Introducing Dogs To Cats: Can They Really Get Along?

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Dog and cat snuggling in the grass

Cats and dogs living together doesn’t have to be stressful. We’ll teach you the best way to introduce a dog to a cat so all parties are happy. No need for hissing, barking, or growling — your pets can live cohesively in your home. Find out how to get a dog and cat to get along in our article below.

Before Getting A Second Animal

Do cats and dogs get along? This is an often-asked question we hear. In truth, a lot depends on the individual environment they are in and how owners handle having two different species of pets living and interacting under the same roof.

Owners must understand that bringing a new pet into their dog’s (or cat’s) space is going to cause some disruption. Dogs can be confused and need reassurance. A new cat or kitten will be scared, unsure, and need to feel safe. Introducing a cat to a dog is a delicate process that owners must prepare for in advance. It is important to be sure your dog and other established pets do not feel displaced.

Introducing a new kitten to a dog is different than introducing an older cat to a dog. The same goes for introducing a puppy to an older cat or kitten. Be mindful of the ages of each animal and prepare accordingly. Make sure to have plenty of supplies for each pet on hand, and ensure they will not be sharing food bowls, toys, beds, etc., at least during the introduction process.

The most crucial step is to introduce the new animal to any pets who are already living in your home before adoption. This way, you will know whether they can get along. They may not be best friends right away, but at least you will see if they are willing to tolerate one another until they are more comfortable together. An immediate bad reaction is a sign that it may not be the right time to bring in a new pet.

Age Matters: How To Introduce A Kitten To A Dog

  • Cavalier rescue puppy with tennis ball on couchIntroducing a kitten to a dog can be tricky. Kittens can be hurt quickly, so it’s best to make sure the dog is a little older. That way, the dog isn’t roughhousing with the kitten. In the end, you want to be extra cautious when introducing a dog to a kitten since the dog may see the kitten as a toy.
  • Always provide supervision, and try to introduce the animals in a neutral space if possible. This helps dogs feel less territorial and protective of their space.
  • Introducing a puppy to a cat is also difficult. The puppy is most likely a little more rambunctious, so you may want a younger cat that still likes to play.
  • Elderly cats can be hurt easily and typically aren’t as playful. So, getting a dog that is less rambunctious and calmer is a good idea.

Ultimately, you know your animals best. Just because puppies are stereotyped as having high energy doesn’t mean that’s necessarily true in your case. Understand what your pets’ personalities are, so you can make their home life even better.

Pet’s History

If you already have a dog and are thinking of getting a cat, you should try and find a cat that has already been exposed to a dog. (When the situation is the opposite, you still want the same exposure.)

If your dog has a history of being good with cats, you should find some ease in introducing them to a new cat. The same goes for cats. Whichever species you’re adopting, you’ll want to ask the current owner or shelter if they are good with the opposite animal before you adopt them. Adopting a cat who is known for hating dogs is just asking for trouble.

Let Each Animal Settle In Separately

When you bring your new animal home, you may want to provide separate living quarters for them at first. For example, if you’re adopting a new cat, you may want to put their food, water, and litter box all in the same room and close it off so the dog cannot get in. Choose a room that is comfortable, like a bedroom, not a closet or another dark room. This allows your cat time to settle in and start to feel comfortable in their new home.

As the animals settle in, they’ll probably take notice of the other. They may hear a meow or loud footsteps on the hardwood floors. They will recognize these sounds and notice that there’s another animal in the home.

How Do You Introduce A Dog To A Cat?

A Sly Tabby Cat

When it’s time to introduce a dog and a cat, you need to pay attention to both of their body language.

If the dog has a fixated focus on the cat with a stiff body and perhaps barking or whining, this may be a warning sign. If the cat’s tail is going back and forth and the ears are pinned back, this is an indicator that the cat may be unhappy.

These are signs that you should not let the dog and cat near one another. It’s okay for the animals to pay attention to one another, but you don’t want them fixated on the other.

Steps For Introducing Cats To Dogs

While every animal is different, there are a few general methods owners can try to peacefully introduce cats to dogs.

1. Familiarize Each Other’s Scents

Before making contact with one another, give each animal a blanket or towel to lay on. Let them have it for a day or two so their scent is transferred to it. Then, give it to the other pet, so they can learn the new scent and get used to the smell. Allow the pets to explore the other blanket or towel as they wish, do not force them to do anything. You’ll need to do this every day because the scent will wear off some.

