How to introduce your dog to your cat

How to introduce your dog to your cat

Many people assume that cats and dogs don’t get along, but that’s simply not true. It’s perfectly possible for these furry animals to become the best of friends – all it takes is time, patience and a little know-how!

If you’re the proud owner of a feline and you’re thinking about welcoming a pooch into your home, this guide will share some top tips to help make sure the introduction goes as smoothly as possible.

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Cat-friendly dog breeds

If you’re still deciding on a pup, then it could be wise to choose a breed known to get along with cats. Canine Cottages explains that the best two dog breeds are the toy group, which make sociable and affectionate companions; and the sporting group, which are friendly, outgoing and perfectly suited to living with a puss. 

Some specific breeds include:

  • Beagle
  • Golden retriever
  • Basset hound
  • Cavalier King Charles spaniel
  • Pug
  • Labrador retriever
  • Bichon frise
  • Shih tzu
  • Papillon
  • Mongrel

A dog and a cat laying on a sofa with their owner

Preparing your home

Preparation is key when introducing your dog to your cat. As well as buying the basics for your new hound and dog-proofing your home, Blue Cross says that you should designate a ‘safe space’ for your cat that your dog won’t be able to access (like a spare room).

Move all of your cat’s belongings into this space, including their bed, food, water and litter tray, even if they usually do their business outdoors.

A stair gate can be extremely handy when introducing your cat and dog, because they allow your pets to see and smell one another without invading their personal space.

You can even buy a stair gate with a built-in cat flap, so that your moggy can easily venture up and downstairs. These are especially good for old and/or arthritic cats.


The first few days

It’s important to keep your dog and cat separate for the first few days after bringing your pooch home. During this time, you need to focus on one important process: scent swapping.

Scent swapping will help your cat and dog get to know each other before they’ve even met. What you’ll need to do is this:

  • Stroke both your cat and dog regularly without washing your hands, as doing this will mix their scents.
  • Exchange your cat’s and dog’s bedding regularly so they get used to the other’s smell.
  • Gather scents from your pooch’s head by stroking it gently with a soft cloth and dabbing it around your home and furniture to mix with your cat’s scent.

A kitten reaching its paw out to the nose of a dog that is laying down

The first introduction

When you think your pets are ready to meet, carry out the introduction somewhere your kitty can easily escape to its safe space.

If your pooch gets easily excited, then it’s best to introduce them to your cat after a walk or a run around in the garden.

One of the most important things is to make sure your dog doesn’t chase the cat when they first meet, as this will scare your puss and could prevent them from ever being friends in the future – even if your dog had no intention of hurting them.

It’s a good idea to put your pooch on a lead for the first meeting, too.

Battersea Dogs’ and Cats’ Home notes how the first meeting should take place when both pets are in a relaxed state, and that the lead should be kept as slack as possible to give the dog some freedom exploring their soon-to-be feline friend.

If you want, you can introduce your pets for the first time using the stair gate, which can help to reassure your cat.

You should let your puss approach the gate only if they want to, and in their own time – or you risk getting a nasty scratch if they feel threatened.

The dog is likely to show interest and might get excited – if they become too excited or start to bark, you should consider distracting them with food or by using the lead to move them further away. If your hound behaves well, praise and treat them as this will positively reinforce this good behaviour.

The first few meetings should be kept short and sweet. If either your dog or cat appears frightened then you might look to carry on scent swapping for a few more days or even a week before trying again.

A dog and a cat playing together on grass on a sunny day

Keep up the good work

Once you’ve reached a stage where you feel that your cat and dog are confident with one another, but aren’t quite pet pals yet, you can always use a house line (a lead with a clip) to stop your excitable dog from chasing your moggy.

When you’re no longer concerned your dog will chase your cat, then you can get rid of the house line. You should never leave your two pets together until you’re 100% certain that they get along and will be safe together.

Even then, make sure your puss has lots of high places where they can escape from their new housemate if they need to.

If things don’t progress as quickly as you would have hoped, don’t worry – it will take longer for some pets than it does for others.

If you’ve had no luck after a month or so of trying to make your pets get along, then you could always seek professional help.


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