When we think of dogs and cats we usually assume that they will not like each other. Dogs chase cats, right? Tom and Jerry are a great example of how we think dog and cat relationships will be. However, there are many families that own both cats and dogs and have no problems. They manage to keep the dog/cat relationship peaceful and sometimes even friendly.
How to introduce a dog to a cat
Whether you have a dog, and want to introduce a new cat, or you have a cat and are thinking of getting a dog, there are ways to make this encounter less stressful and more likely to have a successful outcome.
However, this is a decision that needs very careful consideration and a lot depends on the character of the existing pet. If your dog is not very happy about a newcomer, whether this is a cat or other pet, it is best not to force the situation and resist adding to the family. The same goes for an existing cat who may feel unable to accept another addition to the household.
How to introduce a dog to a cat is not something that can be answered quickly. Take advice before adding another pet, you can speak to your vet or take a look at the RSPCA’s website, where they have a handy PDF downloadable guide to introducing cats and dogs.
Prepare the home
Don’t introduce the pets during busy times in your household by just placing them in the same room. This could lead to major problems. Choose a quiet time and separate the two pets initially. Keep your existing pet in a familiar room and gradually and gently get your new pet used to the house in a separate room.
Smell is very important to the animal. The new pet will need to get used to its new surroundings and new smells. Take something that belongs to your existing pet, like a blanket, and let the new pet smell it and get familiar with it. Gently stroke the new pets head with the blanket so that it can pick up the scent and then return it to your existing pet. Your pet will be able to smell the new pet on the blanket so that when they eventually meet, he will recognize the smell.
Let each pet investigate the other areas of the house where the other pet has been kept but let them do so without actually meeting. Let your new cat explore the dogs bed or vice versa, let your new dog explore your cat’s bed. Still keep them separate for a few days if possible.
How do you know your pets are ready for introduction
Once your pets have settled into their own separate areas and they are calm, it will be a good time to try an introduction. Make sure your dog doesn’t bark excitedly and has calmed down and make sure that your new cat is using its litter tray and is feeding well. These are the signs that your cat is happy and relaxed.
If your dog seems nervous or your cat seems frightened, wait with the introduction until things have calmed down and the meeting will have a better chance to go well.
Introducing both pets
Decide on which room of the house you want your pets to meet and make sure there is a place for your cat to hide if it feels frightened. A box placed higher up, where the cat can escape to, will help.
Make sure the dog is on a leash and get some treats ready to reward the dog for being calm. Should your dog become excited, take it to another room and let it calm down. You need a lot of patience so that this introduction isn’t rushed and you remain calm and gentle at all times.
Observe the pets and remove one of them from the room if they look frightened or too excited.
Things to consider
Don’t force the situation. If your dog growls or shows aggression against the cat, it may not be a good idea to get him a companion. Some pets just don’t take very well to other family members. That happens to us humans too, but we manage to control our feelings better, pets are not really into etiquette 🙂
If you are introducing a new dog to a cat, make sure your cat is happy. If at first the cat is hissing or showing that it is angry, try another time. Should your cat show no signs of accepting the new dog, it is time to reconsider the situation. If you have tried a few times and the cat isn’t happy, either try with a new dog or not get a dog at all.
We had our two cats, Phoebe and Tiggy, for a few years when we decided to rescue our dog Mimi. There was an added problem as Mimi came with two cats (Juby and Stanley) who she had grown up with. Juby and Stanley were very old so we had a situation where two established young cats were getting a young dog and two elderly cats added to their family.
I remember the drive up to the rescue centre and Mimi was so excited to see us. We knew her from the past (long story) and even though we were worried about how this situation would work out, as soon as I saw her I knew it would be OK.
Mimi had grown up with two cats and those two cats were very gentle souls. They all slept together and cuddled each other and got on so well. But I knew my own two cats weren’t going to be so tolerant, they had never seen a dog close up and tended to avoid other cats outside.
When we got them all home, we had to keep our own two cats upstairs, separately from the new arrivals. It took them a while to get used to it and I could sense they were confused. “Why can’t we come downstairs anymore?” I could see this question in their little faces.
Gradually, the new arrivals settled in very well and in time we were able to let our two cats venture downstairs. At first, they were quite shy and wondered who these newcomers were, but in time they were happy to share the space. Well, not sure they were ‘happy’ as such, but they tolerated each other.
Sadly we didn’t have Juby and Stanley for long, they were over 18 years old and died within a short time of each other, a few months after they arrived. Mimi, Phoebe and Tiggy get on much better now and love to come out in the garden with me, following me around in a group, like my 3 little helpers.
I wish you all the best with your own introduction and hope it goes well. Don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to help.