How To Introduce a Cat and a Dog

Little cute puppy of yorksire terrier and red mixed-breed kitten isolated on white. Two lovely friends sits and looking at camera!Whether you have a dog and are introducing a new cat, you’ve got a pet kitty and you are introducing a new dog, or you simply want your current pets to get along better, we’ve got your step-by-step guide for introducing a cat and a dog. You may be afraid that your pets will never get along, but almost any two pets can learn to live harmoniously if you’ve prepared their introductions right. Remember, it could take up to a year for your pets to truly cohabitate peacefully, so don’t worry if they don’t get along right away.

Many cats and dogs get along very well, but it can take a certain combination of personalities to make the whole process go a bit smoother. If your dog is a squirrel-chaser, it may take a bit longer to have them hanging out with your cat, but it is still entirely possible. This relationship will work once you’ve set boundaries for your dog, namely that indoors is a no-chase zone. If you’ve already got your cat and want to add a dog to the family, or vice-versa, many shelters offer background information on their adoptable animals, making it easy for you to select a pet that has already cohabitated.

Just like people, cats and dogs can take time to get to know each other. As you may have predicted, cats are less trusting than dogs. A good mix that typically works out well combines a young energetic cat, and a calm and obedient dog.

When interacting with a cat, dogs tend to react in one of three ways:

Playfully: Some dogs are excited by a new furry friend, and get too rambunctious. Dogs are much like young children, in the way that they don’t know how to read cat’s clues telling them that they’re not in the mood to play. It is important that with this type of relationship, you closely monitor any interactions between your cat and dog. You will want to keep them in separate rooms at all times while you’re not attentive, and may want to crate-train your dog to ensure safety while you’re away.
Hunting: Some dogs will perceive cats as prey, unfortunately. If your cat has a personality that is more timid and tends to run away when your dog approaches, this could potentially only enhance hunting-like behavior.
Scaredy-Dog: Many dogs will be startled by a cat, and allow the cat to be the ruler of the house. Old and/or quiet dogs tend to act this way. This could actually potentially lead to a great relationship with some conditioning.

When first meeting a dog, cats tend to react either:

Cautiously interested: Some bolder cats will seem interested in meeting dogs. Especially if you have a “scaredy-dog”, your cat may be curious enough to approach the dog naturally.
Defensively: If your cat is afraid, they may attempt to swipe at the dog, or run away, out of fear. This sets the tone of the relationship for your pets, and can upset your dog.

Friendly dog and cat resting over green grass backgroundBefore introducing your cat and dog, you must prepare both animals.
Cat: Trim your cat’s nails. If your cat reacts defensively upon their first meeting, they could potentially hurt your dog pretty badly with a claw-swipe to the nose. Also, prepare your cat to know when you’re calling them, so that you’ll be able to divert their attention easily when it comes to meeting-time. You can do this by rewarding your cat with treats whenever they react to you calling their name.

This way, they will associate coming when being called with getting a treat. This will come into play when you finally stage the first meeting. Never reprimand your cat or yell at them when training. If you negatively reinforce them when teaching them to “come,” they’ll confuse the actions and the results.

Dog: The more well-trained your dog is, the better that they’ll do with a cat. The most important commands to have taught your dog before meeting a cat are “come,” “sit,” and most importantly, “drop it.” Before the actual meeting, you’ll want to prepare your dog by exhausting them through play and/or a long walk or run. This way, their energy will be more well-matched for the first meeting.

Once you’ve prepared your animals for their first meeting, you can start with the following steps in order to ensure a positive relationship. You may also want to allow both pets to get used to each other’s scents beforehand by letting each sniff articles of your clothing that have been interacted with by the other pet.

Put your dog behind a baby-gate, and have them sit/lay down.
Arm yourself with cat and dog treats. Invite your cat in through “calling” and reward them with treats when they enter the room closer to the dog. Praise and reward your dog for behaving appropriately and staying calm around the cat.
Let your cat run the show. Leash your dog at all times around the cat, especially as you prepare to have them in the same room.

Cat and dog resting together on bedYou can try this “first meeting” style multiple times until both animals seem calm around each other. You’ll want to closely monitor both pets as they’re together in the house until you’re absolutely sure that they can cohabitate safely. This could take years, but your patience will pay off. In the meantime, you’ll want to keep the pets in separate rooms, always when you’re away from home, and when you can’t pay attention.

Make sure that the dog doesn’t have access to your cat’s litterbox, as this could stress out your cat and cause them to have accidents outside of their box. Also, you’ll want to protect your cat’s feeding area, by placing their bowl somewhere that the dog can’t get to it. This could be a place up high, or in a separate room.

Your cat and dog can live harmoniously with patience and hard work, so don’t give up!