How to introduce a cat to a dog: Tips & recommendations

Dogs and cats can peacefully live together and it mostly depends on a proper introduction! So don’t miss out our 3-Step Guide on how to introduce a feline to a puppy!

Few people fit into the strict categories of being either a “cat-person” or a “dog person”.

Therefore, one day you might find yourself wanting to bring both into your home. Due to the fact that cats and dogs have been rivals over human food and attention ever since they first joined our sides thousands of years ago, making a cat and a dog get along might be a challenge.

Nevertheless, there are ways to make sure feline and canine friends get along with each other and we have the best tips for you on how to introduce a cat to a dog. This 3-phase guide will help you make it work from day one.

A cat and dog living together: good idea?

The first thing you need to know is that not every cat can live with any dog. In fact, there are some cases in which it might be impossible to keep cats and dogs together.

  • Anxious cats who scare easily or rescues, who have had prior bad experiences with dogs, might never be able to trust even the calmest, best-behaved dogs.
  • Also, there are some dogs with strong hunting reflexes who just can’t be taught that your kitty is not prey.

That being said, there are countless constellations of cat-and-dog relationships that work out really well. Hence, you just have to find out which one works best for you and your animals.

For some felines and canines, the living-together experience can even turn into a close friendship. Your cat and dog might even go exploring outdoors together. You can put Tractive GPS Trackers on both of their collars to always know where they are and keep them safe even as they roam outside together.

Finding the right match of dogs and cats

It might be challenging to find the right method for how to introduce a cat to a dog. Nevertheless, these factors should be considered when you’re looking for a new cat or dog to add to your family:

Age
Sometimes it is easier to introduce a puppy to a kitten than it is with grown adults. Both are very active and love to play. They also might have an easier time learning each other’s different forms of communication and body language.

But be careful: Young dogs are much stronger than little kittens and could easily kill them by accident. Never leave your pup and your kitten alone to play!

This can be done only after you have firmly established that your dog must not be rough on your cat.
Experience
Cats who have lived peacefully with other dogs before stand a good chance of getting along with a new dog as well and vice versa. The same also holds true for a previous negative experience.
A cat that has been hunted by a dog before will need a lot of training, care and time to ever get used to a dog.
Similarly, a dog that has come to know cats as prey will not easily forget that.
Character
Choose the new animal to match the character of the one you already have. If you have a playful, active dog, be sure to pick a cat that loves to play but that also has the confidence and ability to show your dog its boundaries. If you call a calm and quiet dog your own, choose a cat that is equally composed and steady.

The proper introduction for a good start

To make sure that your home remains a safe and peaceful place for both animals, take the introduction process as slowly as necessary.

Good to know: It will take at least a month until you can safely leave the cat and dog alone and unsupervised for longer periods of time.

Have everything ready before you start introducing the feline and canine:

  • Be sure your dog knows the basic commands “sit”, “down” and “stay”
  • Prepare one separate room with a door you can close
  • Equip it with your cat’s food and water dishes, a litter box and a comfortable place for your cat to sleep. The food dish should be placed somewhere near the door.
  • Put your dog’s food dish somewhere close to the other side of the door.

If somewhere along the way your cat stops eating or using the litter box normally or your dog can’t stop barking or is showing signs of aggressive or anxious behavior, slow down the process. Maybe you can go back to the previous phase for a while. Only go on after you’re certain both animals are back to normal.

How to introduce a cat to a dog: a 3-phase guide that helps

Introducing a cat to a dog might be challenging, but if you do it step-by-step, it can be a real success. We have a 3-step guide on how to do it. Read it carefully and consider these tips when you’re thinking about how to introduce a cat to a dog.

Phase 1: Sniffing from a distance

  • When you first bring your new cat home, put her in a separate room and let her get used to the new environment.
  • Once you see that kitty feels comfortable in her new surroundings, start feeding your cat and dog on the opposite sides of the closed door. This way, they can smell each other’s scent and associate it with the positive feeling of being fed.
  • If this goes well, let them change places every now and then. Put your dog in the separate room and let your cat roam her new home freely for half an hour. That way they can get used to each other’s smell slowly.

Phase 2: Meeting in a controlled environment

3-phase guide on how to introduce a cat to a dog
After Phase 1:After a successful couple of days of Phase 1, put your dog on a leash and tell him to calmly lie down next to you.
Ask a friend for help:Ask a family member or friend to open the door to your cat’s room and sit down somewhere opposite of you and your dog. This way, your friend will mark the cat’s safe space.
Sniffing from a distance:Let the two of them look and sniff at each other from a distance for a little while. During all this time, make sure your dog stays calm and remains down.
Treats:Use treats to reward good behavior.
Time & experience:Keep these meetings short in the beginning. For an excited dog, even five minutes of being calm when a cat is in the room can be an enormous achievement.

To assure that you make long-lasting progress, it is better to leave your animals with memories of short peaceful interactions than long visits that ended in turbulence.

Proximity increase:When these meetings from afar continue to go well for a few days, let the animals come closer and closer.

If one of them becomes aggressive or overly anxious, it’s time to slow the process down a little. On the other hand, if all goes well, let the cat and dog get as close as they like.

In time, try to carefully take your dog’s leash off and watch from a distance.

Phase 3: Unsupervised interaction

Depending on your individual animals, it will take a few weeks on average from the moment the cat and dog first meet to get to a point when they can safely be around each other without your intervention.

You will know that the time has come when the cat and dog continue going about their usual business even when the other animal is in the room.

When your dog stays down calmly without you reminding him to do so, while your cat curls up cozily in a corner, it is probably safe to leave the two of them alone for a few minutes while you’re next-door.

Good to know: Let these periods of unsupervised interaction grow longer and longer only as cat and dog become more comfortable around each other.

Animal friendships are real

After you successfully went through all three phases, your cat and dog will have found their own individual way to best interact with each other. For some animal pairs, this can result in what we would call a close friendship. In other cases, feline and canine form a sort of non-aggression pact and are perfectly content sharing their home, but otherwise ignoring each other.

Important: Either way, the peaceful living arrangement of your cat and dog starts with the right introduction!

More tips on a happy first encounter of a cat and dog

Here are additional tips on how to get a cat and a dog live together in harmony, with a proper introduction:


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