How to Introduce a Cat to a Dog: Our 8 Expert Tips

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Last Updated on: April 24, 2023 by Crystal Uys

Introducing a new pet to your current one can be a stressful experience, but a lot of that stress can be addressed by being prepared, calm, and patient. While some cats and dogs don’t like each other, they can get along.

However, most pets take time to grow accustomed to each other. Introductions and first impressions are important, and if an introduction goes wrong, it could set up a bad relationship that is difficult to repair. So, let’s look at the best ways to introduce a cat to a dog.

Before You Start

Before bringing a new pet into your home, research the breed you’re considering. Some dogs have particularly high prey drives, such as Terriers, Greyhounds, and Collies, which means they may find it harder to get along with a cat.

Considering how your established pet will cope with this change is important because bringing in a new family member can be incredibly stressful. Start by asking your veterinarian if they think it would be a good idea since they know your pet well and can also give you some advice about introducing them to a new dog or cat.

friendly labradoodle dog and a fearless cat
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Our 8 Favorite Tips to Introduce Cats and Dogs:

1. Prepare Their Rooms

Preparation is key, and you’ll want to prepare two separate rooms where your cat and dog will stay separate. These rooms should be comfortable and safe. Each room should have everything your pets need, including their food, water bowls, and cat litter.

You will also need to ensure nothing can cause harm them, like a toxic houseplant. It’s also a good idea to pet-proof the rest of your house, so it’s ready when the cat and dog will meet. You will need to set up opportunities for your cat to escape to an elevated position, like a cat tree, so they can retreat quickly and easily if they need to escape the dog.

2. Be Patient

This process can be long, and sometimes an introduction journey isn’t linear—you might have to repeat a step depending on how your pets react. Taking everything at their pace is crucial, which can sometimes be frustrating. But remember, you’re building a foundation for their future relationship.

Introducing a new puppy with no training can be more time-consuming than introducing a new cat to an older dog. If you have just adopted a dog, be sure to take some time to train them, as commands like “leave it” and “stay” will be incredibly helpful.

A dog and a cat laying on the floor
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3. Keep Them Separate

The first step is to keep your pets separate from one another in different rooms. This might seem strange since you want to introduce them, but taking this process slowly is essential. Your aim at the beginning is to get the newcomer comfortable with their new environment and familiarize it with the other’s scent.

You should keep them separated for around 3 to 4 days. You can allow them to explore other rooms, but make sure they’re alone when they do so.

4. Take Advantage of Their Love of Food

When your new pet has had the chance to become accustomed to its new home, you will use its love of food to get one step closer to introducing it to the other animal. Before your pets meet face to face, you can allow them to meet through a door by eating dinner on either side.

They can smell and hear one another and associate the positive emotions they feel when they eat with the other pet. Additionally, neither pet will feel threatened by the other’s presence.

cat eating food from bowl
Image Credit: Seattle Cat Photo, Shutterstock

5. First Meetings

The first time your cat and dog meet should be in a controlled environment; you can separate them swiftly if there’s an issue. A good first introduction is to allow them to see each other through a crack in the door. It’s best to do this at mealtime since they will be near the door, and if anything goes awry, at least the meal will end the interaction on a positive note.

The next step is getting them into the room together. On a leash, walk the dog toward the cat. That way, you have control over the dog and can remove them from the room if needed, and the cat can escape if they are uncomfortable. Introducing them like this can take several attempts, and it’s vital that you are calm and patient with both pets through the process.

6. Keep Sessions Short

Five minutes is long enough for each interaction since you don’t want to stress either of your pets out. Repeat these meet-and-greet sessions daily so your pets are familiarized with each other and progress is maintained.

Once a day is generally enough, as too many might be stressful for everyone involved! Consider giving treats to your dog to reward them for good behavior around the cat. This will also mean they associate the cat’s presence with something positive. Likewise, reward your cat for behaving around the dog.

cat and dog lying on the floor
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

7. Allow Some Freedom

Once your dog isn’t trying to get to the cat, or at least is leaving them alone most of the time, you can attempt to drop the leash and allow the dog to roam freely in the room with your cat. It’s a good idea to keep the leash on so you can grab it if your dog makes a beeline for the cat. If either pet seems stressed, go back to using the leash.

8. Repeat as Necessary

It’s important to remember that you can repeat any of these steps. Animals can be unpredictable, and it’s best to monitor them whenever they’re together. Being cautious will keep everyone safe.

Woman holding a white fluffy cat and Jack Russell Terrier dog while sitting on the bed
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Frequently Asked Questions

What if Both Pets Are Young?

Kittens are much smaller than most puppies, and they’re at a higher risk of being accidentally injured or killed by a boisterous puppy or a predatory dog. You will need to keep a kitten separate until they’re older, or at least keep your dog at the stage where you have them on a leash to meet the kitten.

If you have an older, well-socialized cat, it might know enough to keep a puppy in its place. But if your older cat is shy, it might not have the confidence to interact with a puppy.

I’ve Had Cats Around My Dog Before, so Should This Be Easier?

Just because your dog has been around cats and tolerated or liked them doesn’t mean a new cat will be accepted. So, even if you’ve had cats, don’t rush the introduction.

It’s best to start from the beginning and take it slow.

Beagle dog and brown cat lying together on the footpath outdoor in the park
Image Credit: Kobkik, Shutterstock

When to Seek Help

If you’re not confident about introducing your pets to one another or feel like it isn’t going well, seek advice from a professional. An animal behaviorist will have the skills, qualifications, and experience to help. The sooner you seek this help, the better, since the longer behavioral problems continue, the more difficult they are to resolve.

Final Thoughts

Introducing a cat to a dog can be time-consuming, and progress can feel slow. Generally, sour relationships between pets are formed because introductions are rushed. The key to creating a healthy bond is going at the slowest pace possible, so if one pet seems fine and another is stressed, separate the animals.

Repeating the steps is fine and doesn’t indicate that your plan isn’t working, but if you need guidance, contact your veterinarian or a behavioralist.

Featured Image Credit: StunningArt, Shutterstock

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