How to Introduce a Cat to a Dog (And Keep the Peace in the Home!)

By Emma Williams

When it is time to bring a cat into a house that already has a dog, you will want to be very careful that fur doesn’t start flying right away! Leaving your furry friends alone to just figure each other out can be extremely detrimental to their future relationship, and even lead to fighting and injury. Luckily we have some top socialization tips. Here’s how to introduce a cat to a dog (and keep the peace in the house)!

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Don’t introduce a cat to a dog in their territory 

Animals can be very territorial, especially if they haven’t been spayed or neutered. It’s best to introduce the two of your pets on a sidewalk or in the yard if you have an inside pet. These are places where the animals haven’t marked their territory, so the surrounding smells will be neutral to them and they won’t have to feel like they are dealing with an intruder. Remember to keep your dog on a lead to ensure he or she doesn’t playfully pounce on your new furry friend. 

Give them time to adjust

Don’t expect your two furry friends to be the best of friends right away. Depending on their temperament and breed, it can take a few weeks for them to acclimate to one another. You will  need to keep them away from each other and restrained during their initial meetings. This can help to keep them calm and allow them to adjust slowly to each other.

Top tip: It’s a good idea to repetitively introduce the animals to one another, especially if they are aggressive or skittish during their first meeting. Allow them to spend more and more time with each other at each meeting, keeping them restrained in the process. This will give them time to read each other’s body language, adjust to one another’s smell and just get used to being around each other. 

Distract your cat and dog with food and toys

Your two pets may have a hard time doing anything other than laser focusing on one another. We’re All About Cats explain that cats see potential danger in dogs, while dogs see a threat to their territory or simply a prey animal to attack. You can help them to focus on something else by giving them snacks and feeding them in the same vicinity. They will learn how to lower their guard around one another and realize that they don’t have to be enemies. The dog will see that the cat doesn’t want his or her food, and the cat will realize that the dog isn’t planning on eating him or her anytime soon. (Phew.)

You can do this with more than just food, using toys or activities to draw their attention away from each other while they are in the same space. 

Know when to bring in a professional

Cats and dogs are going to have their little squabbles. That’s only natural. But in rare cases, especially with rescue animals with traumatic backgrounds or pets with separation anxiety, there will be times where you realize that you cannot leave them to work it out on their own. You will have to call in a professional to try to work with them. 

How do you know when that time has come? According to the American Humane Society, if your dog is aggressive toward a calm, relaxed cat, then you probably won’t be able to acclimate the two pets on your own. Likewise, if your cat attacks a dog when the dog is resting and peaceful, then there are deeper problems there than the average pet parent will be able to solve. 

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Understand the prey drive

Dogs have a strong prey drive, and if they see a small kitten that has no fear of them, they may take advantage of that and play too rough. When a cat is very young, it likely hasn’t learnt how to deal with predators or know when to feel afraid unless it’s being directly threatened. Your dog can see the kitten as a toy rather than a companion, and that can be very dangerous for a new, naïve cat. 

You have to understand how aggressive your dog is before leaving it alone with the cat, and you may need to watch the two of them carefully for a while before deciding to leave them on their own. The kitten will develop a healthy fear of an aggressive dog, but it could take a little time, and you need to be there for the cat during these formative stages and not leave your two pets alone at first.

Final thoughts

There are almost as many dogs as cats in American households, according to a survey from American Pet Products. That means there will be a lot of overlap in households that have cats and dogs as pets. People are making it work all over the country, and you can as well. Just follow our tips to socialize your animals so that they can get along with one another.

About the Author:

Emma is a professional writer and blogger, with two furry friends and a lot of pet behavioral and pet health knowledge to share. She has written for numerous big animal magazines and health sites, and is a regular contributor to The Catington Post.

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