Helping Cats and Dogs to Get Along

Cats and dogs are very different animals, with different motivations and behaviours. Cats and dogs can learn to co-exist happily in a home together if their owners are willing to introduce and supervise them properly. It’s important to understand that dogs and cats can severely injure each other, even accidentally, and so these interactions must be performed with due care and concern. The good news is that with sensible adoption decisions, positive and rewarding introductions, good management and a little training, many cats and dogs can live together peacefully.

Know What to Expect

Dogs that have never lived with cats usually react to them in one of these ways:

Your dog might treat your cat like another dog and try to play with her, particularly if your dog is young and the cat is inquisitive and approaches him. This type of interaction can lay the groundwork for a strong relationship between the two. However, it’s more common for cats to react defensively to an invitation to play from a strange dog. Cats generally don’t play as rambunctiously as dogs, and dogs often chase and bite during play.Play between dogs and cats should always be closely monitored. Playful dogs often don’t respond appropriately to a cat’s signal to stop, and the tension or aggression between the two can escalate rapidly, causing the cat distress and putting her in danger. Keep in mind that a dog can kill a cat easily, even in play. A scared or angry cat can use her claws to seriously injure a dog.

Unfortunately, dogs often perceive cats as prey. This is especially likely if the cat runs away from the dog. A dog might respond to your cat’s movements as he would to the movement of a fleeing prey animal. He may chase and even kill the cat. Similarly, cats that have never lived with dogs may view them as predators and may run or become defensively aggressive.

Cautious Interest or Avoidance
Older or quieter dogs may be intimidated by a new cat, particularly if she is young or rambunctious. He may approach the cat cautiously or watch from a distance and avoid her whenever possible.Cats that have never lived with dogs generally react to them in one of two ways:

Cautious Interest or Avoidance
Cats who have experience with dogs, young or confident cats, and cats living in multi-cat households might accept a dog as a safe and interesting intruder. Their reaction might be to watch the dog from a distance or approach inquisitively.

Defensive Antagonism
Many cats don’t accept new animals well and consider them as intruders to their territory. This may cause them to act defensively.

General Steps

1. Separation
Each animal requires a separate space where the other animal cannot have access to. A room works well for cats where they can have their food, litter, toys, etc. A dog would do well in an enclosed or gated area or separate room with toys, food and bedding. Most importantly, a cat needs an escape route from the dog at all times.

2. Exchange Smells
Feed your resident pets and your newcomer on either side of a door, so they begin to associate each other’s smell with something enjoyable. Swap each animal’s bedding, collars or toys every day so they familiarize themselves with each other’s scents.

3. Supervised Exploration
Once your newcomer is eating regularly and appears to be comfortable in the new surroundings, let her have free time in the house while confining your other pet to the newcomer’s room. Slowly introduce your new pet to a room or two a day, over a few days.

4. Visual Introduction without Physical Contact
Once both animals appear to be adjusting well and there is no hissing, growling or barking at the door, you may allow the animals to see each other and interact without physical contact. Barricade the door  with a screen or a gate and closely supervise the animals as they meet each other. Remember to keep the sessions short and positive and use lots of treat rewards!

5. Physical Introduction while Supervised
Open the door and allow the cat and dog to physically meet each other. The dog should be on a loose  leash and be under your control. Ensure these sessions are short and very closely supervised.

6. Physical Introductions With Limited Supervision
Allow your pets to explore each other and the house, with limited supervision, although the dog should have a leash on for the first while. Do not force the animals to interact, and if the cat wants to hide, let her. She will come out and investigate when she is ready. Do not allow the introduction to deteriorate into a game of chase and make sure the dog is kept calm and under control.

Be present to watch for any signs of discord but leave them alone to adjust to each other. If the cat swats the dog, distract the dog with a toy or treat; do not punish the cat. Sometimes one swat is all it takes to establish the rules Keep sessions short and positive, and reward the dog when he exhibits good behaviour and make sure to correct any lunging or chasing behaviours immediately

7. Solo Physical Introduction
Gradually leave the home for short periods of time and allow your pets to freely interact. Very slowly increase the time left alone together. Ensure your new pets still have access to their “safe areas” at all times and that the cat has an escape route or higher area they can use if necessary. Supervise all interactions, keeping the dog on a leash, until you are certain he is cat-safe.

Helpful Hint

Make changes in the resident animal’s environment before you bring the new one home. Set up all the new animal’s necessary supplies before the new pet comes home, so the resident animal is already used to the new changes.