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Pets Getting Along: Introducing a Cat to Your Dog

May 21, 2019

If you are getting a new dog and already have a cat, or vice versa, how you introduce the two is an important part of establishing their relationship. Cats and dogs have very different personalities, so learning how to properly introduce them to one another without overwhelming them will help maintain a friendly environment in your household.

Before the introduction

The first step in bringing a new animal into your household is considering in advance how your dog and cat might interact before you introduce them. Think about the personality of your current dog or cat and if he or she has had exposure to other species in the past. If you own an aggressive dog, it may not be a good idea to bring a cat into your home.

If you are in the adoption process, look for a dog or cat with a personality that will mesh well with your current pet. A shy or fearful cat probably won’t be a good match for a rambunctious dog that likes to chase things. Instead, an energetic cat who likes to pounce might be a better fit.

Dogs that are laid-back, elderly, or anxious will get along better with a calm cat. They are also better with kittens and older cats who might be easily hurt by aggressive dogs. A cat that hides from dogs, shakes, or growls at dogs might do better in a canine-free environment. Taking your current pet’s tendencies into consideration is an important process of deciding whether or not to get a new one.

Introducing a cat to your dog

One of the most important things to remember when introducing a dog and cat for the first time is to do so in a controlled environment. The best place to do so is at home, where your current pet feels the most comfortable. If you are introducing a new cat to your dog, try to expose your dog to confident cats beforehand. Do not take your dog to meet cats at an animal shelter, as this can scare the cats and isn’t a controlled environment.

When you start the introduction process, keep the two animals separate at the beginning. If you can, rotate which one has access to the common areas over the course of a few days. This will allow both animals to get used to the other’s scent. Keep either the dog or cat contained so direct interaction is not possible. Once the dog and cat both settle down with the arrangement, you can make the official introduction.

For the official introduction, keep your dog on a leash. If there is any fear or aggression displayed by the dog or cat, continue to keep them separated for a while longer. Continue to keep your dog securely leashed in these interactions until both animals seem calm. This step may last up to a few weeks. When you leave your house, make sure both animals are separated to avoid unsupervised interactions.

Once both animals are comfortable with each other’s presence and you are sure that neither of them will get injured, start allowing them unsupervised interactions. This will allow both animals to establish trust with one another when you are not around. If either animal becomes aggressive or agitated, go back to keeping them separated.

Introduction tips

  • Use positive reinforcement with your dog. If they are friendly with the cat and remain calm, reward them with a treat. This will help them learn proper behavior.
  • Never allow your dog to chase your cat. Even in the beginning, make it clear to your dog that the cat is not a plaything.
  • Distract your dog from the cat’s presence with a chew toy or a bully stick. Your dog may fixate less on the new cat if they have something yummy to chew.
  • Don’t use punishment on either animal as it will not help and may set a negative association between the two. A stern “No” is fine, but anything stronger may confuse and upset your dog.
  • If your dog or cat continues to display aggressive or agitated behavior throughout the introduction process, you may need help from a professional trainer. Both animals should feel happy and safe at home.

After the introduction

Once dogs and cat are properly introduced, they might even establish a friendship. Some cats and dogs work very well together and form a close bond. Not all dogs and cats become friends, so make sure both animals are cordial with one another when you’re not around. Ensure that both animals have a designated space in your home that belongs to them for when they want to be alone.

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