How To Introduce Your Dog To Cats
If you’re a proud dog owner (or cat owner) but want to buy a cat (or dog), then it’s important that you know how to introduce your dog to a cat. While this is not necessarily an easy process, it’s certainly possible and can lead to a very happy, healthy home life for both you and your pets.
There are options for how you may want to introduce your dog to your cat. It’s best to take your dog’s personality and your cat’s personality into account to ensure you’re making the right choice. Follow their cues, and if either pet is too unhappy, you may want to reconsider whether owning both in the same home is a good idea.
Steps for Introducing Dogs and Cats
Let’s consider the best method for introducing dogs and cats in the same household. Keep in mind that you may want to bring your dog or cat into proximity with members of the other species before making a purchase/adoption, just to ensure that they will be able to handle the transition and are not completely incompatible.
Step 1: Begin Desensitization
At first, you’ll want to keep your dog and cat apart. Provide each animal with a sanctuary room that is blocked off by a closed door or a tall baby gate. Keep in mind that cats can get out of most situations easily, so their sanctuary should have toys, food, a bed, a litter box, a cat tree, and any other items your cat may enjoy using.
For the first few days, you want to bring your dog near while the cat is in their sanctuary. You can leave a gate up and allow your dog to see the cat or simply keep the door closed and let your dog hear and smell the cat. Your goal with this exercise is to get both pets used to seeing and/or sensing one another on a regular basis.
As your dog and cat get used to seeing or sensing one another, start offering them food while they’re near each other. Feed them one on either side of a gate or closed door to get them used to eating near one another and show them that they can associate one another with good things, like food.
In addition to these steps, you can take further measures such as swapping the bedding of your pets to get them used to each other’s smell or distracting your dog with a toy/treat when they see the cat to help them learn how to ignore their urge to chase or hunt.
Step 2: Step Up To Meetings
Once your cat and dog are comfortable eating near one another, it’s time to begin meetings. Bring your dog and cat together into the same room (not the sanctuary room for either of them). Keep your dog on a leash so you can stop them from chasing, if necessary.
Watch your dog’s body language—stiffness and intense focus on the cat mean that your dog is ready to pounce. In most cases, your dog will have a certain threshold—they may be able to tolerate the cat at a distance of 10 feet, but not 5 feet, etc. Watch for the threshold and start before you reach that point.
Keep your dog and cat in the same room for as long as you can. If your dog is calm enough, ask them to sit or lay down (you should have been training them to obey simple commands while you were waiting for these face to face meetings). If either animal shows aggression, distract them with a toy or treat.
Step 3: Maintain Meetings
You will need to maintain this method of meetings for as long as it takes for your cat and dog to get used to one another. Be sure that you keep training your dog and offering them treats when they ignore the cat or treat it appropriately.
If your cat is uncomfortable around the dog and won’t stay in the room, consider putting the dog in a crate and allowing your cat to sniff around them for a time until they get used to the smell. If your cat is unhappy and won’t eat or use the litter box normally, they may not be comfortable living with a dog and you might want to reconsider having both pets.
Look At That Training
One method of teaching your dog how to ignore a cat is to use Look At That (LAT) training. This training teaches your dog to look at the cat, then immediately look at you for a treat. Here’s how it works:
- Take your dog into the same room as your cat.
- Allow your dog to fixate on the cat briefly.
- Use a clicker or your voice to draw the dog’s attention to yourself.
- Offer your dog a treat as soon as they look at you.
- Repeat this process at least 10 times per session, more if you prefer.
- After at least 10 times, try without the clicker or word. If your dog looks at you, expecting the treat, without your prompting, they’re on their way to learning how to tolerate the cat’s presence rather than fixating.
Eventually, this game can help the dog get used to being with the cat. It can even get the dog excited about being with the cat because they will learn they can expect treats and attention when in the same room with the cat. Over time, they should learn to expect the cat as a normal part of their life.
Step 4: Allow Unsupervised Interaction
Finally, allow your dog and cat to spend time together without your protection. You may want to start while you’re still in the room in case of an unexpected blow-up. Keep a leash on the dog so you can grab it, if necessary.
Eventually, you’ll be able to leave them alone together without your presence. Try this indoors in rooms that they’re familiar with first. Then, allow them to head outside and be together in the yard.
Choose the Right Dog and Cat
Keep in mind that not every dog and cat do well with others. Some dogs never get used to cats and some cats could never live contentedly with a dog. If your dog or cat shows constant signs of aggression, unease, or unhappiness, it may be time to rethink owning both pets at once.
However, in most situations, you should be able to easily teach your dog and cat to enjoy living together. They may even become best friends!