Knowing how to properly introduce a dog to a cat or vice-versa is essential if you want them to live together happily and peacefully.
We need to bear in mind that not all animals are the same, and that individual personality, age, medical issues, and previous training play a big role in how this process will develop.
It’s very important to try and find pets that have similar personalities, this will make your life and theirs much easier.
Any cat or a dog that hasn’t got enough socialization with other animals in the past will have trouble coexisting with another pet.
With this, we want to say it’s important to get to know both pets before you try to make them live together. We need to know what we are getting into and we don’t want to force the relationship.
Preparation is very important, so we will first start by explaining what you need to do before you start to adapt to introduce one pet to another, and then we will give you 5 easy steps to follow.
We need to prepare one room that can be closed off, for the new pet to settle. This room needs to be equipped with all the essentials that the new dog or a cat might need.
You will need two small blankets or towels that you will use to pick up their scent.
If you don’t have a see-through glass door in your home, borrow or purchase a pet gate, or some kind of a barrier that you can create a safe separation for the pets to meet for the first time.
Last but not least, you need to free up some time for yourself and get another family member to help. This process requires two people and might take a while, days even weeks, and constant supervision is needed.
The intention is to make a stress free environment and a positive association between the pets.
Step 1: Private space for stress relief
Cats are much more territorial than dogs, you need to keep in mind that your home is your cat’s territory. You need to create some private space and a safe place for both pets.
A new environment or a new pet is always going to be stressful for a cat or a dog. They need a safe place to retire if they feel stressed, and they need a private place to feel in control
For a cat, you will need to equip the space with some places it can hide and climb when it’s scared, and some scratching posts to relieve stress.
For a dog, you will need a nest-like dog bed where it can curl up and feel safe, and a lot of toys to keep them entertained and stress-free.
Keep the two pets separated in their private spaces until you cover all the other steps.
Step 2: Scent swapping
Take the two clean blankets or towels you prepared earlier, gently rub them against their scent glands.
For cats, this is around their forehead and around their cheeks, and for dogs, you want to rub under their armpits and on their flanks.
Then you want to exchange these blankets between them, cat scented one to the dog, and the dog one to the cat. Leave it with them so that they can get familiar with each other’s scent.
You need to repeat this process daily for a couple of days. Monitor their reactions to the sent and try to give some positive reinforcement or a treat, to associate the smell with something positive.
Step 3: Introduction with a barrier
The first introduction should be done through a glass door, barrier, or something that they can’t touch each other but they can clearly see each other.
They shouldn’t be forced or pressured into this, so try to keep the experience stress free.
You should not do this alone. It’s advised to have one person on one side with the dog and another one on the side with the cat.
Both of them should be comforted and made sure that everything is fine.
After the first introduction start feeding them by the barrier (each on its own side), close enough so that they can see each other but still far enough not to feel scared to approach their food.
Feeding time is the most important time for cats and dogs. By sharing this time you will create a positive association with one another.
One person should be on the side with the dog and another one the side with the cat, comforting them and being ready to stop any negative reactions.
After some time has passed, and the cat and the dog have gotten used to each other’s scents and are eating together through the barrier if there is no negative reaction you are ready for the next step.
Step 4: Removing the barrier, physically introduction
The most important thing before you attempt to introduce them face to face:
You and the person who is helping you need to be sure and believe they are ready, and not be scared or anxious about doing it.
Cats and dogs can pick up on our bad feelings or stress, and this can in return make them stressed or scared. The situation can escalate out of control quickly.
The cat needs to have the most control over the situation, what this means is they need to be able to run away and hide if they are scared. Start by slowly bringing the dog on a leash into the room where the cat is. It’s really important for the cat not to be restrained or forced into meeting the dog.
Give them some time to relax and comfort them, give both some treats and let them do their own thing, sniff and check out each other.
If the situation gets a little bit uncomfortable for the cat or dog, separate them to their safe rooms and try again later. Don’t punish them or shout at them, positive reinforcement only.
Step 5: Monitoring the relationship
The 5th and the last step is equally important as the others. In the beginning, you never want to leave them alone in the room, constant human presence is needed.
You need to slowly take them through the home and teach them to share the space and respect each other. Slowly show the cat that the new pet is here to stay.
Closely monitor their behavior, and positively reinforce good behavior, and just separate them when there is tension.
It’s also really important to give them the same amount of love and attention.
Some extra tips and advice
- Put up some shelves or platforms around the home that your cat can climb. This will give your cat some private territory that only she can own, it can lessen the territorial problem that you might face.
- Never introduce a cat to someone new while she is in the cage. This will make them feel trapped and stress them immensely.
- Train the dog from the beginning, some simple commands like no, sit, stay, lay down.
- Teach the dog that the cats’ litter box is a “no go zone”, cats are very territorial about their litter box.
- Make sure they always have enough food and water. So that they don’t have to touch each other’s food or water, this will certainly prevent some conflicts.
- Have at least two litter boxes per cat, in different rooms of the home.
- Keep your pets entertained, give them space for play and exercise.
With some knowledge, and if you choose the pets correctly this process is not hard, it only takes time and dedication.
In the end, all your hard work will pay off, and you will be in the pet haven enjoying the best of both worlds. A cat, a dog, and a human in perfect harmony.
Do you have any experience with introducing a dog to a cat? We would love to hear about it!
Also, feel free to contact us if you have any further questions or need some help, we hope you liked our article and found it useful.
Until next time.