There is nothing wrong with mixing cats and dogs as pets, and it is always exciting to add a new animal member to the family. Unfortunately, once one type of pet has already staked a claim to your home, the introduction of another type becomes more difficult. This is especially true with  introducing cats and dogs to each other.

Often, cats and dogs take to each other immediately, but that is not always the case. Depending on their personalities, it can sometimes take up to a few months before they get used to one another. Your aim is not to make them the best of friends, but happy to ignore each other when they are in the same room.

The Dog is the One to Watch

According to Cesar Millan, it is usually the dog one needs to watch most. When a cat runs away from a dog, the dog is built to go into predator mode. However, often when they are puppies, dogs are playful, but if this playful behavior is not checked on time, it can later turn into aggressive behavior. This can result in your cat getting injured, or even killed.

Can You Match a Cat to a Dog?

  • Whether you are thinking of getting a cat in a home with a dog or a dog in a home with a cat, you must consider both animals’ personalities. Sometimes, it’s better to look for a pet that has already had exposure to the other species.
  • Look out for any signs that will indicate your dog shouldn’t be introduced to a cat. Observe if your dog attempts to aggressively chase, pick up, or pin cats. Does your dog growl, obsessively bark, or lunge at cats? If you still decide to get a cat, proceed with caution.
  • Likewise, observe your cat. If it growls, swats at, hides, or runs from dogs, you might consider that it prefers not to have a dog around.
  • A fearful and shy cat won’t be happy with a dog who loves chasing things around. Similarly, an energetic cat who runs and pounces would also drive the dog crazy. A calm, confident cat who will not run playfully or out of fear would make the best choice as a companion for a dog.
  • Some dog breeds play rougher than others, and these are best avoided if you have kittens or elderly cats. This is because these ages are more vulnerable to serious injuries. Adult cats that are playful may be more interested in playing with a dog and are also confident enough to ensure they are safe.
  •  A high-spirited or playful cat will enjoy a playful, but gentle, dog.
  • If you have an elderly, quiet or anxious pet, then a calm companion is best. Avoid riotous pets who may annoy, alarm, or bother the other one.

Introducing the Pets

Whether you already have a cat or dog, the first introduction between it and the new addition is a very important part of the process of getting them to adapt to one another. Follow these four steps to help you ensure a positive meeting:

1. Choosing the Right Location for introducing cats and dogs

Resident cat to new dog:

Introductions are best made at home when you are bringing a new dog into the family. For health and safety reasons, never take your cat to a shelter, or any other place where there are many animals, to meet a dog that you are adopting.

Resident dog to new cat:

If you are adopting a cat from a shelter, do not take your dog there because it is a highly stressful and traumatic experience for the cats. Don’t forget, if your dog goes crazy on seeing all the cats, it is not necessarily a good indicator of how he will react once you take your chosen cat home.

If adopting from a shelter, try and adopt a cat that is already dog-savvy. Perhaps the adoption counselors will allow your dog to meet your chosen cat under controlled conditions at the shelter.

Shelters usually offer advice and help you choose a confident cat or one that is used to dogs. You could also first try introducing your dog to a friend’s cat who is used to dogs. The best way to introduce your new cat to your dog is to bring it home. Here you can follow the steps required for a home introduction.

2. Separate Initially when introducing cats and dogs

Create a roster and rotate which animal is confined and which one is free to investigate the other’s scent. If necessary, confine the dog to a crate or room to ensure it cannot chase the cat if the cat darts away. This allows the cat then much-needed time to investigate the dog’s scent.

Baby gates are a wonderful way to gradually introduce dogs and cats. They act as a barrier, minimizing the danger for the cat while allowing it more freedom than a cat carrier.

If your dog obsessively digs at the separation barrier or barks at the cat for more than a day or two, you might have to accept that the interaction most probably won’t work. Your best bet is to seek proper training with the help of a professional.

When there is no one at home, always make sure one of the two pets is securely confined. This ensures no unsupervised interactions are possible.

Proceed to the next step only once the dog and cat are both calm. The dog mustn’t be obsessed with the cat, and the cat should be eating and using the litter box normally.

3. The Leashed Introduction

  • Now, you can allow both animals to be in the same room together, but you must keep the dog securely leashed.
  • Continue doing this until the dog is calm and ignoring the cat. The cat must also be calm and fearless as she goes about her normal functions (eating and using the litter box).
  • If you notice any signs of fear or aggression on the part of either animal, revert to step 2 a little longer.
  • The leashed introduction can be continued indefinitely until both pets are relaxed and happy around each other.
  • Always make sure one of the two animals is securely confined when no one is home to supervise their interactions.

4. Allowing unsupervised interactions

Only when you are positively sure the cat and dog won’t hurt each other can you consider allowing unsupervised time together. It is normal for this to take longer than a month.

Does Age Make a Difference introducing cats and dogs?

Puppies and kittens are easier to introduce to other pets, and both pets don’t need to be young animals. Puppies are less dangerous to adult cats, and kittens are generally fearless of adult dogs. All the above steps of introduction are still necessary, and it may require longer periods for them to get used to each other because kittens do tend to run and hide; while puppies love to pester cats.

Crate training makes it easier to introduce a puppy to a cat. When separating the two, make sure you place the cat in a room with its food, water, and litter box.

Some Extra Tips and Warnings for introducing cats and dogs

  • Interactions must never be forced between the two pets.
  • Distract the dog if it is staring at the cat, or the door separating them, with treats. Use the treats to help the dog look away. You can also use a gentle, happy voice or gently guide the dog away on a leash. Once he is away from the cat, offer a treat. If the dog takes the treat, continue repeating the exercise until he no longer focuses on the cat.
  • If the dog refuses to take his eyes off the cat or the door, remains overly focused on it, ignores you completely, or lunges suddenly as soon as the cat moves, consider it unsafe to leave the dog near the cat. If you have noticed your dog behaves like this with other cats, perhaps you shouldn’t get a cat.
  • It may prove difficult for you to keep the cat if your dog lunges at, growls, or shows any aggression toward it when the cat is calm.
  • If a cat attacks a calm, quiet dog, then you may also need to concede that you cannot keep both. Get professional help if you want to keep both pets.
  • Continual hissing, growling, and swatting from a cat to your dog or continued questionable behavior from your dog may mean you need to try a different cat or dog. You may need to keep just your original pet. It is unfair for either cats or dogs not to be able to tolerate each other.
  • If you notice your cat is not eating, drinking, sitting with you, or using the litter box, she is not happy. Consider finding a better dog match, or get help from a professional animal behaviorist.

When your two pets get used to each other, you will find that they will either ignore each other completely or become the greatest of friends. Whatever the case with your cat and dog, be sure that they will both require grooming from time to time. If you are looking for a well-trained pet groomer in your area, you need to look no further than: