How to Introduce Cats and Dogs

By Sarah Hinds Friedl on December 3rd, 2020

How do you go about introducing dogs and cats when they’re sworn enemies in nature? Surely, that’s a recipe for disaster.

In reality, though, introducing cats and dogs is not only doable, but has a high likelihood for success. In the best case scenario, your beloved pets are pals for life, and you can snap one million pictures of their adorable cuddle puddles. Or, your furry friends may strike up a polite peace deal that isn’t exactly affectionate but doesn’t raise the stress levels in your house. 

Either way, you can rest assured that your cat and dog can coexist in the same space.

In this BreezeGuard article, we’ll talk about how to safely introduce your dog and cat!

A quick note about introducing dogs and cats
While most cat and dog introduction stories end happily, you should always take extreme caution when putting these animals in a room together. 

In fact, there are a few scenarios in which we would recommend not introducing cats and dogs. If any of the following applies, you might want to rethink bringing the cat and dog together:

  • Your dog has shown aggressive behavior towards cats in the past
  • Your dog has a high prey drive
  • Your cat is elderly or sick, making them more sensitive to stress
  • Your cat has had negative experiences with dogs in the past

It’s also important to keep in mind that while some dogs and cats strike up a friendship within days, the introduction process can take as long as six to eight weeks. In the meantime, the pair will need to be separated when you can’t be there to supervise and mediate. If you won’t be able to commit the time to a slow transition, it might not be the right moment to try introducing a new animal into your home.

Step One: Lay the foundation
If you were going to rent out a room in your home or move in with roommates, you might want to know a little bit about them first, right? Maybe you would ask them a few questions in an email or take a look at their social media posts before you even agree to meet them in person.

Your pets, as it turns out, want to do the same thing. And the way they do that is through scent. By giving your dog one of your cat’s favorite toys to sniff or placing your dog’s favorite blanket in front of your cat, they’ll be able to learn a ton about each other. You might also try making positive connections with these new smells by giving your pet treats and plenty of love while their olfactory senses go to work.

This is a crucial first step that should be done before the animals ever come face-to-face. 

Step Two: Set up a blind meet & greet
Once your pets have been prepped with the scent-swapping, you can try out a little blind date. Set up their food bowls on either side of a closed door so they have a chance to chown down while in the presence of one another. They’ll be able to smell and hear their new housemate without having to lock eyes, while also doing something they love: eating!

Because cats are generally more selective about their meals, you may need to place their bowl a larger distance away from the door, at first. Then, meal-by-meal, as your cat shows more confidence, you can inch the bowl closer to their new bestie.

If you have a screen door or a toddler gate, it’s a good idea to try this feeding exercise with a transparent barrier between the two animals. Remember that you still need to be present for this, especially if the gate is short enough that your dog would be able to hop over it.

Step Three: Before the first official interaction, take a walk
This goes for both animals. Essentially, what you want is to get the dog out of the house for a little while so that your cat can do a walk through of the entire area. This will give them some security and confidence for the next step. 

The added benefit here is that you’ll be able to be able to tire Fido out before the two meet for the first time. Make sure to take your dog somewhere they can really stretch their legs and run off their extra energy. 

Remember that anytime you load your pup into the back of the car, you can keep them safe with BreezeGuards! These window screens will keep your pup in the car even with the windows down so that your dog can feel the wind in their fur. And, the added mental stimulation of smelling the breeze and taking in the sights will help your dog come home relaxed and ready to meet their new feline friend.

Step Four: Face-to-face introductions
After days, perhaps weeks, of diligent prep-work, the exciting part is finally here: snout-to-snout introductions!

If possible, you’ll want this interaction to take place in a neutral part of the home, where neither animal will feel territorial. It’s also a good idea to choose a place with access to the cat’s sanctuary area or room. 

Then, with your dog on a leash, allow the two animals to be in the same room for the first time. Your goal here is to keep your pup nice and calm, preferably sitting or laying down, with plenty of treats and praise. 

According to the experts at the AKC, the worst thing that you can do in this moment is to allow your dog to chase the cat. Not only will it be traumatic to your feline friend, but it will set a dangerous precedent for your pooch. So, make sure that you have a good handle on your dog, and do your best to hold their attention. And, if they’re just too excited to meet their new best friend, then cut the session short and try again when your dog is calm.

Once your pupper is relaxed, your cat may feel comfortable enough to come say hello. It’s important not to force this or try speeding it up. Cats need to approach on their own terms and should never be picked up and carried over to their future canine companion. That said, you can try enticing them with their favourite treats or gentle verbal encouragement. 

Don’t be discouraged if your cat simply watches from a distance or even tries to hide. This is just the first of many encounters that will eventually lead to them feeling more confident and curious.

Keep these first encounters short, sweet, and frequent. It’s much better to give the furry friends fifteen minutes together every day than longer periods every few days or on the weekends. 

Step Five: Stay vigilant
Even when things are going well, you should still be present for all encounters for the first few weeks after introducing your pets. Only once you’re 100% confident that everyone is on good terms can you allow unsupervised time together.

Congratulations! Your fur family just got bigger!
With your patience and positivity, the fur babies in your home don’t have to deal with a lifetime of unpleasant encounters or be relegated to separate rooms, forever. And, eventually, you may just catch them taking a fluffy snooze together—that’s the ultimate goal!

If you found this article on introducing dogs and cats helpful, make sure to check in with the BreezeGuard Blog for more pet parenting tips!

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