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Despite the urban myth that cats and dogs hate each other, many cats and dogs live together happily and are great companions. If you’re considering bringing a dog into your home and you already have a cat, it’s important to try your best to make the introduction a success.
Before you choose a dog, think about the personality and temperament of your cat, and try to make a good match. There are certain breeds of dog for example, which are bred specifically to chase smaller animals, so they may not be a good choice as a new addition to your furry family!
Puppy or Adult Dog?
A puppy is likely to be more flexible and easier to ‘train’ to be around a cat, but they’re also going to be more lively and boisterous than an older dog especially in the first year, which is something to keep in mind.
An older rescue dog may have been part of a family with cats previously and tolerate them well. Older dogs are also generally going to be calmer and more relaxed.
If you’re introducing a new dog to a kitten, don’t forget that kittens are smaller and easily injured; so be careful with unsupervised contact between them. If your older cat is introduced to a new dog and gets scared, she’ll hiss and spit but she might also lash out with her claws – so make sure they’re trimmed.
How to Prepare for Your New Dog
Make sure your home has plenty of ‘safe’ spots that a dog won’t be able to get to, so that your cat has escape routes if it all gets too much for her. Think about hiding places, shelving high up on the walls, and tall cat trees that a dog can’t jump up at. If you have an upstairs and downstairs in your home consider putting a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs so your cat can escape upstairs in peace.
The Introduction Process
- Before you introduce them, make sure that you’ve trained your dog to sit and stay. Keep the dog in a set location to start off with (as you would with a new cat), so the introductions are on your terms, and make sure it’s well away from the route your cat has to take to get to her food, litter tray etc. Make sure you’ve exercised your dog before every meeting to get rid of any excess energy.
- Keep your dog on a leash for initial introductions, even if you’ve been successful in obedience training him – better safe than sorry! Keep introductions short, and be aware of both your cat and your dog’s reactions. It’s natural for your cat to run away scared at first, especially if she’s never encountered dogs before. Repeat as many times as you need until they both seem calm in each other’s presence.
- Once you’re happy with their reactions to each other, do the same again but without the leash.
- Move onto unsupervised contact only when you’re 100% comfortable but continue to keep a watchful eye to ensure the safety of both pets.
- Watch out for warning signs from your dog. If he seems aggressive or you can’t control him it’s time to reassess the situation. You may need to make environmental modifications within your home so that your cat and dog have separate living areas, or seek help from your vet or an animal behaviourist until they learn to become friends or at least don’t hate each other.
Have you welcomed a new dog into your family? How did you introduce your dog to your cat? Are your cat and dog friends now?
Top image: Eli Duke via Flickr
Cathy Armato says
Excellent post & tips, I love it! We had to work hard on introducing our new Husky puppy to our 15 year old cat! Our puppy was in puppy class so we asked the PetSmart trainer to help us. He introduced the Leave It! command and also told us to use the same methods you discuss here. The Leave It command and having a separate space w/ a dog gate for the cat is what saved us! After a couple of months they were totally fine together. Our puppy loved our cat so much, but she only tolerated her LOL! I love when dogs & cats become best buds!
Sweet Purrfections says
There are no plans to bring a dog into my house, but I’ll definitely keep these recommendations in mind in case the situation changes.
Caren Gittleman says
Great advice! We did (and still do) the “safe spot” when we brought Dakota to live with us (Cody was here first)
But…the “charm” was, I did a search on the Internet (I blogged about it years and years ago)…..and the key was to put the same scent on ALL of us (just a dab of perfume).
When we came home, we let Cody circle Dakota’s crate, smell him, etc for about a half hour. Cody hissed at him once and only once. To this day he has never hissed at him again. Cody let him know who was boss. They were “fast friends” from Day one. I didn’t do any separating or anything. I just kept Cody’s food and litter and toys in his “safe haven” that Dakota still cannot get to.
Rachele Baker, DVM says
Great post with wonderful photos, Tracy! I have a dog and a cat and they get along well. Sometimes I think that they love each other and sometimes I think that they tolerate each other. It all works out.
Ellen Pilch says
Nice post. I know of many cats and dogs living in harmony. I miss our dog, she was great with the kitties.
Susan Leigh Noble says
We had three cats when we got our cocker spaniel puppy 17 months ago. Two of the three cats did well with the new addition but there is still that one cat who doesn’t like the dog. Of course it helps that she has her perch on the cat scratching post and that the dog is often kept in the kitchen area which allows her to have free roam of the house without fear of running into the dog all the time.
Liz Brownlee says
Our cat had been here 5 years before we got my assistance dog, as a pup, and she was not happy, she’s a timid cat. A month before the dog came i moved her stuff upstairs, litter and food and water, fitted a gate and made sure she could get from the back catflap to the stairs in safety. She eventually calmed down and learned that by walking veeeeeery slowly, it was funny, she could get past the dog without being chased. The dog is a labradoodle, very bouncy. After many a month she came back into the lounge, sitting on a lap for safety. I’d hold onto the dog at first. Now, the dog is 5, the cat is 10 and they tolerate each other. the dog is jealous of the cat and vice versa. They will never be friends, it’s just not her personality, but at least they lie down within feet of each other, and all is well!
Fur Everywhere says
These are some good tips. Positive reinforcement when the cat and dog are together is also a good way to get the cat and dog to associate each other with happy things. When they can do this, they may begin to look forward to being in each other’s presence.
The Swiss Cats says
We know lots of cats who are friends with a dog. We never met a dog, but those are very good advice for interspecies homes ! Purrs
The dog that lives here is very ancient and probably won’t be around much longer. She is okay, but my human is hoping her boyfriend does not get another one after this one is gone – she is probably about as far from a dog person as someone can get while still liking them! That said, I should probably bookmark this page for her “just in case.”
Beth | Daily Dog Tag says
When we adopted our Puggle mix, we had to sign a waiver saying we knew he was cat aggressive. However because he’s fairly small, we figured it was worth a try. We kept his leash on him the first day or two, and he did try to chase our cat. With a little redirection in the form of praise and treats, Theo quickly lost interest in the cat. After a week or so, Theo had no interest in Kitty. Occasionally they sleep next to each other on the sofa, but I’m not sure they are bonded, more like neutral acquaintances trying to keep warm.
Great guidelines, friends. We know lots of cat and dog pals, and something about the interspecies friendships just touches our hearts. 🙂