How To Introduce Your Cat and Dog the Right Way

Written by Chanel Coetzee
Published: October 28, 2022
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Cats need time to get used to anything new and will require a slow introduction before meeting face-to-face. By making this process slow and comfortable, you prevent fear and aggression issues in the final stage of the introduction. That’s why it’s essential to know how to introduce your cat and dog the right way before getting started.

Introductions between cats and dogs won’t all be the same. Their reactions will depend on their age, gender, which breed is the newcomer, and many other factors. For example, some cat breeds are friendlier than others and will welcome a new pet.

In addition, age is a huge factor. If you have a 9-year-old cat that has always been the only child, it will be hard for your cat to accept another pet.

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However, introducing a tiny kitten after being separated from its siblings and mother would be an easier transition because they are looking for companionship. Learn more on how to introduce your cat and dog the right way below.

The Cat Needs Its Own Room

When bringing a new animal into your home, the cat needs its own room, whether it’s the newcomer or the resident. They need a medium-sized room with food, water, a litter box, and a comfortable bed.

When meal time arrives, feed each pet on either side of the door, so they can smell each other’s scent while enjoying their food. However, don’t push the food too close to the door, as you don’t want them to start fighting.

But, you can slowly start moving their dishes closer to the door each day until they can eat peacefully, directly on either side of the door. Lastly, you can use two doorstops to hold the door open just enough to let the two pets see each other. You can repeat this process continuously throughout the introduction.

cat youth
Your cat needs its own room with food, water, a litter box, and a comfortable bed.

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Introduce Scents

Take your dog’s blanket and switch it with your cat’s blanket so they can get used to the smell. Next, rub a towel over your dog and put it under the cat’s food bowl, and vice versa.

Swop Living Quarters

If your cat uses its litter box properly and eats well after a few days, let them roam the house for a bit. Then, while your cat enjoys some fresh air, have your dog explore its room. This allows your cat to feel comfortable in your home without fearing other animals but still picking up on their scent.

Prevent Fearful and Aggressive Encounters

If either pet feels fearful or becomes aggressive during an introduction, stop the interaction and try again at a later stage. If you allow this behavior to happen often or intensify, it will be hard to change.

While it’s natural for mild forms of fear and aggression to creep in, you don’t want it to take over the moment. The best way to avoid this behavior entirely is by gradually introducing your pets through the door.

Take Precaution

Before introducing your cat and dog face-to-face, ensure they are both healthy. For example, if any of them have just been spayed or neutered and are still recovering.

Also, ensure that you don’t disrupt your resident pet’s schedule before the meeting so they feel comfortable and happy. In addition, there must always be a hiding place present for your cat.

Once everyone is together, and a fight breaks out, don’t use your hands to break it up. Instead, have a hosepipe or spray bottle nearby and wet them as much as possible.

If they fight, take a break from meetings for a while. Instead, stick to the scent-based stage of the introduction before trying again.

cat vs dog
If they fight, take a break from meetings for a while.

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Introducing Cats to Dogs

When your resident animal is a dog, and you want to welcome a cat to your family, the rules change slightly. Some dog breeds can easily kill a cat; if the feline is coming onto their turf, they might respond aggressively.

Dogs with a high prey drive should always be monitored around cats, as their natural instincts could kick in. In addition, some dogs like to chase cats playfully, but cats might see this as an attack and act aggressively by hissing or scratching.

So, introducing cats to dogs is not as simple as it may seem, which is why these steps are so essential:

Train Your Dog Before Getting  a Cat

The most important commands for dogs to know before being introduced to a cat are:

  • Sit
  • Down
  • Come
  • Stay

If they don’t already know these, make them learn before introducing the new cat. This also allows your pooch to get familiar with treat-based training. By the time they are trained, they should be hankering for a reward instead of worrying about the cat.

Set Up a Controlled Meeting

After the first phase of the introduction, on the opposite side of the door, you can set up a controlled face-to-face meeting.

Before entering the space, your dog must have a leash on. First, ensure you have lots of treats and use them to get your pup to sit or lie down. Next, have someone else bring in the cat and let them sit on the opposite end of the room.

They don’t need to restrain the cat, but they should try to keep it in the same vicinity. To keep them close, put down some food or catnip.

