Animal Resource Library » Behavior & Training » Dog & Cat Introductions

Dog and Cat Introduction

Most dogs can learn to live with cats provided the introduction is done with time and patience. All introductions do involve a bit of risk. The steps below will help you do the introduction as safely as possible, provided the steps are followed correctly. Be aware that dogs with a strong “prey drive” may not ever be able to live safely with cats. Observe your dog’s behavior to ensure that he is not “stalking” your cat.

Steps for Introducing Your Dog And Cat:

  • With the dog and cat in separate rooms, rub each animal’s body with a towel, then switch towels so that the dog can smell the cat and the cat can smell the dog. Allow the animals enough time with the towels to get used to each other’s smell.
  • Allow the cat and dog to be in two separate rooms that are adjoined by a common door. Keep them in these adjoining rooms until they are relaxed being next door to each other. Once neither animal is scratching at the door to reach their new neighbor, you are ready to move to step 3.
  • While you holding your new dog ON LEASH, allow the cat and dog to be in the same room. Do not draw attention to the fact that they are in the room together. They will figure it out soon enough. If possible, involve your dog in an ON LEASH game or practice obedience with really tasty treats. The goal is to get your dog interested in you and not focused on your cat. If your dog is highly focused on the cat, continue holding onto the leash and wait for your dog’s interest to diminish. This could take awhile. Once her interest begins to diminish, try engaging her in an on leash activity. This step could take 30 minutes, 3 hours, 3 days or 3 weeks. Do not rush it. The goal is to habituate your dog to your cat. Calmly verbally praise your dog and reward her with treats or petting when she is calm around your cat. You MUST NOT move to the next step until the dog regards the cat in the room as NO BIG DEAL. NOTE: Your dog is still excited by your cat and you run out of time with this exercise you must put your dog in a separate area from your cat until you are able to complete Step 3.
  • Now that your dog is relaxed around your cat on leash, let go of the leash handle. Dropping the leash should not be brought to the dog’s attention. It should be casual. Keep the leash attached to your dog’s collar, however, in case your dog suddenly decides to chase the cat. This will allow you to grab the dog quickly without putting yourself in the middle of the animals’ conflict. Let your dog drag the leash, with you supervising, in the presence of your cat until both animals are able to relax around each other. NOTE: During this stage your cat should always a have a place to escape to, whether it is under a doggie gate that your dog can’t get past or up to the top of a cat tree that your dog can’t reach. Never leave your dog dragging the leash unsupervised as the leash can get caught on things and your dog could accidentally strangle itself.
  • Under supervision, allow your dog and cat to be in the same area off leash. Always continue to provide your cat with places to escape to. If at any point either animal gets too obnoxious with the other, go back a step or two and slowly build back up. At this point, you should be well on the way to being one big happy family.

Tips To Help Your Resident Cat(s) Adjust To Your New Dog:
Before bringing home a new dog, consider if your cat is “adaptable” enough to get used to a new dog. Confident cats or those who’ve lived with dogs in the past tend to adjust with time. Overly fearful or timid cats may have more difficulty, depending on the exuberance of the dog.

Select the dog that suits your cat’s personality as well as your lifestyle. Consider an older, smaller, calm dog if your cat is on the timid side. Mature dogs tend to be less interested in chasing other animals (as well as tend to be already housetrained and less destructive). If your cat is young, confident, and active, it may not mind living with a puppy, an adolescent, or a young adult dog.

Be sure to give your cat lots of individual time after the dog has moved in. Just because you’ve added a new member to your family doesn’t mean you should ignore your cat. In fact, a great way to prevent conflict between your animals is to lavish personal play time on each animal individually to lessen any “competition” between the two. Consider using a synthetic pheromone such as “Feliway” when the new dog arrives. Cats mark their territory with scents called pheromones. Synthetic pheromones mimic the scent
cats use, thus calming them in times of stress.

Place litter boxes in dog free areas. If your cat is worried that your dog will disturb her during bathroom time, she may choose to avoid the litter box. To prevent this be sure the litter box is placed in a “safe” area to which the dog does not have access. It will also be important to follow the rule of having one more litter box than you have cats during this time to help relieve stress.

Be sure that your cats have plenty of “dog-free safe zones” or areas of the house. This can include high areas such as the top of a cat tree or a room where the dog isn’t allowed, etc. Place your cat’s food and water in a dog-free area or make sure the dog is not in the area while your cat is eating. This will allow your cat to eat peacefully without worrying that the dog will steal her food.

Remember that time and patience are the best medicine for everyone getting along.

Please note, articles in the Animal Resource Library are for reference only, and are not meant to diagnose or treat any medical or behavioral issues your pet may be experiencing.