How to Introduce a Cat to a Dog: Our Best Tips

Stay home day #345 leaving you bored when your dog is sleeping? If your quarantine loneliness has officially escalated to the point where you’re considering taking on a cat to ease the isolation, we totally understand (I personally am somehow up 2 cats myself). Here’s how to introduce a cat to a dog without anyone losing their sh*t (or an eyeball).  

1. Train your dog

If you’re thinking of getting your pup a kitty sibling, training is a must. Before bringing a cat into the home, your dog should respond to your redirection and should know how to do a down-stay on command. Practice this until your dog knows this like the inside of the garbage can (and even THEN you still might consider keeping your pup’s leash on in the home during those early weeks). If this step isn’t solid yet, it is not time to bring home a new kitty!

2. Make your space cat-friendly

Preparing your home prior to welcoming a feline friend is essential. You will need to establish a dog-free space that can serve as the cat’s home turf that you can fill with toys, food, the litter box, and soft things your cat can get her scent on as she decompresses. You will also need to create plenty of vertical space throughout your home but especially at choke points where your cat might need a quick exit route. Similarly, think through how to keep the cat out of your dog’s turf, especially away from food and high-value toys or beds.

3. Hide litter boxes from the dog

Ever the connoisseurs, dogs tend to enjoy eating the fine delicacies they find in the litter box. Plan for litter boxes in places your dog will not have access to. Place them purposefully to ensure that your dog is not able to ingest the aforementioned gourmet items or corner your cat in these spaces. Kitties need privacy, okay?

4. Bring your cat home to her sanctuary

In the first phase of your slow intro process, your cat and dog should not see, sniff, nor greet one another. Your feline’s first stop is her personal dog-free zone with all those goodies in it. Here, she should have lots of opportunities for treats, play, and rest so that she feels safe in your home. Bring in soft items that smell like your dog, and after a day or two, bring out a towel, bedding, or t-shirt that smells like the cat for your pup to check out.

Begin feeding your pets on opposite sides of the closed door, gradually moving their bowls closer to one another until they can each eat calmly right beside the door. When your pup is outside, let your cat roam around the rest of the house and acclimate to her new digs. Take as long as you need with this step. Whether this phase takes days or weeks, be patient—you want them to associate good things with one another before they *ever* lock eyes.

5. Introduce your cat and dog

At this point, you can switch your closed-door dining method to a baby gate with a towel over it. Start from wherever your pets are comfortable and again gradually move them toward one another. You can then repeat without the towel so that they can see but still are not greeting one another just yet. If your dog has a negative reaction, have him do a down-stay and give him a treat for listening and chilling the h*ck out.

When it is time for them to meet, clip your cat’s nails, leash your dog (so he’s easier to grab if he acts a fool), and choose a space near neither of their home turfs where your dog can chill on the floor and your cat can get up and away if she needs to. Have loads of cat and dog treats on hand and give ‘em out like Oprah gives out cars. Repeat this activity throughout the day for as many days, weeks, or months as it takes, and don’t leave the kids unsupervised until you are certain they have the skills to be their best selves in your absence.

What other questions do you have about how to introduce a cat to a dog? Let us know in the comments and be sure to tag us at #SidewalkDog in all those pics of interspecies friendships.

Featured photo: Louis-Phillipe Poitras

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