How to Introduce a Dog to a Cat (2022)

Some dogs do fine living with cats; others simply cannot live safely with felines. Sometimes, a dog can live with certain cats (depending on their age, temperament and activity level), but not others. Even if your dog has successfully lived with cats in the past, it is important to remember that each dog and each cat is an individual and therefore each introduction is different.

Body language of dogs and cats

When introducing your dog to a cat, pay attention to the body language of both animals. If the cat’s ears are pinned back or his tail is swishing back and forth, this is a good indicator that he is displeased. You particularly want to be aware of dog body language that could be potential warning signs. If your dog has a strong prey drive (the inclination to seek out, chase and potentially capture animals seen as prey — usually smaller animals such as cats or rabbits), she might become very focused on the cat. She’ll stiffen, stare, and may start barking or whining. If you see these signs, do not let her near the cat. Ideally, her body language will be loose and relaxed around the cat. It’s OK if she pays attention to the cat, but you don’t want to see her fixated on him.

In addition, a dog’s interaction with a cat can change depending on the environment. Just because your dog is OK with the cat inside the house doesn’t mean she’ll exhibit that same behavior outdoors. She might fixate on the cat and start stalking him when they are outside together. So, be aware of her body language around the cat in each new situation, until you know how she is going to respond toward him.

Examples of dog body language

Methods for introducing a dog and a cat

There are many different ways to introduce a dog to a cat. If the first method of introduction you try doesn’t work or you don’t feel comfortable with it, try a different option. Even if the dog has had experience with cats and the cat has lived with a dog before, proceed cautiously during the introduction. It’s best to have two people present — one to intervene with each animal, if necessary. If you have more than one dog, introduce each dog separately to the cat.

Option 1: Slow and steady desensitization

If your dog is too fixated on the cat, you can try desensitization, the goal of which is to reduce your dog’s reaction to the cat by gradually increasing her exposure to him. Put the cat in a room (e.g., a bedroom, a bathroom or a spare room) with a tall baby gate across the door. The room you choose should be one the dog cannot access and doesn’t need to access. For example, if the dog sleeps in the bedroom with you at night, don’t pick that room for the cat. The idea is to separate them and only allow them to view each other during specific times.

(Video) How to Introduce a Dog to a Cat - In 5 Easy Steps!

How to Introduce a Dog to a Cat (1)

In his room, give the cat all needed supplies: litter box, toys, food and water. Keep in mind that cats are good at squeezing through small gaps and are also good climbers and jumpers. So, make sure your cat can’t get past the gate you put up. The gate needs to be a barrier that allows the cat and dog to see one another, but does not allow them to access each other.

To begin desensitization, let the dog view the cat briefly through the gate, and then get the dog to focus on something else, such as playing with a toy or practicing cues. Sometimes it helps to keep the dog on leash so that you can move her away from the cat when you try to refocus her attention. Praise and reward the dog for being able to focus elsewhere. Continue to give the dog short viewings of the cat throughout the day.

Sometimes, even seeing the cat at first is too exciting for the dog. If this is the case, close the door and begin feeding each animal on his or her side of the door: The cat eats his food in his room, right next to the door, and the dog eats her meal on the other side of the door. This allows each animal to associate the smells of the other with something good: food. You can also swap out the blankets and bedding of each animal, giving it to the other. That way, the dog can get used to the cat’s smell and the cat can get used to the dog’s smell, without overstimulating either of them.

Hopefully, through this process of slowly letting the dog see the cat and get accustomed to the cat’s presence, the dog will eventually become desensitized and lose interest in the cat. In some cases, the dog will lose interest in the cat within a couple of hours, but it can take days, weeks or even months. Each dog (and each cat) is an individual and will learn at his or her own pace.

With that said, though, it is possible that your dog may not ever be able to safely share space with a cat. If you don’t feel you can trust your dog around your cat, you should keep them apart. Many dogs can injure or kill a cat very quickly, and your dog can also be injured by the cat. Your first priority should be ensuring that everyone stays safe.

(Video) How to Introduce Dogs & Cats SAFELY 🐱🐶 What to AVOID

How to Introduce a Dog to a Cat (2)

Option 2: Face-to-face introduction

This is a more fast-paced introduction. One person should hold the dog on a loose lead and watch the dog’s body language. Someone else should watch the cat’s body language. If the cat is not raising his back or hissing around the dog, he can be allowed to move around freely. A cat is rarely a threat to a dog, but some cats will be on the offensive when meeting dogs.

If the dog is calm around the cat, you can ask the dog to sit, or lie down and stay, if she has been taught those cues, while the cat moves about freely, sniffing the dog if he wishes. The dog should be praised and rewarded if she ignores the cat. If the dog is too fixated on the cat (e.g., staring at the cat, has stiff body language, will not listen to you when you call her name) or if she lunges and tries to chase the cat, you should try a different strategy for getting them to share space, such as Option 1 or Option 3.

How to Introduce a Dog to a Cat (3)

Option 3: Look at That

If the quick introduction did not work and your dog is not becoming desensitized to the cat, you might need to try some more structured training. By playing Look at That (LAT) with your dog, you can help to teach her not to fixate on the cat. You’ll be teaching her to look at the cat and then look back at you for a treat. Essentially, she’ll learn that it is more rewarding to not pay attention to the cat.

