Despite what cartoons might have us believe, it is possible for cats and dogs to live together. They can even get along. But not all dogs are going to love all cats in their territory. The key is to take it slowly, let them get to know each other, and not force them to be friends.
Here are a few key points to think about when introducing a dog to a cat.
What to consider beforehand
Not all dogs will get along with all cats. Not all cats will get along with all dogs. There are a few things to consider before you introduce one into the other’s life.
The breed of your dog is one. Dogs that were originally bred to hunt have a very high prey drive, meaning they seek and chase smaller animals. Sometimes they get a little confused between pheasants and cats. If your dog is a hunting dog, it’s unwise to get a cat as they’ll hunt them, chase them and even seriously harm them.
Introducing a dog to a cat isn’t easy, especially if either of them has had a difficult past. If a cat has been chased by a dog and traumatized, they’re unlikely to want to live with one. Likewise, if a dog has been scratched by a cat, they’ll find it difficult to trust cats again.
It’s also important to think about your pets’ personalities. Are they anxious? Do they scare easily? Are they an older dog who would get annoyed by a young kitten and potentially be aggressive? You have to think about whether they would be a good fit together.
So, what is the best way to introduce cats to dogs?
If your dog isn’t a hunting breed, and neither of them has any past traumas, you’ll want to know how to introduce a cat to a dog. It might not sound logical, but to begin with, the best way is to separate them.
When you first get your cat, it’s important they have their own space. They need to get used to living in the house with a different smell there. Keep the cat in a medium-sized room with food, water, a litter tray, and things to keep them amused. Both them and the dog will be able to smell and hear each other without actually having to meet.
Another great way of getting cats and dogs used to each other is feeding them on different sides of a door. They’ll be able to hear and smell the other munching away and will associate this with something pleasurable like food. If there is more than one of you in the house, you could also both stroke or pay each animal attention on either side of the door so they associate this nice thing with the other animal too.
Scent is crucial to both cats and dogs. This is how they get used to the presence of another animal in their house. When introducing a dog to a kitten or cat, you might want to rub a towel over it and leave it in the new cat’s room. Likewise, rub a towel over the cat and leave it around the house. By doing this they can associate the smell with something that isn’t a threat.
Meeting face to face
Take a little extra care with kittens
Kittens are much smaller than most dogs which means they have a higher risk of getting injured or being scared when they first meet a dog. They generally have a lot more energy which could annoy an older dog who prefers to relax. They also haven’t quite learned the art of giving dogs some space.
A good idea is to introduce a kitten in a crate big enough for some toys and a littler tray. This way they can feel safe and they can smell and see each other without being able to touch.
Introducing cats to dogs
If you’ve done all the above points, and you feel both animals are ready, it’s time to let them meet face to face.
The best way to do this is to have the dog on the leash and a few treats with you to reward them both for good behavior. The most important thing is to not let the dog chase the cat – even if they’re just having fun. This will scare a cat and they’re unlikely to forgive easily. So keep the dog on a loose leash.
Be with the dog in one room and have someone open the door to the cat’s room. You can call the cat or have the person bring them to that room.
Make sure the cat has an easy way back to its safe space in case it wants to leave. They should be able to come and go as they please. If you try to ‘force’ them to meet you’ll likely cause tension between them.
When the cat enters the room let the animals go at their own pace. If the cat leaves again, that’s ok, they might come back! If your dog seems a bit over-excited at their new house visitor you can tell them to lie and reward their behavior.
If either your cat or dog appears frightened, go back a few stages to the scent swapping and try again the next day. Their meetings should be short and controlled so they can develop naturally.
You may feel you need to have your pup on a leash for the next few weeks of them meeting. This will ensure that the dog knows they’re not to chase the cat. Only when you’re convinced that they’re getting on well enough should you take them off the leash, but it’s important you’re there checking on things. Also, always ensure that the cat has an easy escape back to their room or a safe, high place.
When thinking about how to introduce a cat to a dog, not rushing them is really important. You also need to remember that each individual animal is different. Some cats and dogs might get along straight away, or it might take weeks for others. But letting them go at their own pace will ensure you have a happy home with your pets!
I’m Charlotte, a content and copywriter from the North of England and currently living in Berlin. Animals have always been a huge part of my life, so writing about dogs is a total pleasure! I love all kinds of dogs and their cheeky personalities, but I’d have to say Weimaraners are my favourite!