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Making Friends: Introducing Cats and Dogs

Pet Care Tips 5 min read
Making Friends: Introducing Cats and Dogs

We all know the saying “they fight like cats and dogs,” but that doesn’t have to be the reality.  If introduced properly, your cats and dogs are more likely to get along. That being said, some cat and dog breeds get along better than others. Some dog breeds are also hardwired to see cats as something to go after, so consider the background of your breed when choosing to add a new fur baby to your family. When selecting a new pet, consider getting one that has a similar temperament as your existing pet.  This will help to reduce added irritation from clashing personalities. Another way to integrate the two easier is to get a pet that has already been exposed to the other species and handled it well.

As with introducing cats to each other, the general rules of thumb remain the same, although the process differs.

General rules of thumb:

  1. Do it gradually.
  2. Make a proper introduction, but allow them to determine the pace.
  3. Allow them to establish their own hierarchy – it is only natural, although you may need to play referee at times.

Cats and dogs have quite different personalities and have different ideas as to what an introduction is. Puppies, kittens, and elder pets also feel differently and have different energy levels; while one may be excited to have a new playmate or someone to cuddle up to, the other might not feel the same. With these introductions, slow and steady is usually best.

Here are some easy steps to help you have a successful introduction for your cat and dog.

Step 1: Initial Separation.

This may sound counter-intuitive when we’re talking about introducing two pets, but giving each pet—especially a new pet—their initial space will help the process tremendously. This way, the new pet has a chance to get introduced to their new environment and other pets slowly. This will lessen the amount of “fear” pheromones they put out.

For new pets, start them off in a smaller space.

For new pets, start them off in a smaller space. Put the new pet in a separate room and close the door. Ensure to give them access to a litter box or pee pad, food and water, a hiding place or bed, and plenty of love and affection.

Give your existing pet NHV Matricalm for 1-2 weeks before the introduction to lessen the stress. The Matricalm is a natural supplement that will help calm aggression and agitation. With your new pet, gently squirt the Matricalm into their mouths (preferably the cheek pocket) twice daily. Continue with the Matricalm for both pets for 3 weeks after the introduction. NHV Matricalm is safe for puppies and kittens as well as adult animals.

Step 2: Scent Swapping.

Once your new fur baby has had time to adjust, begin “scent swapping.” Scent swapping works by bringing an article that your resident pet often uses (like a blanket or toy) and placing it near the new pet’s food dish and vice versa. This will allow both of them to get used to eating with the other pet’s scent.

Watch both your dog and cat’s respective body languages. Do tails look happy, or are they up and flared or held close to the body or between the legs? Is there hissing or growling? If not, you can now move on to the next step of scent swapping.

Step 3: Getting Personal.

Take a cloth or small towel and gently rub one animal around the cheek area, then take the cloth or towel and pet the other animal in the same way.

This will help them get used to the scent in a friendly manner.

Step 4: Eating Together (Well…Almost).

The next step is to place a food dish somewhat near (but not too close) to each side of the door. This allows your pets to feel comfortable eating without feeling threatened. They sense another animal’s presence, but there is no threat.

Gradually move the food dishes closer to the door so that they are more in each other’s presence but still separated.  In addition to this, you can try switching their designated areas as well. Try putting your original pet in the room while letting the new pet roam around. This will allow them to get used to being in the same space with the other’s scent and get used to the environment on a grander scale.

Once you can accomplish these steps without the dog pawing, barking, or growling at the door/separator between them, you can attempt the next step.

Step 5: Controlled Introduction.

You have a couple of option here:

  • Option 1: Start off by propping open the door so that they can see and smell each other but cannot get through.
  • Option 2: Go straight to using a leash for the pup. When using the leash, ensure that the meeting space is large enough that the cat can retreat if it feels threatened. If any aggression occurs, make a loud noise or toss something on the floor (like keys) to distract their attention and hopefully end the potential fight.  If that does not work, you may need to split them up and try again later. Continue with this introduction until both parties are calm and can ignore each other, eat, and normally use the litter box.

Don’t forget to look at your own energy at this point. Are you anxious or stressed? Before doing the face-to-face introduction, make sure you are calm and happy. You don’t want your dog or cat to pick up on your stress and assume that the new pet is the cause.

Step 6: No Strings Attached.

Once you have reached the stage that they are comfortable in each other’s presence, you can try allowing them in the same space without any restraints. Remember to make sure that your kitty has a place to retreat so that the dog cannot get in if it feels scared or threatened. Also, ensure that the feeding areas are separated to ensure that your pooch does not devour your kitty’s food – after all, we all know that what the other guy is eating always looks better!

Keep in mind that some playful chasing or wrestling can occur and is normal.  If either pet seems distressed or irritated, break up the session.  You may also need to train your dog to be gentle with the kitty if they are a larger breed, as they often do not realize their own strength and size.  Some dogs also take a little longer than others to realize that the cat is actually the boss and may encounter a swipe or two before getting the hint.  Determination of hierarchy and establishing the pecking order between themselves is a natural process of living together.

Additional tips:

For the first little while it is best not to leave them alone together when you are not around, instead, place them in separate areas until you are confident they will behave when unsupervised.

To help make training easier, use an all-natural healthy treat like My Little Lion for cats and My Little Wolf for dogs. Feel free to contact our veterinarian, Dr. Amanda, if you have any questions regarding your pet health.

NHV Pet Experts

NHV Pet Experts

We have a dedicated group of pet expert professionals, including veterinarians, vet techs, and other pet professionals to guide you through any questions. We’re committed to your pet’s wellness and can offer additional tips, resources, nutritional advice, and more.

Published: July 19, 2016

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