Introducing Your New Dog to Cats

August 2019

Audience: Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers

Introducing a new dog to a resident cat can be challenging and should be done slowly and carefully. With time, many dogs and cats can learn to coexist peacefully, become playmates and even friends!

The First Few Days

  • Keep your new dog completely separate from your cat for the first few days, at a minimum. They will be able to sense and smell each other in the home, without having to meet.
  • Keep doors closed with reminder signs on them, so that pets can't access each other.
  • Trade off areas where the pets stay so that they can grow accustomed to each other's smells.
  • After a few days, if both pets are comfortable (cat is not hiding or hissing when hears dog, or dog is not barking or hovering at the closed door to the cat) and relaxed in their separate areas, you can begin to introduce them to each other.

Introduction

  • Exercise your dog before introducing them to your cat(s).
  • If you have multiple cats, introduce your new dog to your most confident cat first.
  • Your new dog should be on a leash when introducing to your cat(s). Your cat should be allowed to roam free.
  • If your new dog can't focus on people and treats in the presence of your cat, put more distance between them. Use gates (e.g., a baby gate) to separate your cat and dog.
  • Keep the first introduction short. Let your dog look at your cat and then refocus your dog back to you by offering special treats. Reward your dog with praise, petting, and treats for being calm.
  • If things go well and both pets are calm, allow your dog to sniff your cat. Once again, redirect your dog away after a brief interaction.
  • If things didn't go well during the first meeting (cat is hissing, growling, or cowering away from dog, or dog is barking, rushing cat), give your dog and cat a break. Try again tomorrow with your cat at a further distance away from your dog.
  • If the interaction went well, keep a leash attached to your dog during intro sessions for a few days, and let them drag it around. This way, you can intervene and prevent your dog from chasing your cat.
  • If you are worried that your dog is too intense or being aggressive toward your cat(s), ask for help. Call your shelter/rescue organization, foster coordinator, positive reinforcement trainer or veterinary behaviorist. A little help goes a long way!

Do's:

  • Always supervise your pets and keep them separated from each other when you're not home.
  • Teach your dog to 'leave it' and use it to distract them away from your cat.
  • Provide fearful cats with plenty of hiding places and escape routes. Dark, quiet spots or high perches that your dog can't get to are ideal.

Don'ts

  • Don't allow your new dog to bark at, chase, or pester your cat.
  • Don't hold your cat in your arms or on your lap when they are afraid. You could be injured.
  • Don't force your pets to interact. Take the introduction process slow until they are comfortable.

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