How to Introduce Dogs to Cats
If you’ve never owned both a dog and a cat, it can be quite the learning curve to try introducing one to the other. After all, we can’t all use the same method as the Dog Whisperer when introducing a dog to a cat. Indeed, there are multiple ways to go about bringing your pets together under your family banner.
Below, we discuss the best way to introduce a dog to a cat with plenty of variants for you, to include all manner of different household structures. Whether you’re introducing a kitten to dogs, a puppy to your elderly cat or even trying to get two old pets to finally get along and stop your dog from chasing the cat. Read on, to get harmony back in your house – or simply to prepare yourself for an upcoming introduction to your family.
Before We Begin
No matter what your starting point is – whether it’s introducing a puppy to a cat, kitten to a dog or adult cats and dogs to each other – there are some basic principles which work with all animals. The following tips should help you to develop the right home for each animal, no matter what their age.
Consider the Breed
If you haven’t bought your puppy yet, now is the time to do as much research as is possible. Some breeds are a lot more cat-friendly than others, and will therefore find it much easier to fit into your current household. Others, however, will only have their instincts to go off and this can make it very awkward if you have a hunting or herding dog, for example.
If you have chosen your pup and it turns out that they are a sighthound or similar breed, this doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to create a calm environment for all of your animals. It does, however, mean that you’ll need to work all the harder to ensure that everyone in the family gets along.
With cats, there is a similar rule of thumb, with some breeds preferring their own space, while others are more playful and bouncier. As a general rule of thumb, the latter will be more likely to get along with dogs, simply because their energy levels will be the same. Thus, you’re less likely to get a stressed-out, grumpy cat that is not happy with their new home life. Of course, every cat is individual, and you can always continue with our tips, even if you have a cat that prefers a quiet life.
Consider Their Background
Ideally, no matter what breed you decide on, the pup will come from an environment where cats have been present. This can help take away a lot of the stress for your pup, who will have grown up around these felines and understand that not all cats will enjoy being licked or jumped up on.
It also provides a lot of positive experiences for your dog, while the novelty of there being a new animal around will have worn off – giving your cat more breathing space. The longer your dog has been around cats, the better they will be. Therefore, older dogs are more likely to be happy with cats than younger dogs, in these cases – which is another great reason to adopt!
You should also consider whether your cat has previously been around dogs. If you’ve owned dogs before then this will likely make it much easier for your cat to settle with a new household member, for the same reasons as above. If this is your first experience in introducing your cat to a puppy, then following our steps, below, should give you additional support in this area.
With kittens, there is less likelihood of experience with other dogs, but they also have the added benefit of being more playful during that period of their life. This means that you can encourage plenty of positive reinforcement between your dogs and kittens, no matter their background.
Work With Scent
The huge benefit in introducing these animals to each other is the fact that both dogs and cats work with smells much more than any other sense. For both felines and canines, the smell of another animal gives away so much more than we are able to process as humans. Indeed, their olfactory senses often work overtime when there’s a new person or object in their space.
Use this to your advantage, by getting a throw or cushion which each animal favors, and introduce this item to the other animal. So, if your cat has a specific spot, try placing a t-shirt there for a few days, before you bring your puppy home, so that you can bring the shirt to the puppy and let them have a good sniff. Ideally, your breeder should be able to do the same thing for your new dog.
Similarly, when seeking to introduce kittens to dogs, the same technique can be used with scents. This will allow your animals to register the smells of their new housemate, before they are even introduced to each other – making them both seem less intimidating to the other.
Give Them Space
It’s equally important to give each animal their own space, as it is to encourage them to greet each other and be close. Ideally, a cat that is already part of the household should have an area which is their preferred sleeping and resting spot. Where possibly, try to maintain this area and give your cat a guaranteed pup-free space. For kittens, creating a warm spot that is easy for them to hide in is the best option, as scared cats like to hide in a quiet part of the house.
At the same time, crate training your puppy from a young age is the best way to give them a safe space. Not only will you be able to create an area in which your dog can happily sleep and eat – but you’ll also be giving them a place in which to retreat when they are done playing. By doing this, you are giving each animal some necessary downtime, so that they do not become over-stimulated and stressed.
