Knowing how to introduce cats to dogs might seem daunting. It will take some effort, but you shouldn’t dread it. After all, you’re bringing home a new family member!
And yes, dogs and cats can get along great. It may take some time for yours to gel, so you’ll need to be patient with your introductions.
Separate Them at First
Now, the first thing you’ll want to do is separate your new pet from your resident pet. If you’re trying to figure out how to introduce cats and dogs, this will be extremely important. Your new pet needs time to get adjusted without the added stress of another pet nearby.
If the new addition is a cat, keep them in a bedroom or a bathroom for a few days. Keep plenty of toys in the room, as well as a scratching post, food, and a litter box. If you’re crate training a puppy, keep the cat in the separate room.
Get the dog and cat used to each other’s scent. Put one of the cat’s beds or blankets in the dog’s space, and vice versa, so they get used to the smell. Once the dog and cat are calm around each other, it’s time to make the introduction!1
The First Face-to-Face Meeting
When introducing dogs and cats for the first time, make it brief. Keep it to about 10 minutes at most, and keep your dog on a leash. Then, let your cat or kitten move around the home freely.
Use plenty of positive reinforcement. Have lots of treats handy for the dog and cat to reward their good behavior.
Don’t raise your voice or punish either animal, because you don’t want your pets to associate the other animal with something negative.
Hopefully, both the dog and cat will be calm, and there won’t be any hissing or aggressive behavior. Once you’re confident everyone’s calm, let the dog roam around a bit. Keep the leash on just in case you need to regain control quickly.2
Keep Supervising the Dog and Cat
Most of the time, dogs and cats will eventually get along, and there won’t be any signs of aggression. Just to be on the safe side, though, keep each animal on the other side of a door or baby gate when you’re not home. When you are home, watch them closely.
Now, some dogs have a high-energy prey drive, like the Rhodesian Ridgeback, Irish Wolfhound, Siberian Husky, and Chihuahua.3 You’ll want to take care to make sure this type of breed doesn’t suddenly lash out at the cat.
Letting Dogs and Cats Roam Through Your Home
If everything seems good after a couple of weeks, you can let each animal loose throughout your home. The kitten, puppy, or adult cat or dog should be able to at least tolerate each other. If that’s the case, you can be proud that you’ve learned how to introduce cats to dogs!
One thing you’ll want to keep in mind is that dogs love the smell and taste of cat food. You’ll want to keep the cat food in a high place, so the dog can’t get to it.
Also, keep the litter box in an area the dog can’t get to. As gross as it sounds, some dogs like the scent and taste of cat poop. Put the litter box in a room where you can keep the door open just wide enough for the cat to get in (but not the dog).4
Watch Their Body Language
Even if you have gone through each step of the introduction and everything seems calm, you’ll still want to keep an eye on each animal. If you have a shy cat, they might take longer to get comfortable in your home.
And of course, be ready to separate the animals again if the dog starts growling or showing other signs of aggression.
Get Help if You Need To
It’s not that hard learning how to introduce cats to dogs, but sometimes dogs and cats just can’t get along. They’re used to each other’s smell, and you’ve taken every other introductory step, but it’s not working.
That’s when you might need to bring in an animal behaviorist.
But that’s a worst-case scenario. Again, once dogs and cats get used to each other’s scent, they usually calm down relatively quickly. But a cat’s claws can do a lot of damage to a dog – especially a puppy — and a dog’s mood can also change very suddenly.
Typically, cats and dogs will easily co-exist once introduced properly. But if you’ve done everything you can, and either the cat or dog (or both) won’t accept the other animal, don’t be afraid to get help.