Some people consider themselves dog people; others are cat people through and through. Even more people love both animals equally. But when it comes to choosing a pet, what’s the animal lover to do? The old saying, “fighting like cats and dogs,�? keeps many people from thinking that our feline and canine friends can get along. However, many pet owners take care of both dogs and cats within their homes and find that their pets have no trouble coexisting.
If you currently own a cat and are thinking about bringing in a dog to join the family, you may have some anxiety over how the cat might react. Before you adopt a new dog, take a moment to consider the personalities of the two pets. If your resident cat is extremely shy, it may not take well to new pets. If it has been well-socialized or has even been around dogs before, the encounters will probably be better.
The same goes for the dog—try to pick a breed and personality that is not extremely boisterous, as a too-playful puppy could actually hurt your cat on accident. Additionally, it will be easier to make the pet interactions work if the dog has been around other small pets like cats before.
Cats tend to be territorial creatures and an exuberant puppy might lead to some dangerous playing or scratching. Their meeting doesn’t need to be full of stress, though. There are a number of steps you can take to introduce your two pets to create a safe and loving atmosphere for both of them.
1. Create a safe space for your cat
Your first priority when bringing a new dog into the home is to make sure your cat has a space that is safe for them to retreat to and relax in without fear of the dog interrupting. Put the cat’s food and litter box in here and do not let the new dog in. A bedroom is a good place for your cat’s safe space.
2. Introduce with scent
The pet introduction process should be very gradual—it may take over a month to get the dog and cat to be comfortable around one another. To begin, start with one sense at a time. You do not want to just bring them face-to-face immediately.
Take the dog for a walk and feed it so it’s as calm as possible, then secure the cat in its safe space in the home. Allow the dog to enter the home and wander around. By doing so, your dog will get used to the scent of the cat and will leave its scent around the home.
After an hour or two, take the dog outside or secure it inside the home and allow the cat to roam the home freely, picking up on the new dog’s scent. The cat may show signs of distress—just let it continue to sniff around and take its time getting used to the dog smell.
3. View from a distance
Put your cat behind a baby gate and bring the dog inside on a short leash. Try to gain your dog’s attention by petting it, giving it commands and feeding it treats. Allow the dog and cat to view each other from a distance and restrain the dog using the leash if it tries to lunge at the cat. You may need to repeat this process several times until the cat and dog appear comfortable.
4. Slow approach
Once the resident cat and new dog can stay calm in each other’s presence, allow the cat to approach the dog on its own terms. Keep the dog on a short leash and make sure to stop it from lunging at or chasing the cat. Try to keep its attention as before while letting the cat gradually approach and sniff.
The cat might hiss and run away, but this is normal. Repeat this process until your dog and cat can come face to face without attacking each other, using treats as rewards. Always monitor their behavior and separate the pets if you are afraid for their safety, trying again the next day.
5. Leash-free meetings
After your new dog and cat can come face-to-face calmly, allow the dog to be around the cat without a leash. It may help to just let go of the leash while being ready to grab it until you can trust the dog. Always supervise these visits, as some dogs will appear fine with the cat, until freed from restraints… when they’ll chase.
Repeat these supervised visits as often as necessary for you to feel comfortable allowing the dog and cat to exist peacefully within your home.
Remember to take this entire process slowly—never rush your dog or cat into feeling comfortable with one another and never leave the two pets alone until they’ve proven they can both stay calm and comfortable in each other’s presence. With time, patience and care, your resident cat and new dog may even grow to be best friends!