Introducing Your Dog to a Cat

By Suzanne Alicie

Some people are “cat people” while others are “dog people,” but what about those who love both? It’s always been a common belief that dogs and cats do not get along. In fact, many dogs and cats can be great friends. Ideally, puppies and kittens are introduced when young and grow up together. However, if that isn’t the situation and you want to introduce your dog to a cat in the hopes of adding a feline presence to your home, there are certain steps to take.

The first thing to understand is that both dogs and cats are territorial, and a dog that lives in your home will see the cat as an intruder. If the cat runs, then it is prey; this could get really messy if you don’t take precautions and introduce both animals slowly.  Keep in mind that the cat is not only meeting a larger, louder animal with teeth and claws who doesn’t want her there, but she is also being introduced into a new place and will be nervous and skittish.

To assist you with this introduction and prevent injury to the dog, cat and people, there are a few things you’ll need to have. The first is a secure cat carrier, preferably with holes too small for the cat to get a paw out. You will also need a harness, leash and muzzle for your dog as well as a second person to help with the introductions. Don’t forget to have some CANIDAE TidNips™ treats on hand. Reward the animals throughout the process for their good behavior and be sure to praise them both. Your voice will be calming and help both animals deal with the introduction.

Place the cat in the carrier and harness your dog before attaching the muzzle. Keep in mind you are dealing with nature: dogs bite, cats scratch…so do as much as possible to prevent any injury to either animal.

Once both animals are situated, choose an area to place the cat carrier and slowly allow your dog to sniff and inspect the carrier. Scent is very important to dogs, so introducing the scent of the cat to your dog first is a good idea. The cat may hiss and puff up its fur. This is a defensive measure, and by having the cat inside the carrier you’re saving your dog’s nose from those dangerous claws.  Allow both animals to smell and get used to one another. When your dog settles down and is willing to lie down or wander away from the carrier and when the cat stops hissing, that is an indicator they are accustomed to the scent and presence of one another.

However, this doesn’t mean they are ready to be friends! Close the doors to the room you are in so both animals are contained. Make sure someone has a very tight hold on the dog’s leash and that the muzzle is secure before you open the door to the cat carrier. Step several feet away from the carrier and allow the cat to come out on her own. Your dog may lunge toward the cat, but it is important to keep him back and allow the cat to wander around the room without the dog getting close enough to get swatted. This enables both the dog and cat to realize that there is another animal in the room, and the cat can explore the new area without anyone getting hurt.

The more trained your dog is and the better he follows commands, the better the introduction will go.  Learn more about dog training in this article on 11 Basic Commands by Linda Cole.

Sadly, there is a time when your dog will probably come into contact with claws and hissing. It’s almost unavoidable because as soon as the dog gets close enough to sniff and explore the cat, the cat will defend its personal space. Be patient and allow the animals to get accustomed to one another in a controlled environment.

It can take several days before you feel comfortable having the cat and dog in the same room without the dog being harnessed and even longer before you feel comfortable taking off the muzzle. When you do take off the muzzle, be sure to have someone ready to grab the cat and get it to safety in case the dog attacks. Before you plan to bring a cat into your home with a dog, make sure you have a way to keep them separated until they become used to each other.

While most dogs and cats will adapt, there are cases where a dog just can’t get over the urge to chase the cat, and there are cats whose nerves just can’t handle being around a dog. Observe your pets and make sure they are both happy, feel safe and are comfortable in their home. In cases where the animals just can’t adapt, it is important to find a safe home for one of the pets.  Being a responsible pet owner means preventing injury and unhappiness in your pets at all costs. A proper introduction is imperative if you wish to have a multi-species home.

Top photo by fazen
Bottom photo by Michelle Tribe

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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