Look at That training plan

(Video) how to introduce a dog to a cat | raining cats and dogs

To start working on LAT, you need to figure out the dog’s threshold while on leash: At what point does she notice the cat, but still respond to you when you say her name? That is her threshold. Each dog has a different threshold. For one dog, five feet away from the cat might be her threshold; for another dog, it might be 25 feet. You’ll know you have gone past the threshold when she starts barking or lunging at the cat. Another sign that you’re getting too close to the cat is if she starts moving more slowly, staring and stiffening her body. If you call her name and she doesn’t respond to you, move a few feet away from the cat.

Once you’ve figured out the dog’s threshold, grab a clicker and some really delicious, pea-sized treats. If you don’t have a clicker, a verbal marker (a word like “yes” or “good”) will work just fine. Put 10 treats in your hand and keep the bag close by for later.

Clicker training instructions

When you see the dog looking at the cat, click the clicker or use your verbal marker and give her a treat. The first few times, you might have to put the treat right in front of her nose, but fairly soon she should start looking expectantly at you as soon as she hears the marker. That’s because the marker (either a clicker or a word like “yes”) always means a treat is coming. Use up the 10 treats, clicking as soon as she looks at the cat.

The 11th time, before using the marker, wait and see if she will look at the cat and then look right back at you. If she does that, either click or use the verbal marker when she looks at you and then give her a treat. If that doesn’t happen, go back a step. Mark her 10 more times for looking at the cat and then try again. Once she is reliably looking at the cat and then looking back at you, you can slowly start moving closer and closer to the cat. If the dog becomes fixated on the cat when you move closer, you’ve gone past the threshold and need to move back.

As you train, her threshold decreases, which means that the two of you will be able to move closer and closer to the cat. Continue practicing LAT with your dog until she can be right next to the cat without an issue. How quickly your dog’s threshold decreases will depend on you (how much you practice and the types of treats you use), your dog (since every dog learns at a different pace) and your cat’s comfort level.

(Video) PRC Video Series: How to Introduce A Dog and A Cat

How to Introduce a Dog to a Cat (4)

Introducing kittens and puppies

If you are introducing a kitten to a dog, keep in mind that kittens may not have any fear of dogs, so you must watch the dog carefully. Because kittens are small and want to run and play, dogs with a strong prey drive may be very excited by a kitten’s movements. Even if your dog is OK with your adult cats, it is important to watch her closely when she’s with a kitten. If your dog is young and high-energy, she could hurt or kill the kitten simply by trying to play. So, for safety’s sake, keep kittens and dogs apart any time you are not watching them.

Introducing adult cats to puppies can sometimes be easy, since a well-socialized adult cat might be fine with a puppy acting like a puppy. However, if your rambunctious puppy is chasing your shy cat, it is up to you to intervene. Until the puppy is old enough to have more self-control and has had some training, you will want to manage their interactions. You don’t want your puppy to learn that chasing the cat is a fun game. Baby gates can be used to keep the animals safely and comfortably apart. To help you keep an eye on your puppy, you can also put her on a leash. That way, if she begins to chase the cat, you will be able to easily direct her away from that behavior.

Seeking help from a professional

Animals with good past experience often adjust well and quickly to a new pet in the house. But if introductions don’t go well, seek help from a professional dog trainer or behavior consultant. Don’t ever use punishment: It will not help and it could make matters much worse.

Find a dog trainer

FAQs

How long does it take for a cat to accept a dog? ›

While there are some parings that work out in days, in some rare cases, it never works out. Liz Palika noted that, in her experience, the "get acquainted" process usually takes two to three weeks. Dr. Landsberg noted that sometimes it's not easy to tell by their interactions if a dog and cat are getting along or not.

Will my cat accept a new dog? ›

In most cases, with time, your new puppy and your cat will come to accept each other and may even become friends. However, each situation is different and you should assess the reactions of both animals before you allow them to remain together unsupervised.

How do you know if a dog will get along with a cat? ›

A new study revealed that dogs are more responsive to cat sounds than to the sight or smell of a cat. So, if you are interested in a particular shelter dog and want to assess whether he will fare well in your home with cats, bring a recording of cat sounds to the meet and greet, and see how the dog reacts.

Are male or female cats better with dogs? ›

Both male and female cats can get along with dogs. However, if both pets are not sterilized, opposite genders are better around each other. If you have a male dog (s), you are better off having a female cat.

Will my cat be scared if I get a dog? ›

Cats are naturally afraid of dogs, especially if not exposed to them at an early age or if they've experienced an unpleasant encounter with one. If you want your feline friend to get along with dogs in your home, help her associate them with fun and food, not fear.

Can a dog with high prey drive live with a cat? ›

It's certainly possible in many cases to teach a dog with high prey drive to safely live with cats. That said, it's not easy, and it's not guaranteed. There are some cases where it's just not going to be safe for your dog and a cat to coexist. It's not worth the risk.

