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Will My Cat and Dog Get Along?

Cats and dogs may be different species, but it doesn’t mean they can’t become best friends. Here’s how to encourage a new cat-dog relationship in your home.

A dog’s territorial nature and a cat’s skittishness might make them seem incompatible. But it doesn’t mean they can’t share the same space – or become best friends. With some positive encouragement and the right introduction, you can create an environment where both pets feel comfortable and learn to love (or at least tolerate) each other’s differences.

Making Your Cat Comfortable

Cat drinking from bowl of water. How to introduce cats to dogs.
Cat-dog relationships can take weeks to fully develop.

Whether it’s new to the household or a longtime family member, a cat needs access to a dog-free sanctuary before they ever meet. Cat-dog relationships can take weeks to fully develop, which makes it a good idea to give your cat a safe place of their own.

While towers, perches and cubbies can help it stay out of a dog’s reach, giving your cat a room with all the essentials, like their litter box, cat toys and food and water bowls, is an even better addition. Not only will this allow you to take your time with introductions, it can help create a drama-free household.

Giving Your Dog Direction

Because dogs usually pose more of a threat to cats than vice versa, it’s important to maintain control of your dog with a leash or other kind of restraint. Be sure to keep a firm hold until you’re absolutely sure they’re both comfortable and can get along.

Dog obedience training beforehand is also a good idea. Driven by stronger hunting instincts, dogs will instinctively chase anything that moves quickly, especially cats. Training them to listen to commands instead of displaying this behavior can help reduce or eliminate this issue.

Introducing Your Pets

By following these steps, you can minimize problems with a budding cat-dog relationship and help your pets learn to live together peacefully.

  • Step 1 – Keeping pets separated: For the first few days, confine your pets in separate rooms to prevent any contact. Doing so allows your pets to get familiar with each other’s presence, without any direct interaction.
  • Step 2 – Encouraging scent exploration: While one is confined and the other roams free, let your dog or cat smell the other’s belongings, such as bedding and toys, to satisfy their curiosity. Rubbing a towel on their fur also works well at giving your pet a good sniff of their new housemate.
  • Dog sniffing cat outdoors. Introducing dogs to cats.
    Now that they know the other’s scent, let them have a look at their new companion.
  • Step 3 – Meeting face-to-face: Now that they know the other’s scent, let them have a look at their new companion. Using a glass door or baby gate, allow your pets to see each other to gauge their reaction. If your dog is too fixated, or your cat is too frightened, divert their attention with a toy or treat. If this doesn’t work, keep repeating this step until they both remain calm.
  • Step 4 – Introducing them safely: It’s time for their first real introduction. With your dog on a leash, bring both of your pets into the same room, allowing your cat to roam and approach the dog freely while you maintain control. As they get more comfortable, extend the leash to allow more interaction. It also helps if you have dog treats and cat treats ready to reward good behavior and keep their attention.
  • Step 5 – Letting them interact: If everything’s gone smoothly up to this point, remove your dog’s leash and continue to supervise their interactions anytime they’re together. Since it can take a few weeks or more before they truly warm up to each other, always separate the pair whenever you leave.
  • Step 6 – Leaving them unsupervised: Once both pets are happy and relaxed around each other, and you’re confident leaving them alone, let the two go unsupervised for short periods. However, your cat should always have access to their dog-free sanctuary. If things go well, you can extend the time they’re left alone. If tension or fear occurs, repeat steps 4 and 5 until everyone is ready.

Bringing a new pet home may be a lot of work, but it can have a huge payoff over time. By helping them learn to love and appreciate their new companion, you can give your pets richer and fuller lives, and reap the benefits of having another furry family member.