If your older dog hasn’t been crate trained, you can still create a safe space for them. Common rooms in the house, such as the kitchen or an area out of the way of heavy foot traffic, is ideal. Simply place their bed in this area and give them lots of treats while encouraging them to stay in the area, to help them understand which area is their designated space.
How to Introduce A Cat to A Puppy
We’ll start with one of the easiest scenarios – in which you’re introducing a puppy to a cat. This is mostly easier as the dog will not have had a chance to develop any strong instincts towards your feline friend just yet. At the same time, your cat is likely to be fully agile enough to escape any situation in which they are not comfortable – and that comfort is key to developing a calm, happy bond between your pets.
When first introducing a puppy to your cat, the key is to give both animals plenty of time and space. In these situations, your cat should be the main animal in control of the situation. Lots of treats and toys will be a huge help, but don’t encourage either animal to walk straight up to the other – unless that is what your cat decides.
Puppies are inquisitive, and may happily bound straight over to your cat but try to stop your new pet from running straight over. Keeping your puppy on a lead or within their crate while your cat enters the same room is ideal, as this is the least threatening situation to your cat. Similarly, keeping your new dog focused on you and your games or treats will make your puppy look less intimidating to your cat.
Keep your initial meetings short and sweet. Two much interaction can easily stress out both animals and, if at any time, your pets seem anxious or stressed, separate the two. Slow and steady will win this race, so don’t worry about forcing your pets to spend time together. Doing so will lead to an increased likelihood of animosity between the two, so let them take the lead here.
How to Introduce Kittens to Dogs
This option is one of the easiest connections to make, as kittens are – generally – more open to meeting dogs than cats may be. Especially if the kitten has previous experience around dogs, and even more so if your dog is a well-trained pup. For this option, the key is to let your dog and cat get to know each other’s scents.
After following the advice above, we recommend that the first meeting take place with your new kitten in their carry case. This allows your dog to maintain their place in the pack, and reduces stress relating to an intruder in their home. This is because, unless they have spent time with a cat in the home previously, your dog will still see a new animal as an unknown entity on their territory.
Once both animals are able to relax while the kitten is still in the carry case, you can then move on. Never let your dog have free reign around the kitten while they still seem stressed or overly excited to see your kitten, as this can cause further friction between the two. However, if your dog is at the point of ignoring the kitten, then this is a good time to let the kitten out to explore the area.
For excitable dogs, it can mean that you may need to keep your dog on a lead while the cat explores the area. By doing this, your dog will seem like less of a threat to the kitten, giving him or her a little extra confidence. If your dog isn’t settling, then take the cat away and try again at a little later. Taking him or her out for a walk before reintroducing the two can sometimes help, as the nervous energy has been used up.
How to Introduce A Cat to A Dog
The main struggle here is that both the cat and the dog have gotten used to their place in their own home. So, introducing a cat to a dog – after taking one away from their previous home – can lead to some interesting experiences. To negate the stress and the likelihood of any scraps, we recommend taking things more slowly, here.
You’ll need to keep your dog and cat separated for longer when both the cat and dog are fully grown and work on giving each animal their own space before they can meet each other. You should also give both animals a check-up at your local vet, to make sure both animals are completely healthy and happy. However, once personal boundaries have been established, you can begin work on the best way to introduce a dog to a cat.
For adult cats and dogs, the best way to introduce them is to take a lot of time. Keep both of your pets separate for a few days and spend time with both animals. This way, not only will you be able to establish yourself with your cat and dog, but you’ll also pick up the scent of one, which the other can use to associate themselves with your first pet.
The next step is to get both animals to associate each other with positive things. If you have a baby gate, a pen or a crate, a good idea is to feed both pets with one of the barriers between the two. Once the two can eat next to each other calmly and happily, you can move on to proper introductions.
Use a common area of the house – one which neither animal associates with their safe space – to use as neutral meeting grounds for your dog and cat. Stand back and allow the animals to meet on their own terms. However, if your dog seems overly excited, try placing them on a leash until they are calm (be aware that some dogs become more aggressive when on a leash, as they feel overly confident).
As above, using toys, treats and lots of distraction techniques is the best way to introduce a dog to a cat. Always try to keep both animals happy and you’ll soon see both of your pets happily passing each other without issue. While not all dogs and cats are bound to become best friends, many happily live together in harmony, without sending fur flying!