How do you tell if a dog is aggressive towards cats? ›

Observable Signs of a Dog's Aggression Towards Cats
  • Barking at doors with the cat on the other side.
  • Blocking another dog's path.
  • Getting aggressive when protecting the food bowl or sleeping area.
  • Staring.
  • Standing tall and stiff (being guarded or stressed because of a minute stimulus)
  • Growling at strangers and other pets.
27 Aug 2020

How do I get my cat and dog to be friends? ›

Training Your Cat and Dog to Be Best Friends | Do-do's & Don't-don'ts

How does Cesar Millan introduce dogs to cats? ›

How to Introduce Dogs and Cats - in 10 Easy Steps - YouTube

How do I get my cat to stop hissing at my dog? ›

Give your cat a lot of playtime.

If your cat is prone to lashing out when they're overstimulated, move your dog to another room until playtime is over. Then, ensure your cat gets enough time to cool down before they interact with your pup.

Can older cats and dogs get along? ›

Proper Introduction

The majority of cats can happily coexist with a dog if they are given time to comfortably get to know each other. If a puppy and kitten are raised together, they generally will learn right away to tolerate each other, and some cats and dogs grow to be real friends, even playing and napping together.

Do cats prefer male owners? ›

According to a new study, cats experience the greatest fondness for female owners. Cats attach to your veterinary clients—your female clients in particular—as social partners and it's not just because they want to be fed, according to research in the journal Behavioral Processes.

Should you get a cat before a dog? ›

In the most general terms, though, the best strategy would be to adopt first a middle-aged, well-mannered dog who shows little interest in cats, and then a kitten who has been raised in a household with friendly or indifferent dogs around.

Will my dog actually hurt my cat? ›

Dogs can severely injure cats, so it is important to ensure that they are fighting for as short of a time as possible. Cats can also harm dogs, but this happens far less often. In most cases, the cat is simply trying to get away from the dog.

Do dogs try to hurt cats? ›

In fact, it's pretty common for dogs to want to hurt cats. It's just that a) cats are pretty good at staying away from dogs who'd rather they not be around and b) dogs are very efficient at eradicating cats. The wounds they inflict are usually deep, crushing injuries.

How long will my cat hiss at the new puppy? ›

If the cat is growling, hissing or attempting to scratch, it means she is currently uncomfortable. That doesn't necessarily mean that she won't accept the dog; it might just take a little more time. Keep in mind that a new interaction or relationship may not succeed in the first few minutes or even the first few days.

How long will my cat hide from the new dog? ›

Some cats may take weeks or even months before they are fully adjusted to another animal living in their space.

How do I get my cat to stop hissing at my dog? ›

Give your cat a lot of playtime.

If your cat is prone to lashing out when they're overstimulated, move your dog to another room until playtime is over. Then, ensure your cat gets enough time to cool down before they interact with your pup.

Do cats get jealous of new dogs? ›

If you recently welcomed a new dog into the family, the best way to ensure harmony between pets is to take their relationship slowly and it's quite normal to see your cat jealous of a new dog. Limit their interactions for the first few weeks and don't force them to spend time together.

Can I leave my cat and dog alone together? ›

No Alone Time

Never leave a cat and dog alone together until you are certain that they are comfortable with each other. If you walk away while they are still checking each other out, you may be sorry when you return. The cat or dog could be scratched or bitten or otherwise injured.

How do you calm a cat to meet a dog? ›

Ask the dog to sit and reward him with small tasty treats for calm behavior. Give your cat treats as well. If either pet demonstrates aggression, calmly distract and redirect them. Toss a toy for the cat to lure him from the room, or call the dog's name and reward his attention.

When should you separate a dog from a cat? ›

A kitten will need to be kept separate from an especially energetic dog until she is fully grown, and even then she should never be left alone with the dog. Usually, a well-socialized cat will be able to keep a puppy in its place, but some cats don't have enough confidence to do this.

What to do if dog is aggressive towards cat? ›

Most pet owners can tell the difference between their dog's behavior when they're play-fighting and true dog aggression. As soon as you notice signs of stress in your dog's body language, separate the cat from the dog immediately and give them time to calm down.

Can a dog with high prey drive live with a cat? ›

It's certainly possible in many cases to teach a dog with high prey drive to safely live with cats. That said, it's not easy, and it's not guaranteed. There are some cases where it's just not going to be safe for your dog and a cat to coexist. It's not worth the risk.

How does Cesar Millan introduce dogs to cats? ›

How to Introduce Dogs and Cats - in 10 Easy Steps - YouTube

Videos

1. How to train your dog to leave your cat alone | How to teach your dog and cat to get along
(Upstate Canine Academy)
2. How To Introduce A Dog To A Cat
(Top Dog Tips)
3. Introducing a New Cat or Kitten to Your Dog - The Safe Way
(Mry C Pet Care)
4. How I’m Introducing My Puppy To Our Cat For The First Time!
(Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution)
5. How To Introduce a New Dog to Your Resident Cat in 5 Steps | Three Legged Lab Dog Vlog
(Jorenne F)
6. How to Introduce a Dog and a Cat (The Easy Way) 🐈 | How to get them to Stay together?
(Little Paws Training)

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