If you already are the proud pet-parent of a cat and are now thinking about adding a dog to your family, planning for their introduction should be something you think about.
Dogs and cats can and often do live together peacefully under the same roof. It just takes some planning, patience, and guidance on your part.
With pets, like humans, first impressions can be important. A poor introduction between your dog and cat could set up the pattern for future interactions. Things won’t always go well the first time but if you can keep the situation from turning into a worst-case scenario, you will be making it easier for all involved.
Plan ahead, have a strategy and take your time. Don’t rush their meeting, even though you will be tempted.
The difference between puppies and adult dogs
Introducing a puppy to cats will usually be easier than introducing an adult dog. Puppies can still learn behaviors and one that grows up around cats will be more likely to see them as part of his pack.
Know their personalities ahead of time
As you know, different pets have different personalities. Some dogs and cats will just never get along, while others have the personalities to be tolerant, or even happy with each other.
Don’t try to force an introduction when your instincts are telling you it won’t work. Some dogs are just too aggressive towards any cat. Some cats will not tolerate a dog entering its territory. Some dogs just love to chase, and matching them up with a shy cat could be a bad decision.
Before the introduction, your dog should be well-trained, and responsive to the commands to come, stay, and sit.
How to introduce a dog to a cat
Before the first introduction, make sure your dog has been fed and had a good exercise session.
For the safety of your cat, there should be a safe getaway space in every room. This could be an area blocked off with a baby gate or even just a shelf or high spot that your cat can get to but the dog cannot.
Let your dog and cat meet each other the first time by smell only. Give them a chance to become familiar be scent before they physically see each other.
Put your cat in a safe area, and let your dog roam the house for around 30 minutes. This will allow the dog a chance to “meet” your cat by smell only at first. Afterward, take your dog out for a walk and let your cat roam around and “meet” the dog by smell only.
Over a few days, rotate which animal has freedom and which is confined to a certain area to allow each animal plenty of time to investigate the other one’s scent.
The first time you introduce them, allow both animals to be in the same room at the same time, but keep your dog on a leash this time.
Your cat’s first reaction may be to hiss and run away. This is a normal reaction for cats.
Continue keeping them separated with this type of introduction until your dog is able to remain calm and ignore the cat, and your cat is calm, eating and using their litter box normally.
If they still show fear and aggression towards each other, go back again to keeping them in separate rooms only able to smell and be aware of each other.
All of the initial interactions should be while your dog is on a leash. Keep the litter box in a safe area and do the same with their food as well.
They should spend at least a few weeks and maybe as long as a month having only supervised interactions. They should only have unsupervised time together when you are fairly certain that they will not hurt each other.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, some relationships aren’t meant to be. Some dogs are just too dangerous to be around cats. If instincts tell you that this meeting won’t work out, respect that message. It’s better for all involved.
Dog and cat introduction resources:
Introducing Dogs to Cats – American Humane
How to Introduce Your New Dog to Your Resident Cats – The Spruce
How to introduce a dog and cat – Animal Humane Society
Introducing Your New Dog to Your Resident Cat – Reach Out Rescue