Don’t prolong these meetings; frequent short visits are better than dragged-out meetings where the dogs could become too excited or uncontrollable.

Keep repeating these meetings until both animals show no signs of aggression, fear, or unacceptable behavior.

Set up a controlled meeting of your cat and dog, making sure neither animal shows signs of fear or aggression.

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Set Your Cat Free

Unfortunately, your dog still needs to be on a leash for this step, but give your cat free rein to explore. While this is happening, try to keep your dog in the “down-stay” position. In addition, keep feeding your dog treats and praise them for their excellent behavior.

However, should your dog get up from their position, use a treat to get them back, and praise them for obeying your command.

If the cat responds negatively or becomes aggressive, the process is moving too fast for them, and you need to go back to the previous step.

Keep Using Positive Reinforcement

While dogs need to learn that getting excited and chasing or playing rough with your cat is wrong, they must first learn how to act the right way. In addition, they must realize that when they do something right, they get a treat, praise, or both.

If you punish your dog whenever the cat is present, it will start to think the cat’s presence is bad and might act aggressively toward it.

Always Monitor Early Interactions Between Cats and Dogs

Your cat and dog might get along well in your presence, but it could be a different story behind your back. During the early phase of this new living arrangement, always monitor their interaction. If you need to go out, separate them before leaving. In addition, always ensure there is an escape route for your cat.

A Few Notes

  • Dogs go crazy for cat food, so while introducing these two, ensure all food is always put away, as it could cause aggression.
  • Dogs enjoy eating cat feces, and while this is not dangerous, it might be unpleasant to you. It also stresses your cat out, like their privacy has been invaded.
  • You can avoid this distasteful situation by placing the litter box on top of a cupboard, behind a baby gate, or inside a tall cabinet.

When You Should Ask for Help

If, after weeks, your cat and dog are still not comfortable, it’s time to seek out some professional help. Continuing on your own may result in a fight that could cause severe injury, and the longer this behavior continues, the worse it will become. Instead, try reaching out to an animal behavioralist or a trainer to get the help you and your pets deserve.

Dog Breeds that Do Well with Cats

Specific dog breeds are more likely to accept a new feline into the home. For example, Toy dogs were bred to be social and friendly, and most of them will get along well with a cat. However, hunting dogs like spaniels and pointers might have a harder time adjusting because of their high prey drive.

In addition, terriers were also used for hunting rodents, so they are not the best breed to introduce to cats. Other breeds that might not do well with the new addition are herding dogs, like sheepdogs and hound dogs. Unfortunately, all these breeds have natural killing or herding instincts that don’t mesh well with owning a cat.

But, many other breeds will gladly accept a feline into their home, and they include:

English Bulldogs

English bulldogs might seem intimidating, but they are actually incredibly kind. They will accept any creature into their home due to their easygoing personalities. This makes the bulldog a great choice of companion for your cat.

Basset Hound

While this breed was bred to aid in hunting expeditions, they are quite relaxed and enjoy a low-key lifestyle. Basset hounds are notorious for being untrainable because they are super stubborn, but their calm personalities make them a fantastic choice for a cat companion.

Collie

Although collies are herding dogs, they are known for their love of children and tolerant nature. However, these athletic dogs need a lot of exercise, and having a companion can help them burn some excess energy. Collies have no issues with other animals, and there shouldn’t be any issues introducing a feline into the home.

Beagle

Here is another hunting dog on this list; however, they are generally great with other animals. Beagles have a happy-go-lucky personality, making them a breeze to live with. In addition, they are incredibly loving and will likely see a new cat as another member of their pack.

Golden Retriever

Golden retrievers can be a handful with their high energy levels and playful personalities. But, surprisingly, they are extremely good with other animals, and it should be easy to introduce your cat and dog if you do it the right way.

golden retriever
Known as great family dogs, Golden Retrievers are also good with other animals as well.

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Papillon

The papillon is a perfect friend for a cat because they are basically the same size. In addition, they are a very curious breed of dog, so they should be willing to meet the cat. They are usually eager to please, so as long as you show them positive reinforcement, there shouldn’t be any issues.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles spaniel is a fearless dog with an affectionate nature. They are incredibly adaptable and will accept any pet into the home. Although they form part of the spaniel group, they do not have any issues getting along with other animals. In addition, they aren’t very big and won’t be that intimidating to a cat.

