Seeing dogs and cats living together can be very fulfilling! However, first impressions count. Devising a plan on how to introduce dogs and cats is important to prevent undue stress.
If you are bringing a new cat home to an existing dog, set up a separate room specifically for your cat. Allow them a week or so to find their feet.
However, if you are bringing a new dog home, make sure their main area is not somewhere your cat uses frequently. If it will infringe on your cat’s space, move their resources elsewhere in advance so they don’t suddenly lose their safe space.
You Will Need…
- Shelving/high up spots for your cat to safely sit in all areas.
- Non slip covering for shelving for quick, confident escapes.
- Hidey holes such as covered beds or cardboard boxes for your cat to get out of your dog’s line of sight if needed.
- Dog gates, those with catflaps can be helpful, to separate them as needed.
- A good supply of small treats for both dog and cat.
- Likely: a well fitting harness and lead for your dog.
The first step in the process is actually a scent introduction. Dogs and cats both rely heavily on scent to suss things out. Put a blanket that your dog has been lying on in the room with your cat, and vice versa. This allows them to smell each other without being physically close to each other. Make sure both parties are comfortable smelling each other for a few days before moving on to visual introductions.
- Set up a gate to prevent direct access to each other during session one. Pop your dog on a comfortable harness and lead to prevent them rushing at the gate/cat.
- Allow the most unsure pet to choose when to decrease the distance. Don’t allow the most confident one to approach and scare the least confident (we can’t assume that the cat will be the nervous one!). If you have multiple cats and/or dogs, pick the calmest ones to introduce first.
- Provide tasty treats, perhaps in Kongs or licky mats once they have spotted each other. Good, calm things happen when they see each other.
- Spend just a few minutes per session doing this. Allow them to decrease the distance as appropriate. Remove the barrier only very gradually. Always make sure you have something in place to prevent unwanted approaches such as a large towel or piece of cardboard.
- Increase the amount of time they spend around each other very gradually. Even once they are coping well in each other’s presence don’t leave them together unsupervised. It is better to take too long, than rush and an incident happen. Be prepared to take many weeks or months to introduce dogs and cats – if it takes less, great!
Make sure you spend one-to-one time separately with your dog and cat. Even if you are able to manage them in the same house, be sure that both parties are happy with the arrangement. https://icatcare.org/ is a great resource for more tips on how to make your cat feel safe and happy!
Cats who end up living upstairs under the bed are not coping. Getting additional, tailored help from a professional with integration if your pets aren’t happy, or you see any signs of aggression or anxiety, is important for their long term health and welfare. For the most part, with a more in depth look, we can find the right recipe to make things work for everyone!
I am a Clinical Animal Behaviourist based in the Nottingham area – however, with the success of online training you can be anywhere in the world as long as you have your dog, your cat and a device with an internet connection! Get in touch to see how I can help https://weteachpets.com/contact-me/