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Introducing Cats to Dogs

Written by Mary Anne Miller


Introducing a cat to a dog is not always a cut-and-dried system. There are several factors you need to consider. The most important factor is the breed of dog that you are working with. If your dog is a cross-breed and the two breeds are not compatible within themselves, you will have a genetically confused dog. This can make for a bit of a problem when you want to introduce Fido to another cat. If you are not Alpha over your dog, then he does not respect you, he will not listen to you, and introductions to another cat should wait. Here are some more tips:


dogs and cats

When you are introducing a cat to a dog, there are several factors to consider.


  • You cannot control the cat.
  • Your focus should be on controlling the dog.
  • You need to consider the breed of dog you are working with.
  • The dog should be obedience-trained, and respect you.
  • A puppy will become overly excited, and could hurt the cat unintentionally.
  • When it goes right, you praise, praise, praise. If it goes wrong NEVER punish!

Dogs are pack animals. They respond to other dogs differently. Don't make the mistake of thinking because he is accepting of other dogs in Obedience Class, that he will respond to a cat favorably right away.


If you have a purebred dog, be sure to research how this breed gets along with other pets. For example; an Afghan hound is a hunter. If an Afghan sees a cat outside, it will chase the cat. But inside the home, it will not. Cocker Spaniels, Beagles, Bassett Hounds and Dachsunds are good with other pets. Do your homework on this issue.


Obedience classes are a must. If your dog has not been through an obedience course, do not attempt introductions. Here are a few tips to get you through that stage -


  • Keep your cat isolated from your dog.
  • Make a safe and secure room for the cat.
  • Swap scents; using an old blanket or towel, give the item to your cat. Let her play on it, sleep on it, eat on it. Rub her with this blanket and then leave it in her room for 24 hours.
  • Remove the blanket and present it to your dog. Rub him all over with it, let him roll on it, sniff it, sleep on it for 24 hours, then switch and do the same thing again. This blends their scents, making them a bit more at ease with each other.
  • Use a soft plush dog toy, give it to the dog first, let him play with it, slobber on it and then toss the toy into the room with the cat. Just leave that toy there.

Obedience course completed?


You are now ready for the first meeting.


Take the dog for an extended walk. Use a choke collar and short leash, not a retractable lead. You have minimal control with a retractable lead, and you do not have your dog's attention when using this.


Bring his favorite toy and find a safe place where he can run and play fetch. You want him tired but relaxed.


Return home and put him in one of your largest rooms. Put him in one end of the room, farthest from the door, on a down- and- stay command.


Keep your hand on the leash so you have control of him.


Have a second person bring the cat into the room, and set the cat down in the opposite end of the room. Make sure the dog stays calm.


The cat will react in various ways upon seeing the dog. The cat can spit, hiss and run out of the room, or dive for cover. She could attack. If she runs at the dog, bring the dog into a sit position quickly. This should stop her attack.


She may just walk carefully over to the dog to check him out. As long as you have that lead attached to that collar and the dog's respect you have control.


Keep your emotions down for both animals will feed on your emotions.


Only allow them a five-to ten minute first exposure initially.


Herd your cat out of the room as she will be scared. Don't pick her up. Herd her into her safe room turn the lights down, turn on some classical music low (to help soothe her). Shut the door and leave her be. Don't mess with her, or you could get bit. It is helpful to have feliway spray available, you can spray the room to help the cat stay calm.


Try the same routine the next day. Keep doing this procedure adding to the time element, for as long as it takes until the animals do not react to each other.


Have patience, for it is a slow process. They have to come to understand that, they are not a danger to each other.


Once you see that neither animal reacts, take the lead off the dog. Be sure to observe them carefully. Some dogs will chase the cat when it turns around and runs. This is a normal reaction on the dog's part.


Make sure your dog does not gain access to the cat's litter boxes. Cats are gulpers by nature, so they rarely chew all their food. What they leave in their pans smells like pure protein to a dog. He is going after the scent of the *food* he smells. The cat is just in the way.


One of the quickest ways to destroy the trust these two animals will build up with each other, is to allow the dog to ambush the cat in the litter pan. A Booda domed litter pan works, only if you have a dog of a larger breed, but a small puppy can easily find his way through the opening and leave his scent inside leaving open the possibility of litter box accidents.


If you have a small puppy, the safest first introduction is done best while the cat/kitten is in a large cage. You don't want to use a cat carrier, or a dog crate, it should be a large wire cage.


Place the cat/kitten inside the cage, and bring the puppy (on a lead) into the room. Again, be sure the puppy has gone through basic obedience. Let them see each other; don't allow the puppy to get to close. Keep your voice level and firm and put the puppy on a down and stay command near the cage. Let him lie there for five minutes, then lead him out of the room and feed him a tasty treat. Go back and release the cat/kitten out of the cage.


Do this style of introduction over a period of two weeks. Gradually move the puppy closer and closer to the cage. If the cat is spitting and hissing let her. This is normal behavior. As long as you have control of the puppy that is the most important aspect of this method.


If you haven't brought the dog/puppy into the home yet, there are a few ways you can prepare your cat for this. Make sure first of all that you set-up safe places; places tall enough where the cat can get to. A tall cat condo is ideal. Dogs cannot climb, but they can jump so be sure that the condo is tall enough and sturdy enough, that if the puppy or the dog jumps against it, the condo will stand. You can attach it to the wall by some sturdy screws.


If your friend has a dog that is used to cats, ask your friend to bring the dog over for an evening. Don't force the cat to come in the same room. Chances are she won't, and she will hide fairly effectively. But it will allow your cat to be exposed to what is coming.


Start feeding your cat off the floor. Dogs love cat food. If you have a table that you can clear off, or a shelf and start feeding your cat there, you will have less confrontation issues.


After the dog arrives, be sure and put the cat in another room every time you feed the dog. More cats and kittens get bit when they try and raid the dog's food bowl.


Set up a secure room for the cat. Do not allow the dog access to this room. This is the place where the cat knows is a "no-dog" zone. Allow her some way to access this room 24/7.


Despite the fact that these two are enemies, this sharing of space can work. The key is really YOU. YOU have to take the initiative and research. YOU have to take your dog through obedience courses, and keep YOUR stress level low.. Don't expect trouble, but be prepared should there be.


Dogs are pack animals, and cats are generally quite sociable. The two animals can get along in your world, if you pay attention to details and remember that patience is key.



Mary Anne Miller is a free-lance writer, and member of the Cat Writers' Association. She is a web copy writer, and passionate about feral cats/kittens and bottle babies. You can read more by Mary Anne at her Feral Cat Behavior Blog.



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Comments (3)

This has to be the number one question we get on the cat breeds forum.osteosarcoma in dogs
I see a problem with this article. "Do not attempt to introduce unless the dog has been through obedience classes". Umm... Hello? That's an unrealistic expectation. If you get a dog from a breeder, or a shelter, or find it on the street, it won't have gone through obedience and you can't expect them to be kept separate the whole time until obedience training is complete.
A lot of this article has misleading information about dogs. Use a choke collar? Really?
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