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How to Succeed When Introducing a Cat to a Dog

Dog and cat cuddling into each other while lying on grass

The battle between cats and dogs is one as old as time, with the two domesticated animals known as natural enemies by anyone and everyone that you would ask. But how true is this perception? Can the two really not coexist under the same roof as two pets at home? As an animal lover, you’ll be happy to know that the dynamic differs on a case-by-case basis, with their allegedly adversarial nature being less fact than fiction.

This isn’t to say that cats and dogs will always get along amazingly, but the way that they’re introduced to one another will have a major influence on how things pan out. We’ve put together this guide on introducing cats to dogs, so you can feel safe bringing home a new feline friend to meet your trusted canine companion.

Be aware, however, that every animal is different, and we can’t read their minds. In some cases, you can do everything right, and they might just never be able to share the space peacefully, so prepare yourself for that possibility.

Do Cats and Dogs Get Along?

The answer to this question essentially depends on you following the guidance we give in the rest of this article. Dogs and cats can coexist in a perfectly friendly and harmonious way, but it all comes down to the way that you manage their meetings and interactions going forward.

Don’t bring a new cat home to an established pet dog, put the two in a room together, and expect them to bark and meow through their differences in a matter of minutes. The process is gradual, but if you give both animals the time to adjust, you can create the dog-and-cat partnership you’ve been dreaming of.

Introducing Cats and Dogs

Step 1: Keep them separate

Assuming the cat is the newest member of your family, make sure to give it some time in the house completely away from the dog. For at least 3 to 4 days, the two pets should never meet or cross paths, just so the cat has some time to adjust to the house 'dog-free' and the dog doesn’t feel as if the home has been invaded.

This is more for the cat’s sake than the dog’s, as the dog is more likely to be the aggressor in a violent encounter between the two animals. Providing them with this time also allows you to give the cat all of its necessary vet check-ups, so as to not spread any illness or disease to your dog.

It’s also important in this time to not neglect the dog in favor of the cat, or vice versa. Try to keep things as pleasant and normal as ever for the existing pet whilst also getting your new arrival accustomed to the house.

Step 2: Scents and essences

Prior to a face-to-face meeting, you should get your dog and cat used to one another’s scents and overall essences. You can do this by rubbing clothes on each animal and gradually introducing them into the other animal’s area so each of them can get used to the smell of the other.

In terms of “essences”, there’s a technique that many specialists recommend, in which the two animals are fed at the same time on opposite sides of a closed door. Animals are very intuitive and will sense the presence of their counterpart on the other side of the door. Associating that presence with something nice like a meal will help to ease them into proper meetings.

Step 3: Face to face

Once the two pets are used to eating in such close yet restricted quarters, it’s time to let them meet in person. Make sure to do this in an area of the house that’s considered common ground rather than in either animal’s sanctuary space, as this will feel like an intrusion.

Make sure to keep meetings brief at first, even allowing them to take place with some distance between the animals. A corridor or hallway can be a good venue for the pets to see each other properly for the first few times, as it will cut down the potential for close-quarters aggression. A baby gate can also prove useful if needed.

Similarly, you should ensure that your dog is restrained to some degree with a collar or leash, as even if it’s the most well-behaved dog in the world, you never know how that first meeting is going to go. If you detect any aggression or violence, from barking or hissing to lurching, separate them again, and try again another time. These things can take time, so don’t be too discouraged if the first meeting doesn’t go great.

Step 4: Repeat

Gauge each pet’s reaction to the meeting, and allow them to get used to each other a little bit at a time. Don’t expect them to hang out for hours at a time in the early days, but through gradual repetition, you should be able to get them to a comfortable place with one another. Once they’re happy to share space, you can start to keep their beds/sanctuaries in closer quarters, and before you know it, you’ve created the interspecies friendship that cartoons would have us believe was impossible.

Now that you know how to introduce cats and dogs, you can feel comfortable getting that kitten that you’ve been thinking about with more confidence and less apprehension. Remember that regardless of the dynamics you try to set up, pet insurance is always an essential part of being a responsible pet owner.

For more helpful pieces on being a pet owner, visit our blog here.