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How To Introduce A Cat And A Dog

Written by Ella White


cat and dog hanging out in a barn

Bringing home a new furry friend can be one of the most exciting family experiences. But if you already have a pet, it’s not as easy as simply bringing home a new animal and expecting your existing ones to be happy about it. So whether you own a cat and are bringing home a new dog, or vice versa, there are some things you need to know.

In this article we’ll guide you through the steps of introducing your two four-legged friends, and what to expect from the process.

Can Dogs And Cats Live Together?

If you’ve watched enough cartoons, you’d be forgiven for believing that cats and dogs are mortal enemies. But in reality, it’s perfectly possible for our two favorite pets to get along. But their friendship won’t always be immediate. Which is why it’s important to introduce them slowly and patiently, especially if one of both of the animals hasn’t lived with other species before. It’s also especially important to be mindful of any age gaps. An older cat or dog may have less patience with a puppy or kitten with lots of energy and a propensity for constant playtime. 

If you’ve got a younger cat or dog and you’re introducing an older pet, this can be equally challenging. Many pet adoption charities will investigate how the adopted pet is with other animals but you won’t know 100% until they’re home and meeting your other pet. If you are rehoming a rescue cat or dog, introducing them to another species of pet will be yet another challenge in what will already be a very stressful time so take it slowly. 

And while it’s true that some dogs do love to chase cats (and other animals), it’s also just as true that some dogs can be scared and intimidated by cool and confident cats. So be equally mindful of the stress that this introduction could put on both animals.

Introducing Cats And Dogs

Before you even bring home your new pet, you need to start preparing your house for their arrival. And that includes slowly introducing your pet to their presence.

Before you bring home your new pet

  • Create a separate space for each animal, ideally with their own secure doors. This is a temporary measure. If possible, give your cat a room upstairs and keep your dog downstairs.
  • If you have stairs and are introducing a new dog to the home, consider using a stair gate to prevent your dog from accessing your cat’s safe space. This can also help with face-to-face meetings from a small distance.
  • Put your cat’s food and water bowls, toys and scratch posts, litter box, and anything else that makes them feel safe in one room – and be sure to remove anything they might destroy or that they shouldn’t have access to.
  • Set up your dog's crate, bed, food and water bowls, toys, and anything else they need in another room where they will be safe.
  • Make sure there are spaces in your house – like high shelves – where your cat can reach if they want to get away from the dog at ground level.
  • If possible, you could introduce the animals to one another before your new pet is even brought home by giving them one another’s blankets so they get used to the smell.

Before your pets meet

  • Whether it’s a cat or dog that is being newly introduced to the family, they should be kept apart until the new arrival has had their first medical check-up.
  • Keep both animals apart for up to four days, with the new pet staying in their safe room at all times. This will help the existing pet get used to their presence in the home before they meet.
  • You can then work up to feeding them on either side of a closed door so they build positive associations with one another’s presence. Keep this up until both pets can calmly finish their food knowing the other animal is there.

When they’re ready to meet

  • Keeping your dog on their leash, introduce them to your cat in a shared room in the house – not one that is dedicated to either pet.
  • If you're introducing a new kitten, you could start this by keeping them in a carrier or puppy crate that they can stay in or escape to if they are overwhelmed by your dog.
  • Keep the meeting short, but let the cat and dog approach one another calmly.
  • Reward both pets with treats for their good behavior, or end the introduction immediately if either animal acts aggressively by distracting them from one another and moving them back to their secure rooms.
  • Repeat this process daily, ending the meeting before either animal becomes agitated.
  • Cats and dogs can move incredibly quickly. By the time your cat swipes out a claw or your dog lunges with its teeth, if could be too late for you to intervene so it’s very important you’re watching out for all types of body language - raised hackles, flattened ears, low growls or hisses etc could all be a warning one is about to react. 
  • Cats and dogs will pick up on your body language too so try to remain calm. Raised heartbeats, nervous twitching or a high, raised voice could tell either animal they too need to be on alert. 

Once both animals can interact calmly

  • Once you’re confident that both animals can spend a minute or so together without becoming aggressive, let them loose in the room together.
  • If any aggression occurs, start the process over again.
  • Once both animals can behave calmly in the same room together, you can begin to allow them to roam freely around the house together.

Eventually, you will get an idea of how your animals get on together. They may warm to one another, or they may keep a cool distance. Make sure they are separated whenever you are unable to supervise them – particularly if they are apprehensive of one another.

What If My Cat And Dog Don’t Get Along?

It’s possible that your cat and dog simply won’t like one another. Whilst they are still getting used to one another, keep your dog on a leash or some kind of line that you can stand on or grab if they do go for your cat. And always make sure your cat has easy access to high places and their secure room.

If you have an energetic puppy or a dog that likes to chase – like a terrier breed – it’s extra important that you are able to quickly remove your dog from any situation where they might cause your cat distress. However, avoid holding your dog in your arms as their aggression could result in injury.

If your cat remains scared or agitated, or your dog remains excited and aggressive when the pets are in one another’s company, you could call on a professional trainer or behaviorist to help improve their relations.

Keep it natural 

You can introduce some natural elements to help facilitate a harmonious introduction. Your vet should always be your first port of call for advice and they’ll be able to give their professional opinion on your dog's likelihood to accept a feline companion. They can also recommend room scents (ones you can plug in or room diffusers) which emulate the natural pheromones produced by mother cats to calm their kittens. You can also try something like our brilliant Harmony dog supplement. With its scientifically proven blend of adaptogens and nootropics it targets anxiety in dogs in less than 90 mins.