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Dickinson Animal Hospital

Friend or Foe: How to Safely Introduce Dogs and Cats

Puppy and kitten curled up in a blanket

Wouldn’t it be great if every pet in the household got along with the rest? What if cats and dogs could come to an agreement and enjoy each other’s differences? The fact of the matter is, dogs and cats can learn to coexist without problems when given the right preparation for success. This process is important not only for keeping the peace but also for maintaining safety. 

Your team at Dickinson Animal Hospital & Pet Wellness Center wants to help create a happy, harmonious pet home through the use of these recommendations to introduce dogs and cats. Let’s go!

The Nature of Things

As you know, canines and felines are two very distinct species with significantly different behaviors and instincts. Both cats and dogs are driven to hunt prey and have the instinct to chase down anything smaller than them. Many breeds of dogs were bred for their hunting abilities, so it is natural that most will at least be curious about their smaller feline cohorts. At worst, they may not be well-suited for a cat household.

Know your dog and their level of predatory drive before you decide to bring a cat into the home, or a new dog into a cat household. 

The Safe and Slow Way to Introduce Cats and Dogs

If you have determined that the dog in question is safe for kitty companionship, how do you make these introductions? The first point to note is that the meeting must be gradual and in a safe and supervised way. The last thing you want is for fur to be flying or an injury to occur.

  1. Create a safe space. Before bringing your new pet into the home, make sure your resident pet is confined in one room with all of their belongings for comfort. Giving your new pet the homefront advantage will help them acclimate and settle in first, before seeing the other pet. Make sure you offer your resident pet ample time and attention so they feel secure. 

  2. Give your pets 2-3 days apart. During this time, give each pet a chance to smell the other under the door. You may wish to swap out toys or blankets, or any other items that contain both pets’ smells. 

  3. Use baby gates first. Once your pets are used to each other’s presence and aren’t reacting with anxiety or aggression, the time is right for sight intros. Make use of a few baby gates and set them up so that your cat companion can stay far enough away from the gate. Start opening doors with both pets free to see each other through the gates. If your dog acts aggressively or tries to get over the gate, try again another time and give them additional time apart.

  4. Try same-room introductions. Keeping your dog on a leash, introduce the animals in the same room. Allow them to sniff each other and allow your cat to approach your dog while your dog sits beside you. Gauge how they react. Reward your dog for sitting and being quiet while your cat companion investigates. If hissing or growling is involved, separate them again for some time and try a slow interaction another time.

  5. Allow for longer same-room visits. Now that your pets are getting along without any issues, give them longer periods of time together. Make sure this time is supervised for the first month or two. Give your cat a number of “escape” areas, such as on the top of cat trees or bookshelves, under the bed, or in a cleared-out closet so they can retain some privacy when the doggo becomes too rambunctious.

Keep in mind that this cohabitation may not be a heartfelt occurrence at first. But, with time, precautions, and supervision, your new furry one will become an accepted member of your fur family.

Please call us if you have additional questions on how to introduce cats and dogs. We’re here to help!