How to introduce a new dog to your cat

Cats and dogs can live quite happily together; in fact, some develop a very strong bond and become firm friends. But introducing a new dog to your cat at home must be done slowly, and with great care.

What to consider when matching dogs and cats:

  • Wherever possible, we suggest you choose a dog that has previously lived happily with cats.
  • Is your cat used to living with dogs, or has it met them before?
  • Is your cat elderly or physically compromised? It may be more difficult for an elderly or physically compromised cat to avoid unwanted interaction with a dog.
  • Will the cat have the ability to get away if the dog does decide to chase them?
  • Can you provide the cat with a retreat or ‘safe area’ where the dog cannot reach him, e.g. upstairs or in a bedroom? This safe area must have all of your new cat’s important resources in it – such as food, water, litter trays, scratching posts, beds, toys, etc. This is essential until they are relaxed and happy with each other.
  • Can your cat get into the garden without having to pass the dog?
How to introduce a new dog to your cat

How to introduce a new dog to your cat

Gradually, as your cat becomes more used to the dog, you can allow more interaction. Keep the dog on the lead and let them approach your cat for a sniff and then call them away. Give the dog a tasty treat every time he looks away from your cat and towards you. A slow, careful introduction will ensure the safety of both animals, especially your cat – who may not take kindly to this strange smelling, looking and sounding animal being brought into their territory. This will also help to establish a long lasting relationship.

Make sure you don’t force the animals together, for example by carrying your cat towards the dog. Not only will this terrify your cat, but you could be bitten or scratched by them as they struggle to get away. Instead, let them investigate each other in their own time.

Preparing for the introduction

Before you bring the dog home, move your cat’s litter tray, food, water, beds, scratching post and toys to a location where the dog won’t have access. Where possible this should include a route in and out without passing the dog. Baby gates are really helpful for when your cat becomes confident enough to enter the dog’s space and will be able to retreat to their own safe area again without the dog being able to follow. You can buy baby gates with cat flaps in them to make it easier for your cat, especially if the cat is elderly or compromised in some way and can’t jump over a baby gate easily.

Introductions with dogs are best done indoors. The dog should always be on a secure lead whenever your cat is present until you’re sure that they are comfortable together. Make sure you actively reward the dog for not chasing or being overly bold towards your cat. You may also want to walk the dog beforehand so he is more relaxed and calm.

Using food in the introduction

Use food to get the dog and your cat used to each other. Place a tasty treat in reach of your cat but out of the dog’s reach. At the same time, give the dog a stuffed Kong or chew. Eating is a pleasurable experience and so the association between the other animal and food may help smooth any relationship problems.

When can I let them live together normally?

Gradually, as your cat becomes more used to the dog, you can allow more interaction. Keep the dog on the lead and let your cat approach the dog to investigate if it wants to. Give the dog a tasty treat every time they look away from your cat and towards you.

Try to ensure that the dog is never allowed to chase your cat. Dogs can find this very exciting and it can be difficult to stop once this behaviour has started. Reward the dog for ignoring or turning away from your cat.

After a couple of weeks you’ll have a good idea if it’s safe to let the dog off the lead when your cat is present. If your cat is very shy or timid around the dog, it may take longer. Try to be patient and do things slowly and with care. Even the most dog-friendly cats can sometimes take time to accept a new dog’s arrival.

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