How to Introduce a Cat into a Dog Family

Cats and dogs can live together and even become best buddies. But first they have to be introduced.

Some people profess that they’re dog people, while others insist they’re cat people. But what happens when you want the best of both worlds? Many people are concerned that their dogs will not accept a cat in the house, or that they will be aggressive towards the new member of the family. There is also the fear that the cat will be afraid or intolerant of the dogs.

The good news is that it is sometimes possible to successfully introduce a cat into a dog family, enabling the newest member of your brood to be harmoniously integrated and accepted by the canines in the house. Here are some tips for doing just that.

Make sure your dog is a cat-friendly dog

Some dogs tend to be more accepting of cats than others. If your dog is one of these, there is a much higher chance that he will tolerate a cat in the family. Some dog breeds that are known to be cat-friendly include golden retrievers, pugs and maltese.

On the other hand, some breeds have a very high prey drive and will attack anything that moves. Such breeds include huskies, bullmastiffs and greyhounds. Trying to introduce a cat to a dog with a strong hunting instinct can end in disaster.

However, even if your dog is of a supposedly cat-friendly breed, it is important to note that individual temperaments also play a part in influencing how readily it accepts a new cat. Observe your dog’s behaviour around the cat, and if it appears to be hunting the cat or displays any aggression around it, it is probably not going to tolerate the feline. Likewise, if the cat hisses and swats constantly at the dog, it may not be a good fit.

Introduce the animals gradually

Ideally, you want to enable the animals to get to know each other slowly and in a non-threatening manner. Avoid throwing the cat in at the deep end and hoping the animals will just learn to accept each other.

Introducing a cat to dogs usually begins with confining the cat to one room with food, water and litter box, while the dog remains on the other side of the door. Feed the cats and dogs on either side of the door so they learn to associate each other’s scents with their beloved meal-times.

After a few meals eaten in this way, you can open the door slightly, so cat and dog can see each other. When they are comfortable, open the door so they can make contact for the first time.

Ensure the first meeting occurs in a controlled environment

Remember that a dog can easily kill a cat, even accidentally. Bearing that in mind, it is crucial to ensure the first meeting between the animals occurs in a controlled environment, closely supervised by you.

Keep the dog on a leash during its first meetings with the cat, and begin with both animals on opposite sides of the room. To keep them calm and happy, feed them treats and have a member of your family accompany each animal.

Have your dog sit or lie down, and conclude the meeting before either animal becomes restless. Several short meetings are usually more effective than fewer longer ones, as longer meetings mean more time for one of the animals to become fearful or aggressive.

Let the cat explore the house without interference from the dog

While your cat should start out being confined to one room, when she is more comfortable you will want to open up the rest of the house to her so she can get comfortable, start to identify your abode as her new home and get used to the scent of the dogs.

The first few times this happens, keep the dogs in the room in which the cat was first confined so they can grow accustomed to its scent.

Train your dog to behave around the cat

Even if your dog tries to be friendly with the cat, know that this can often backfire. Dogs can injure or kill cats when trying to play with them, and their eagerness often inspires fear in their feline companions.

You will need to train your dog not to chase the cat or to play with it in a rough manner. Of course, if your dog is already well-trained and sits, comes and lies down on command, you will have a far easier time of this.

Be aware that you should not punish your dog or provide too much negative reinforcement in the presence of the cat, or the former may start to associate the cat with negative experiences and become aggressive towards it. Instead, use training techniques which focus on positive reinforcement.
While some families have been able to successfully introduce a cat to their dogs, be aware that some animals just aren’t a match made in heaven. You can heighten your chances of success as a matchmaker by introducing the cat and dogs in a highly gradual, controlled manner, paying close attention to their behaviour at all times.