How to introduce a new cat to your dog
Introducing a new pet to your household can be challenging if you already have a pet, especially when it comes to dogs and cats cohabiting the same space. Stereotypically, dogs and cats are renowned for not getting along well with each other, however, this doesn’t always have to be the case. In a lot of instances, dogs and cats can often end up becoming the best of friends, which is why it’s important for pet owners to have realistic expectations when introducing your pets to each other. If you’re currently thinking about buying, or adopting, a new pet to introduce to your dog or cat, our experts at Direct4Pet have compiled a number of top tips below, so pet owners can discover the best ways to make the introduction as hassle-free as possible. But first, we answer some of our frequently asked questions on how best to introduce a new cat to your dog, and vice versa.
What is the fastest way to introduce a dog and a cat?
It’s imperative to note that this process should not be rushed if you are looking for everything to run as smoothly as possible and to ensure all pets and owners are happy and comfortable. Some cat breeds are naturally more sociable than others, so it’s important to introduce them slowly in order to prevent any potential face-to-face confrontation or aggression towards your dog.
In some cases, your dog and cat may become best friends and in other cases they may just learn to peacefully coexist - whatever the outcome, they’re both a success!
How do you know if a dog will get along with a cat?
Dogs who have lived in your house for a long time may become territorial of their space, therefore it’s important to introduce the new cat slowly so that your dog does not feel threatened. It’s important to remember that the behaviours of cats and dogs are different and that if your dog decides to show `play signals' towards your new cat, they may be interpreted as a sign of aggression which can cause your pets to react negatively toward each other. But, with practice, patience and regular slow introductions, your dog and cat can learn to get along and live happily together.
How long does it take for a dog to get used to a cat?
While there’s no one answer that fits all approach to this question, many pet owners typically find this process can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months. In some cases, it could be a longer or shorter amount of time depending on whether your dog has interacted with cats before, the type of personality each pet has and the environment they are in. If one of your pets has lived for long periods as the sole pet, it’s important pet owners remain patient and calm throughout this process, as this is as big of an adjustment to pets as it is pet owners, and it’s a process you’ll likely grow comfortable with together.
A great tip for encouraging a strong bond between your dog and cat from the get-go, is to consider buying a kitten. Kittens, when separated from their mother and litter, will naturally seek comfort and may find that comfort in your dog - if your dog is willing of course. However, this may not always be the case, so it’s recommended pet owners proceed with caution and do what feels right for you and your pets.
5 simple steps to introducing a cat to a dog
1. Allow your cat time to settle in their own confined space
By giving your cat a couple of days to settle into their new home and adjust to the environment before introducing them to your dog, you can help make the process easier for your cat.
Depending on the age and confidence of your cat it may take longer for them to adjust, so it’s important to keep your cat in a confined space in a separate room to your dog at first. Provide your cat with food, water, a litter box and a comfortable place to rest in their own room so that they can acclimate to the new environment.
From here, you can then begin a slow introduction to your dog. Firstly you could try placing your cat’s food and your dog’s food on opposite sides of the door at meal times - this will allow them to get the scent of one another without being too close in proximity. This act of feeding together will also help to slowly create a bond with each other as they are taking part in an activity they both enjoy. From this point you can gradually begin to open the door at meal times and allow them to grow more familiar with each other in closer proximity.
2. Allow your cat and dog to smell each others scent
One of the most universal ways cats and dogs grow to become familiar with each other is by introducing them to the scent of one another. A great place to start with scent-swapping, is to take the blanket from each pet and switch them between pets, so that they can explore the new scent of each other without officially meeting.
Another way of getting your cat accustomed to the smell of your dog is to swap living spaces. Once your cat is comfortable in their own confined space it’s time to introduce them to the rest of the house where your dog lives and allow for your dog to experience your cat’s living space too. This gives them both a further opportunity to get used to each other's scents without coming face-to-face.
3. Proceed with a controlled meeting
Now that they’re accustomed to each other's scent, it’s time for face-to-face contact through a controlled meeting. It’s important that your dog is kept on a leash in this meeting and that they are lying or sitting next to someone on the opposite side of the room to the cat, the use of treats is also recommended as a form of persuasion in order to get them to cooperate more.
On the other side of the room, have another person sit down next to your cat and without keeping them physically restrained, offer your cat treats such as catnip or small pieces of food to keep them occupied. Repeat this interaction as often as possible in short spurts so that both your cat and dog can adjust to being in the room at the same time. After a while they should both begin to show less signs of fear or aggression and become used to each other's presence in a controlled and safe environment.
