how to introduce a dog to a cat

You have decided to enrich your home with the presence of another four-legged baby, either a dog or a cat. Well done, as animals tend to enrich our lives, giving their love and affection and asking so little in return. But how to introduce a dog to a cat?

Here lies the problem: not all dogs and cats get along with each other, and certain dog breeds most certainly hate cats! So what do you do?

A little preparation, patience, and forethought tend to make the ‘get to know you’ process easier if you just follow six simple rules.

  1. Know your dog

Certain breeds of dog have a highly-developed prey drive, seeing everything smaller than them, albeit cats, rabbits, or squirrels, as prey. These breeds do not do well with cats. Remember, a dog can severely injure a cat or kill it with just one shake.

Similarly, even although your dog may have had cats in its life before, it does not automatically mean he will get along with just any cat. An older dog, for instance, might find the antics of a young kitten irritating and hurt it by accident. In the same way, introducing an older cat to a young puppy might result in the opposite of what you wish. An older cat might not feel like dealing with the antics of a puppy, even if used to dogs.

Lastly, if your pet is laid-back, lazy, or a couch potato, it is best making sure your new family member has a similar personality.

bernese and cat

  1. The Location

Taking your dog or cat to the pound or place from which you wish to adopt your new pet is a bad idea. Your pet finds himself in a strange setting and the smells and sight of so many animals end up an unsettling experience. Health reasons are another consideration to keep in mind.

The best place for the first meeting is at home.  Here, you are able to control the situation. It is a good idea to expose your dog to a cat beforehand if he has no cat experience. A friend with a cat used to dogs works well. It enables you to determine his reaction to cats in general while giving you the opportunity to make the final decision: is a cat a good idea?

The same goes where you already have a cat and want to get a dog. If your cat is cool around someone else’s dog, the chances are good he will be fine with a dog of your own.

  1. Preparation

Before allowing them to meet, a few preparations make sense. First on the list is confining your kitty in a safe area. Don’t forget her food, water, bed, and litter box! Feed the cat and dog on either side of the closed door so that they get used to each other’s smells and associate it with something pets like – eating.

Smell plays a major role when getting new pets acquainted. Swap out their bedding to allow them the opportunity of getting used to the other’s smell. Also allow the dog into the cat’s area and vice versa. They need to get used to having each other around.

german shepherd with cat

  1. The introduction

First impressions count. Make it so! No cat wants to be confronted by a dog that looks as if he is ready to eat her.

So what can you do to prevent this state of affairs? See to it that Fido is relaxed by feeding him a meal before the introduction. Then allow him to walk around a little to get used to the cat’s scent. Introduce the kitty while in her carrier and your dog is on a leash. Allow them to sniff each other. Your cat might hiss, a perfectly natural reaction.

Besides your dog possibly attacking your cat and causing her some real bodily harm, a cat’s claws could potentially gauge out a dog’s eyes, cause damage to his nose, and even rip an ear. Take it slow.

Subsequent introductions minus the cat carrier work well if the dog is kept on a leash. If allowing kitty the run of the house, keep Fido on his leash, possibly tied to your waist. See it as a bonding experience with your dog.

If your dog, at any time, makes a rush at the cat, pull him back and reprimand him firmly. He needs to know she is not his prey but a housemate and such behavior not tolerated.

  1. The next step

Once the kitty stops hissing every time she sees Fido, and once Fido stops jerking towards her on his leash, the two should pretty much start showing an interest in each other. If they simply ignore each other, that is fine too. You do not want the two attacking each other every chance they get.

The leash needs getting rid of about now. Do, however, not leave them to their own devices! You need to be with them until such time as you feel both are trustworthy when it comes to the other pet.

The first face-to-face, unleashed encounters need you there all the time. Sit down with them and hold onto the cat. If kitty takes a swipe at the dog’s nose, distract the dog with a toy and calm the cat. Your voice needs to soothe. Make sure to use both their names. Both dog and cat need getting used to the sound of the other’s name.

Extend the periods where they have interaction gradually.

dog with siamese cat

  1. At last!

Once you feel they get along well, remove yourself from the situation but keep an eye on them. After each successful session, reward your dog with a treat and tell him how wonderful he is. Pamper kitty and do not forget her treat! Interaction with each other needs seeing as a pleasurable experience.

Once sure the two get along, extend these periods until such time as you feel neither poses a threat to the other.

Kittens and puppies

You need to take extra care when introducing a kitten or puppy. A small kitten may have no fear of dogs, wanting to play with them. Even a dog used to older cats might snap at her. Being used to older cats does not make your dog great company for a kitten at first.

Also, no matter how well-socialized your adult cat, he might become tired of a playful puppy and give him a swipe or worse. Intervene at once when such a situation arises. An adult cat has the potential of inflicting serious harm on a small puppy. Your new puppy needs to understand it is not okay to chase the cat. Instead, redirect his attention away from the cat with a toy.

In closing

Thousands of dogs and cat form close bonds. This does not mean all of them do. Interspecies bonding depends on a number of factors, the dog, and cat’s unique personalities being only one factor.

Patience and perseverance are the pet owner’s two main allies when introducing the two species as well as a good amount of preparation beforehand. Take it slow and steady. The two should soon be best buddies.

Before you go begin the experiments with your own dogs and cats, take a moment to watch this related video:


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