Introducing cats and dogs.

Many animals get along great after a relatively short introduction. Others require a longer “getting to know you” period, and some just never accept the presence of another pet in the household. The difference lies not only in the individuals but between species. Cats and dogs have a terrible reputation for not getting along, but the truth is they can successfully coexist. 

Many animal pairs actually show signs that they love and even depend on each other. A lasting friendship starts by introducing cats and dogs slowly and with careful consideration.

Worlds Apart

Cats and dogs are incredibly different. The ways they experience the world around them are almost polar opposite. Their differences don’t necessarily preclude kinship, but they cause a wedge between them.

For starters, dogs like to bark. Sometimes just for fun… This can be deeply alarming to cats as they go through life in a quieter way. Dogs also like to chase and even nuzzle their playmates, which cats don’t always enjoy. 

Cats may feel defensive around dogs and behave defensively. We’ve seen more than our fair share of cat scratches and bite wounds on dogs. Alternatively, an affectionate cat may try to “mark” their canine housemate by rubbing their cheeks on them, raising feelings of intrusion or defensiveness in dogs.

Cats and Dogs, Living Together

When introducing cats and dogs, try to look at the situation from their points of view. Never scold or punish them for their own natural reactions to this perceived threat. 

It’s important to note that neither cats nor dogs like to be surprised by a new pet in their household, or rather, their territory. Cats are highly territorial, but dogs can also feel disrupted by a new pet at home. Keeping them separate at first is necessary to the process. This helps reduce stress and allows for your pets to get to know each other without a lot of pressure.

Introducing Cats and Dogs

Apply a small cloth to your cat’s scent glands on the face, and pet them with the cloth in hand. Take the cloth to your dog in another part of the house and allow them to smell the cloth. Give them all sorts of praise and rewards so they can pair your cat’s scent with positive feelings. 

You can also apply a cloth to your dog and offer it to your cat, as well, to jumpstart the introduction without any visuals. Repeat a few times every day before they meet face-to-face.


Reward positive behaviors, ignore unwanted ones, and give lots of praise. Try for a couple of 10-15 minute long “meetings” spaced throughout the day.

Keep your dog leashed and monitor both animals for signs of stress, anxiety, and fear, which probably will be there at first. Try to keep calm when tension appears and offer positive reinforcement for calm and relaxed behaviors.

Good Manners

You may decide to keep your pets separated behind gates or cracked doorways for some time. When both parties demonstrate calmness and acceptance, allow them to hang out together. Both your cat and dog should feel like they have a place they can go for an escape. 

Lifelong Love

Some pets may never quite get to the point you hoped for, and that’s okay. As long as all of your pets feel safe and supported, they will begin to approach tolerance, acceptance, and maybe even love one day.
Please let us know if you have additional questions, or you think either/both of your pets would benefit from a behavioral specialist.