Congratulations on your new pup!
Adding a pup to your pack? Congrats! This is an exciting time for your human family, but it can also be a stressful event for your feline residents. Here are a few helpful tips on how to introduce a dog to a cat.
Prepare Your Home
Prepare your cat by moving them (and all their things) to a comfortable, enclosed roomlike a guest bedroom.
While your cat is confined, introduce your dog to your home and their dedicated space; this should be an appropriately sized kennel with a bed and a toy. Avoid using kennels that are too small, your dog should have enough room to comfortably stretch out. Also, be sure the kennel is not in the same room as your cat.
During this time, work on bonding with your dog and helping them get acquainted with their kennel. Once you feel like they’re comfortable and relaxed, it’s time to begin the dog-cat introduction process.
Arrange Controlled Meetings
After a long walk or trip to the dog park, invite your pup to relax in their kennel with their favorite toy and treat. Once they seem content, let your cat out and allow them to explore on their own. Provide the dog with treats in their kennel for positive reinforcement.
At the same time, toss your cat treats/catnip for showing interest in the new dog without aggression. Allow your cat to leave if they become aggressive or try to escape, let them leave; don’t try again until they’re calm and relaxed.
If your dog shows any sign of fixation, aggression, or intense behavior, calmly remove the cat and distract the dog with treats until they’re calm. After your dog has settled, either re-introduce your cat or wait for a later time.
Repeat this exercise until both animals are comfortable in the same room, and showing no sign of aggression or fixation.
Begin Leash Introductions
Once your cat and new dog interact without aggression, begin leashed interactions.
Begin again by first allowing your dog to burn energy with a long walk or trip to the dog park. Next, keeping them leashed, bring your dog into the same room where controlled meetings occur, ensuring they’re calm. Remember: positive reinforcement!
Next, allow your cat to roam freely, but keep them at a distance. Give both pets treats and praise. If your dog becomes too fixated on your cat, refocus their attention on you with treats. Once they’ve calmed down, return to the situation. If they’re both showing interest in each other, you may allow them to get closer. If your dog shows aggression or excessive excitability, stop the session and try again later.
This should be done as often as possible until both animals are calm around each other. Keep in mind, a dog and cat learning to together is different than two dogs. Don’t expect your cat and new dog to become instant friends. The goal with this process safe and comfortable interactions. Once you feel confident with your dog on the leash, it’s time to drop it.
Dropping the Leash
Once you’re confident with leashed interactions, allow your dog and cat to interact on their own; be ready to grab the leash if needed. Begin with a calm dog on leash, and then bring the cat into the room.
Once you feel comfortable, calmly drop the leash and allow them to interact. During this time, reward both pets with treats and praise as often as possible, even if it seems excessive … baby talk really does help! This should be done daily. If your dog becomes too fixated, or if you notice your cat becoming uncomfortable, redirect your dog’s attention to you with rewarded treats. If behavior escalates, remove the dog from the situation until they’re calm and try again.
If at any time your cat wants to escape, let them. Do not force the interaction to continue once the cat has fled. Also, don’t allow your dog to chase. Instead, re-direct your pup’s attention with treats and positive reinforcement.
Don’t Give Up
Don’t feel discouraged if they don’t become best friends … or learn to co-exist right away. It takes time!
No matter how comfortable your dog and cat may get together, always be sure each pet has a private space that’s away from the other … especially for cats! Their litterbox, food, and water bowls should be out of the dog’s reach, and they should always have a place to decompress when needed. Never leave your dog and cat alone if you have any hesitations, especially when leaving your home – even for a quick errand.
Most importantly, don’t forget to be patient and give yourself and your animals time to adjust. There is no definitive timeline on introduction success. Enjoy your time with your new dog and focus on making it stress-free for all animals involved. For everything else, there’s Companion Protect®. Protect your pets (and your wallet) from the unexpected!
Prior to Companion Protect, Jordan worked as a veterinary technician for 6 years in both private practice and animal shelters. She’s a proud animal advocate, strong anti-BSL supporter, and active dog foster. She’s also a proud mom to loveable pittie, Brewer, sassy boxer mix, Ellie, and a toothless cat named Drools. In her free time she enjoys yoga, breweries, patio sitting, and adventures in her local Kansas City area.
Wilson has written for brands in the tech, e-commerce, construction, health, and finance industries. In his free time, he enjoys cooking for friends and family, spoiling his dog-daughter (Penny), painting, and playing music with friends. And speaking of food, his favorite meal is his mom’s pot roast and mashed potatoes!