Making friends: when your dog meets your cat

Are you a dog person or a cat person? It’s a point of contention for some people who think you have to choose. The idea that cats and dogs can’t get along is an outdated concept. Spend more than a few minutes on social media and you’ll find a sweet story about a dog and cat that grew up together or an old dog caring for a kitten.

Challenges are going to come with integrating any two pets. Dogs and cats are two very different species. Getting a dog and cat to get along is possible with the right planning and patience. Remember these tips and pieces of advice when it’s time for your dog to meet your cat.

Introducing your cat and dog to each other

In general, cats can be very territorial. When they feel their territory is threatened, they can become defensive and confrontational. If your cat was there first, it’s crucial your pets meet on neutral ground. You want both pets to be at ease and comfortable when they meet. 

This means, at first, keep your dog away from areas where your cat:

  • Sleeps
  • Hides
  • Eats 

These are safe areas your feline can escape to when stressed. Bringing another animal into those spaces can trigger a confrontational response. Obedience training can also go a long way to making their first meeting go well. Teaching your dog some basic training vocabulary is a good way to get ready for meeting the cat. 

Keep them separate at first

It’s exciting to think about your pets being buddies. And many of us may try to rush that before they’re ready. Keep your pets in separate areas at first. As time passes, they will smell the other pet in the house, on you, and hear them in the other areas of the house. 

Scent swapping tricks to try

  • Rub a towel on your cat and leave it out for the dog to smell
  • Wear the same clothes when you’re spending separate time with both pets
  • Let your cat smell the dog’s toys 

This allows them to transition into cohabitating more slowly.

One trick that many people use is letting their animals smell each other before they see each other. You can have them on opposite sides of a closed door or separated by a baby gate. They can start to acclimate to each other’s scent before they’re face-to-face. 

Be ready to abort the cat dog meetup

When you do introduce your pets keep your dog leashed and don’t force your cat into interacting. If the cat wants to run away and hide, let them. The same goes for if your dog want to retreat to their crate or separate room. Be patient and remember the next time will go smoother.

Everyone needs their own space

Make sure you give both pets their space. Cats will often find high places to hide or sleep. Make sure your dog doesn’t have access to those areas and vice versa. Both animals may need a place to retreat to.   

Supervised interactions only 

For the first couple of weeks of getting a new pet, you should only allow interactions when you’re there to supervise. This protects both pets from harm. Eventually, you can transition to giving them more distance and independence together. Once they’ve shown a solid track record of getting along, you can start to step away more often. 

Keep it cool and calm

If your dog is being aggressive to the cat, distract them. If they’re being friendly to the cat, reward them. Scolding your dog whenever they’re interacting with the cat can create a bad association. 

Remember that age matters too

Kittens and puppies will often adjust to changes like new pets easier than older animals. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to cohabitate with older pets, just more challenging sometimes. Even the most well-adjusted older cat may get annoyed at the energy of a puppy.

Cats and dogs can be friends

It may take two days or two weeks, but cats and dogs can get along. You may have to settle for pets that cohabitate peacefully rather than being best friends. But, just because they may not cuddle together for an Instagram story doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. The personality of your pets is going to play a big role in how they get along.

Want more reading about pet life?

H2H Canine Orphanage

Home 2 Home is a non-profit canine orphanage revolutionizing the way dogs find their perfect homes. We consider ourselves an orphanage versus a traditional shelter because we provide needs-based care. We also have licensed trainers on staff, veterinary care, flowing water, and always-available beds. Their better life starts when we get them, but their best life is after they’re adopted to their forever home. Learn more about us and our story.

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