little buddy during this hard time in your life. Dogs are the best therapy..seriously.
    Gretchen recently posted…Race Day TipsMy Profile

    October 4, 2016 at 9:12 am
  • Reply Suzy

    Oh those two! Like Gretch said, dogs (and cats) are the best therapy. I’m a cat person (dogs are too needy for me) but I definitely enjoy other people’s dogs. Just as long as they’re not tearing around my house. πŸ™‚
    Suzy recently posted…Week in ReviewMy Profile

    October 4, 2016 at 9:27 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Also, you have a bajillion other things that need your attention!

      October 5, 2016 at 2:52 pm
  • Reply Ange // Cowgirl Runs

    Merlin is completely terrified of dogs, so as much as I’d LOVE a Cavalier King Charles, it wouldn’t be fair to wimpy Merlin, so for now I’m toying with the idea of bringing home a kitty friend for him.

    I grew up with dogs and cats and it can be a process, but they always ended up getting along, or, at least, tolerating one another.
    Ange // Cowgirl Runs recently posted…Maui: ActivitiesMy Profile

    October 4, 2016 at 11:11 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      One day, but not a day too soon (Because we want Merlin forever)

      October 5, 2016 at 2:52 pm
  • Reply Suzlyfe's mommy, Clare

    Zoe is my first grandcat, actually she’s the first cat anyone in my family has ever had.
    Ridley is a puppy and we’ve had many of those. Regardless of species, when you bring a new furbaby into the home of an older furbaby, usually the older one is the alpha by virtue of age and rank.
    It will be fun to see how these two furchildren adapt to living together.
    I’d expect some conflict, some yelling and maybe a slammed door or two.
    Siblings, regardless of species and/or gender will fight from time to time!
    That’s how families evolve and thrive!!

    October 4, 2016 at 1:54 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Ain’t that the truth!

      October 5, 2016 at 2:51 pm
  • Reply Bri

    I remember introducing Indy as a puppy to my grumpy old adopted cat – he pretty much just ignored the dog and stayed in areas wee Indy couldn’t reach him! Introducing Gus with Indy was hard as Indy is more cat-like most days, just wanting people attention and wanting to be on my lap at all times. It took about 2 months for Indy to tolerate Gus and for Gus to stop chewing on his ears… hahaha
    Bri recently posted…October GoalsMy Profile

    October 4, 2016 at 2:25 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      But ears taste SO GOOD

      October 5, 2016 at 2:51 pm
  • Reply Kristen

    I’ve never had two pets at once, but I’m sure it could be really tough to find two that work well together! Especially with a puppy. Puppies are so freaking crazy! At least mine is πŸ™‚
    Kristen recently posted…A Week of FavoritesMy Profile

    October 4, 2016 at 3:03 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Haha that is very true!

      October 5, 2016 at 2:51 pm
  • Reply Ellen @ My Uncommon Everyday

    We used to have cats. One ran away. Then we learned that my mom’s constant sinus infections were allergies, so we had to give up the other. Pippa has never had a sibling, but we want(ish) another dog because we love her so freaking much. That said, I can’t imagine a puppy! She was nearly two when we got her, so we’ve never dealt with the intense training and middle-of-the-night wake-ups. I might reserve those for human children only.
    Ellen @ My Uncommon Everyday recently posted…Maple-Balsamic Roasted Brussels SproutsMy Profile

    October 4, 2016 at 8:56 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      It is DEFINITELY different than getting an adult dog, I’ll tell you that!

      October 5, 2016 at 2:51 pm
  • Reply Farrah

    These are awesome tips that I really hope I’ll be able to put to use someday in the future! I can’t wait til I can adopt a dog! <3 My cats (the one with me here and the one back in California) are both anti-other-cats but seem pretty okay with any other species of pets (thus far, anyway). I'm so happy that you and Alex were able to give Ridley such a loving home! <3

    October 5, 2016 at 9:23 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I always think that it is interesting when animals don’t like their species but like everyone else…

      October 5, 2016 at 2:09 pm
  • Reply Kristy from Southern In Law

    It’s always so hard bringing an extra pet into the household! I know Chanel had a tough time accepting Trixie as she was TERRIFIED of the teeny tiny ball of fluff – and they were the same species πŸ˜› Luckily they’re now best buddies though!
    Kristy from Southern In Law recently posted…Recipe: Creamy Asparagus Pasta Sauce (Healthy & Gluten Free)My Profile

    October 5, 2016 at 11:40 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Hahahhaha dogs are so silly!

      October 9, 2016 at 3:48 pm
  • Reply Nicole @ Fitful Focus

    So happy to hear Ridley’s adoption story. I hope she and Zoe are getting along!
    Nicole @ Fitful Focus recently posted…What To Do & Eat In Nice, FranceMy Profile

    October 7, 2016 at 12:19 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Progress every day!

      October 9, 2016 at 2:52 pm

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