4. Let your cat roam free
When you think your cat feels comfortable in their space and you have practiced a few successful meetings with your dog in a controlled environment, you can now allow your cat to freely roam the house. Make sure your dog is still being controlled by a leash and preferably in the sitting position to help your cat feel as calm as possible.
Ensure you are positively reinforcing your dog’s behaviour and not punishing them if they show any aggression signs as you want them to associate the cat with positive affirmations, not negative. Give them both treats and allow your cat to investigate the environment at their own pace. Pay attention to your cat’s behaviour, if they run away or get aggressive, it’s time to revert back to the previous steps until they are more comfortable.
5. Regular supervision
After a while, your cat and dog should become used to each other’s presence in the house and will hopefully start to get along well. They may even show signs of playfulness or lovingness after a solid relationship has been established. However, pet owners should still make sure to supervise their interactions for as long as possible until you’re absolutely positive your furry friends will not get into any potentially harmful fights.
Due to the nature of cats, cat behaviour can often be unpredictable if they are scared or provoked and so it’s important to ensure they get along perfectly before leaving them unsupervised. A great way to ensure both your cat and dog are comfortable in a shared environment is to give your cat a place to hide. Whether you provide them with a cat tower, bed or even a spot behind furniture, making sure they have a place that offers shelter where cats feel they can escape is vital to ensuring a harmonious relationship.
Important things to remember with cats and dogs living together:
- Dogs should not eat cat food or treats, so it’s best to keep it out of your dog’s reach and have supervised meal times to ensure no cross contamination.
- Your cat’s litter box can seem intriguing to dogs but it’s important to ensure it remains a safe space for your cat in order to avoid any territorial or aggressive behaviours.
- If you have a kitten, it’s important to remember how small and fragile they are and that a dog that is often energetic and could possibly cause accidental harm - because of this, it’s important to keep pets separate until they are a more suitable age.
- Do not leave your dog and cat alone together until you are 100% certain they will both be safe - if you cannot supervise them at all times, consider keeping them in separate rooms until someone is able to watch their interactions.
- When angry, dogs will show a rigid, tense posture with a stiff, upward tail and a growl. When cats are angry they will hiss, their hairs will hackle up and their tail will twitch. Look out for these signs of aggression when they are interacting to ensure fights are prevented and they are both kept safe.
How can I get my cat to get on with my dog?
By following the above steps and advice, you should be on the right track to creating a happy living situation for both your cat and dog together. However, if you find yourself needing a little extra help, having a regular supply of cat and dog calming products to hand can be a great way to encourage a more harmonious living situation for your pets.
Calming products for Dogs
The Adaptil plug in diffuser emits a synthetic copy of the dog ‘appeasing pheromone’ which helps to comfort and support your dog in particularly uncomfortable environments. The diffuser can help to calm your dog in stressful situations, like adjusting to living with a cat, and can help your dog react in more sociable ways towards the new cat. The specific pheromone used in Adaptil is designed for dogs exclusively, and so will not affect your cat in any negative way, its sole purpose is to simply help your dog feel more tranquil.
If you want a behavioural product that is a little stronger than a diffuser, then the Calmex dog capsules are a great choice. Designed to help promote relaxed behaviour from your dog, these Calmex capsules should be given to your dog 3 days prior to bringing your new cat home so that they provide optimum results. They will simply help encourage a more chilled behaviour in your dog when getting introduced to your new cat for the first time.
A calming collar from Beaphar is also a great option for helping to reduce your dog’s behavioural problems and alleviate any anxieties they may have around the introduction of a cat. Using valerian and lavender essential oils, this collar helps to reduce potentially destructive or aggressive behaviour in your dog. Effective for up to 6 weeks, this natural, calming collar is perfect for helping to create a more settled environment for your dog when a new cat is being introduced.
Calming products for Cats
The Feliway cat calming spray is a great way to help keep your new cat calm when bringing them to their new shared home for the first time. By copying the synthetic pheromones released by cats, this cat calming spray will help to imitate comforting smells and ensure your cat is kept calm and comforted in their new environment.
If your cat is particularly anxious, or you’re looking for a stronger supplement, the Calmex behavioural tablets are a great anxiety-reducing choice. Designed to help reduce hostility, manage stress and provide comfort, these Calmex supplements will help your new cat settle into their new home and encourage more relaxed behaviours towards your dog.
The Beaphar calming collar is also a great way to help promote calming behaviours in your cat during this stressful time. Using the same valerian and lavender as the dog calming collar this cat collar will help to relax your cat as well so that they can both approach meeting for the first time in a more calm manner.