Congratulations, you’ve added a new pet to the family! It’s always an exciting time when you take on a new dog or cat. But before you bring your new pet home, you might be wondering how to introduce a cat to a dog.
Cats and dogs are completely different species, but contrary to what’s shown in popular media, they can usually get along! All it takes is some patience, understanding, training, and… well, a little luck!
Do Cats and Dogs Generally Get Along?
You’ve seen how cats and dogs are in movies. The happy, unaware dog charges the cat, the cat lets out a shriek and swipes a claw, and the dog leaves whimpering with a claw mark on their nose. Yes, it can be as confrontational as that, but it doesn’t have to!
According to some studies, given the right circumstances, cats and dogs can get along fine. In fact, oftentimes, the state of their relationship hinges mostly on the cat.
This is because cats tend to be territorial and moody, so it makes sense why they wouldn’t take well to a dog invading their space. Dogs, on the other hand, are friendlier and simply curious about the furry creature. Add in the size and energy difference, and you can see why people don’t think the cat and dog relationship would go well.
But, rejoice! Peace between the cat and dog is possible. Even if they aren’t best friends, dogs and cats have been known to coexist well in the same space. How, you ask? If possible, one of the best ways for a cat and dog to get along is through socialization at a young age. If they grow up together, they will most likely get along and form a bond that lasts their whole lives, which love between dogs and cats is sure to be a heart-warming sight to see!
Do Certain Cat Breeds Dislike Dogs?
Most cat breeds are capable of getting along with dogs; however, there are a few breeds that are distinctly more territorial and aggressive. It’s not impossible for these breeds to get along with dogs, but it just might be a bit more difficult.
These breeds include:
- Scottish Fold
Do Certain Dog Breeds Dislike Cats?
There are also dog breeds that might not be the best around cats. These breeds don’t hate cats; rather, they’re usually hunting dogs that have a natural instinct to chase small animals. So, if they see a cat, its in their blood to chase and terrorize them. Once again, it’s not impossible for these breeds to get along with cats but think twice before bringing a cat home if you have one of these dogs.
These breeds include:
- Australian Cattle Dog
- Siberian Husky
In general, if you have a hound or terrier breed, they’re going to want to chase cats because they’ve been bred to track and hunt small game, like ducks and rodents.
How to Introduce a Dog and Cat – Warning Signs
The most important thing to remember when introducing a cat to a dog is this: it takes time! Most pets won’t immediately like each other and become best friends. However, with some time and a few closely monitored interactions, your dog and cat can learn to get along.
Remember, an anxious dog or cat is not ideal for interacting with another pet (or anyone for that matter). If a pet is nervous or scared, they often lash out with their claws or teeth. Make sure to calm your pet down before any interactions by petting them and coaxing them with soft words. This will calm them down because they trust you as their owner.
Another option to calm down a nervous pet is through CBD products made for pets. Yes, CBD is a natural way to soothe and relax your pet during new cat or dog introductions. We have a great selection of products at Healthy Petables, so make sure to check them out!
Warning Signs of Cats
Cats will display clear warning signs when they don’t like something. If you see these signs, it’s a good idea to separate them before things escalate.
Watch for these warning signs from your cat:
- Ears pinned to the back of their head
- Tail moving back and forth
- Body low to the ground, ready to strike
Warning Signs of Dogs
Dogs can get riled up also. If your dog has strong hunting instincts, the cat may look like another prey. If you see these signs, give your dog a time-out.
Watch for these warning signs from your dog:
- Staring intently
- Shoulders down, as if stalking the cat
- Barking or growling
- Ears perked up
- Tail standing up
- Legs coiled, ready to lunge
How to Introduce a Cat to a Dog
So you’re ready to start introductions between your cat and dog! The pets are calm, you’re keeping a close eye on their behavior, and you’re in a safe, familiar environment.
Here are a few tips to make the introductions go smooth:
Proceed With Caution
During their initial introduction, make sure to keep a close eye on their reactions. Remember: don’t rush it! Their first time meeting should be brief. If they’re both calm and don’t mind each other’s company, the time can be extended, but otherwise, shorter is usually better.
Continue the short interactions several times a day until they become familiar with each other. You can then progress to longer interactions and then unrestricted time together in the same room.
As a side note, puppies and kitties can react differently if they’re meeting a new pet. Puppies are playful and full of energy, so it’s a good idea to keep them on a leash during introductions. On the other hand, kittens tend to be timid and may need a bit more coaxing to become comfortable.
Keep Them Separated at First
Even if the first interaction between them was a good one, it’s best to keep them separated at first. This gives them both time to get accustomed to one another. Also, it gives the newcomer ample time to adjust to their new surroundings. Moving to a new place is already stressful enough, and if you immediately add in another pet, it might just be too much, too soon.
Make sure there is a solid door or fence between the pets. Dogs are known for staring and becoming fixated on other animals, so a physical boundary can help prevent that.
Feed Them On Opposite Sides of a Closed Door
In the beginning, feed them on opposite sides of a closed door. Some pets become anxious when other animals are around their food, so a new pet sniffing around will just add to the tense atmosphere. Keep them separated at first, and eventually, as their relationship grows, you can start to feed them in the same room.
Once they can eat in the same room, celebrate— this is a great achievement! It means that they are comfortable enough to share their favorite time (dinner!) together. Additionally, dogs may even learn to associate happiness with the scent of their new furry friend.
Swapping scents is a very effective way to get your pets to know one another. Animals read environments by their smell, and if they learn another animal’s scent, they will inevitably become more comfortable with them.
Here a few ways to swap their scents:
- Swap sleeping blankets
- Swap toys
- Rub a towel on one and place it near the other pet’s food or bed
- Swap their play areas
Teach Basic Commands
If your pet knows some basic commands, this will go very far in keeping interactions with a new pet peaceful. Dogs are typically easier to train because they are extremely motivated by treats. Cats, however, don’t care too much for treats, so training isn’t as effective.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to teach your dog commands like “sit” or “stay.” If your dog takes well to training, try to teach them the “leave it” command. You teach this by giving them a treat if they leave something alone that would normally stimulate them, such as food, a toy, or another animal. This teaches them self-control because if they leave the stimulus alone, they get a treat.
Identify Positive Body Language & Reward
Once your dog knows some commands, use the commands to keep your dog calm when they interact with your cat. Remember to reward them with treats if they control their impulses and sit in front of the cat. This is especially important if you have a big dog because they can unintentionally hurt your cat if they are too playful.
During this training period, don’t be frugal with your treats! Dogs will do almost anything for treats, so it’s the best way to control their behavior.
Repeat Training Sessions Daily & Frequently
As with any training, consistency is key. Repeat these controlled interactions at least once a day. As they become more comfortable, you can extend their interaction time and even leave them alone in the same room (just make sure you’re an earshot away).
Don’t bombard them with too much interaction at once. Take it slow and steady, and before you know it, your pets will at least be amicable with one another. Cats are usually the more fickle species, so if you have a new cat, give them all the time they need to get comfortable with the environment and the dog.
Remember, this is a process, and it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for you to see results. If you’re still having trouble after a few months, you might want to consult a professional trainer for advice.
Final Thoughts – How to Introduce a Cat to a Dog
Cats and dogs cannot be any more different. Dogs are usually happy-go-lucky, while cats are territorial and moody.
But this doesn’t mean they can’t get along! With patience, understanding, and proper training, your new pet can very quickly learn to live with an animal that is very much different from themselves. And who knows, maybe when you introduce your cat to your dog it can be the start to a long, cross-species friendship.