How to introduce your cat to dogs

Cats and dogs can live quite happily together – in fact, some develop a very strong bond and become firm friends. However, this is not always the case. Introducing a new dog to your cat at home must be done slowly and with great care. And remember, some dogs have strong predatory instincts and may never be able to live safely with cats.

If you already have a cat and are interested rehoming a dog, here’s some information to help you.

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What type of dog should I rehome?

Wherever possible, we suggest you choose a dog that has previously lived happily with cats. When you don’t know this, we suggest you consider the following before rehoming:

  • Is your cat used to living with dogs, or has it met them before?
  • Is your cat elderly or infirm?
  • Will they 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?
  • Can your cat get into the garden without having to pass the dog?

How to introduce your new dog to your cat

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 the cat towards the dog. Not only will this terrify the 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 and food 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 lave without them following.

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. You don’t need to be holding onto the lead, but it is there to take hold of if needed. Make sure you actively reward the dog for not chasing or being overly bold towards your cat, you may also want to walk them beforehand so they’re more relaxed.

Using food in the introduction

Use food to get the dog and your cat used to each other. Place a bowl of cat food 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 them approach tyour cat for a sniff and then call them away. 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, 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.