Daschund in window2, Make The Introduction Through Glass

Next, you can introduce them through a glass door or window. For example, if you have a glass patio door, you can let your dog outside and let your cat in the room where the door enters. Let them approach the door as they please.

Again, you do not want to force either one to do anything. If possible, have another person help you, so you can have someone with each animal. Each of you can give treats to the dog and cat near the glass door to show that being around the other is a good thing.

Make sure that both animals stay calm and pay attention to their body language. Is the cat’s back arched? Is the dog barking excessively? These are warning signs that the animals are not ready to meet face-to-face. Repeat this introduction through the glass until each animal is calm when seeing the other.

3. Use Barriers

After your pets have become comfortable with one another through a glass door, you can use a gate or screen door to introduce them. This will allow them to see one another as well as smell the other. Keep in mind that cats can jump over gates and squeeze through small openings, so you’ll want to monitor them. Repeat this and give treats until both animals seem calm around one another.

4. Face To Face Meeting

Finally, it’s time for them to meet face-to-face. Place the dog on a leash and allow both animals to be in the same room. Let the cat wander around and approach the dog if comfortable. (Only allow this if the dog is calm.) Your cat may want to hide the first time or two, which is fine. To discourage your cat from hiding, try treating them within sight of the dog. After repetition, your cat will be more comfortable coming around the dog.

Work towards extending your dog’s leash and giving them more room to approach the cat and sniff. After a few seconds, call your dog back and treat them for respecting the cat and coming to you when called. Progress toward allowing your dog off-leash and supervising all interactions with your dog and cat until a month has passed with no bad interactions.

How To Get A Dog And Cat To Get Along

Dogs and cats can get along very well and live for years in peaceful cohabitation. A lot of how well they will do together depends on the owners. A positive introduction to each other sets the tone for a positive relationship. Always make sure that cats and dogs have their own stuff, as both can get territorial. Each animal should have access to a cat or dog-free zone when they need space.

Each animal will need training, at least in basic commands. This will be trickier with younger kittens and puppies. However, if older animals are trained well, this helps make these early interactions more positive. Older animals will take longer to get acclimated to a new environment, so be sure to give them plenty of time and space. Dogs who are high-strung or hyper around a new pet may benefit from a calming treat, as well as some extra attention and exercise.

Owners must make sure that both pets feel welcome and loved. Try to be equitable in attention and treat giving. If one animal is always getting new toys, treats, and attention, the others can start to feel isolated and may start acting out.

Video: Dogs Meeting Kittens

Even though these pet parents may not have followed the steps above, it’s still cute to see these dogs meeting kittens for the first time.

Watch For Warning Signs

Grey tabby and white Cat meowing

If either is showing tense body language, give them a break and take them to separate rooms. You don’t want to force either into a situation that could get one of them hurt. You want to set your pets up for success. Until the animals seem relaxed around one another, you should not let them loose at the same time.

  • If the dog gets aggressive toward the cat and chases, pins, or picks up the cat, you need to proceed with caution.
  • If your dog growls, lunges, or barks obsessively at the cat, your dog may not be a “cat person.”
  • If the cat growls, swats at, runs away from, or hides from the dog, your cat may not be a “dog person.”

If your dog is showing aggression towards your cat, you are not helpless. Find out how to stop dog aggression towards cats. And if all else fails, we recommend using a professional trainer to help.

Personal Experience Introducing Dog To A Cat

“I have a lot of experience introducing dogs to cats. Currently I have three cats and two dogs. One thing that has always helped me with keeping these introductions positive is patience, and the use of barriers. Allowing the animals to be curious about each other, smell, and see each other first creates a sense of curiosity, and neither feels out of place. In many cases my pet’s first meeting is sniffing each other under the door. Kittens and puppies seem to acclimate faster, and my older pets have always been excited to have a new playmate.”

Danielle DeGroot, Canine Journal

Introducing Your Dog To Others

Need to know how to introduce your dog to other dogs or even newborns? Read our articles to make sure nobody gets injured, and all relationships start on the right paw. You can also consider a pet camera like the Furbo 360 to keep an eye on your pets when you are not in the room with them.

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