Pug

Pugs are a notorious breed that is becoming more popular by the day. Although they are known for their adorable appearance, these dogs are actually really loving and have tons of personality. In addition, they love attention and may suffer from separation anxiety. So, getting them a feline companion would work out perfectly!

Labrador Retriever

Although this breed is much larger than a cat, their adorable personalities make them gentle giants. In addition, Labrador retrievers are extremely social animals and love attention. Whether that attention comes from humans or their animal companions, it doesn’t matter.

Cat Breeds that Do Well with Dogs           

If you already own a dog and want to get a cat, certain breeds get along better with canine companions. However, it’s always best to make the introduction when they are still kittens. These five cat breeds have the best chance of fitting into a dog’s home, creating a happy, fun, and healthy living environment.

Bombay

This stunning cat was initially bred in the 1950s, and they are the result of crossing black American shorthairs with sable Burmese cats. This resulted in an affectionate, easygoing feline who fits perfectly into a busy, multi-pet home.

However, they have a tendency to want to take charge and will definitely put your pooch in their place! In addition, they are very intelligent and love learning new tricks, so they require a lot of human attention.

Birman

The Birman cat comes from Myanmar, which used to be called Burma. Natives used to keep them in temples because they believe that Birmans’ sapphire blue eyes and distinctive coats were bestowed upon them by a goddess.

However, their playful nature and curiosity make them a perfect choice to introduce to a home with a dog. These cats can be quiet, but they love following their owners around and being part of their daily lives. They might even tag along when you go walk your dog.

Norwegian Forest Cat

While the Norwegian forest cat was bred to survive freezing temperatures, they have since acclimated to warmer climates, as they are now found across the globe. Don’t let the NFC’s large size intimidate you, they are actually incredibly gentle and social.

However, they have trust issues and might not like strangers entering the home because they will usually find a place to hide until they leave. But they get along well with other animals, including dogs, and will love playing outside with them, especially in the water!

Ragdoll

These cats have gorgeous long coats and deep blue eyes, but it’s not their appearance that makes them stand out; it’s their laid-back personalities.

The ragdoll is notorious for its easygoing nature, making them the perfect candidate to introduce to your pooch. In fact, this cat is so chilled; they were named after their habit of being so relaxed in a human’s arms they go all floppy, like a rag doll.

ragdoll kitty
Ragdoll cats have very easy-going personalities, making them able to get along with animals and people alike.

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Maine Coon

Maine coons have been around for a long time, since the 1800s, to be exact. During this time, they were revered for their rodent hunting skills and were especially kept on ships to take care of the vermin infestations.

What makes this cat different from other breeds is that they mature slowly. Maine coons only stop growing after 5 years! While they are very affectionate, they are not needy and get along well with other pets. These cats will be happy to burn off their energy by chasing a canine companion around the house and snuggle together afterward.

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cat and dog
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About the Author

I am a 33-year-old creative and professional writer from South Africa. Wildlife is one of my greatest passions and led me to become the writer I am today. I was very blessed to work with an abundance of wildlife (mainly big cats) and captured my unique experiences in writing. But I wanted to take it further, and I ventured into the freelancing world. Now, I get to spend my days writing about animals; what could be better?

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How long does it take for a cat to get used to a dog?

The average time it takes a cat to get used to a dog is 2 to 3 weeks.

What should you not do when introducing cats to dogs?

Cats need time to get used to anything new and will require a slow introduction before meeting face-to-face. By making this process slow and comfortable, you prevent fear and aggression issues in the final stage of the introduction.

Will my cat ever accept the new dog?

Introductions between cats and dogs won’t all be the same. Their reactions will depend on their age, gender, which breed is the newcomer, and many other factors. For example, some cat breeds are friendlier than others and will welcome a new pet.
In addition, age is a huge factor. If you have a 9-year-old cat that has always been the only child, it will be hard for your cat to accept another pet.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Petkeen, Available here: https://petkeen.com/cat-breeds-get-along-with-dogs/
  2. Paws, Available here: https://www.paws.org/resources/introducing-cat-to-dog/
  3. American Kennel Club, Available here: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/dogs-that-are-good-with-cats/