How to help your cat and dog get along

Posted by Argos, 20 May 2019, last updated 15 September 2020.

Thinking about adding a new furry friend to the family? Despite what people may tell you, adding a cat to your dog household or vice versa is not the end of the world. As long as you give yourself the time to blend your new family slowly, there’s hope that your first-born pet will have a new best friend. Unfortunately, there’s no overnight answer to a happy home for your growing family regardless of if you went out searching for cat-friendly dogs.

Inter-species relationships can be complex. When it comes to cats and dogs living together, it’s important to keep your expectations realistic.

Before you start preparing your pets to meet, you should consider their age and know their history. If one of your pets faced any trauma in their past or had negative experiences with the opposing species prior, it’s important to keep that in mind. In regards to their age, some pet owners find it easy to integrate a puppy rather than an older dog but it is all situational. If done correctly, your dog and cat can get along and become great companions.

Starting at square one

Whether you just welcomed in a new cat or dog, or you’re struggling to get them to be cordial, starting with them separated from each other is important. If you happen to be introducing a new cat to your dog, keep them apart from one another. Keep their litter box, food, and toys in a space in your house the dog can’t access so they both get used to the new smells in your home.

For animals that have already been introduced, separating them for a few days may be beneficial in resetting the clock on their relationship. Having their own space can eliminate any animosity or stress held between your cat and dog; think of it as hitting the refresh button before reintegration.

Introducing smells

We’re not saying that having two animals in the house will produce a smell you’ll notice but your cat and dog do have sensitive noses. They notice changes to their surroundings and smell becomes a large part of their comfortability. When you’re introducing a cat to a dog, it’s all about baby steps. Try swapping something they each sleep with, like a blanket, after a few days. This way they can get familiar with the new scents. Combing them with the same brush is also an option that works! The goal here is to familiarise your two pets to each other’s scents so their first meeting is as calm as possible.

Dog laying down and behaving well

Train your dog

No one is expecting them to be ready for a dog show, but having your dog understand basic commands like “sit”, “come”, and “heel” can help you to control their first meeting. Regardless of what the best dogs for cats are, as long as your dog has had some basic training, you’re off to a great start.

The biggest problem when introducing cats and dogs is that some dogs love to chase cats. It’s natural for dogs to have a strong and playful chasing nature, one that often intimidates cats that are easily frightened. Owning a trained dog can neutralise situations like this. On the other hand, cats are sometimes renowned for being slightly cold-natured or a little aggressive; dogs don’t always know how to react to this type of behaviour. Even if your cat is super-friendly, your dog may still be very curious about them.

Chances are that your dog is more predictable than your cat. If your dog is bigger than your cat, it is good to focus your attention on them in a peaceful matter, ultimately setting the tone for both animals.

How to prepare for your cat and dog introduction

Before introducing your cat and dog to each other, make sure to leave vertical space for your cat to escape to. Whether that means getting a cat tree or preparing an easily accessed exit from the room;  a short meeting is better than a negative one.

When you ask yourself how to introduce a puppy to a cat, you should firstly figure out how to make the experience as easy as possible. This means letting your dog have their daily exercise beforehand. Tiring your pup out with a long walk before they are introduced to your cat limits the room for error with each meeting. Dogs are naturally playful and cats can be sensitive, so having them both in happy, well-exercised, but calm states is your best bet.

If you own a boisterous or hyper-active dog, you should put your dog on their lead during the meeting so that you can easily control them. This takes some stress off your back knowing they can’t get out of reach.

Black and white cat on a high-up scratching post

The first meeting

Creating supervised introduction sessions that are short and end on a positive note are key when introducing a dog to a cat. During the first meeting, there shouldn’t be any active engagement. Allow your pets to observe each other from a distance, but avoid tension the best you can. It’s probably easiest to distract your dog. Whether by playing with your dog or bringing pet-friendly treats into the mix, keep them distracted and focus on your cat’s reaction to them.

It is important to end this meeting on a high to set the tone going forward. You don’t want to overwhelm your pets, so keep the first session short and positive; this will make the whole process easier.

Going forward

For the few days following your first supervised introduction, gradually let your dog and cat get closer until they are comfortable around each other. Reading their body language will help you grasp when they are ready to mingle. However, it’s still a good idea to keep your cat’s food out of reach from the dog. Establishing boundaries is healthy for all of us, why stop when it comes to our pets?

Cat and dog being loving towards each other

So, there you have it, our top tips for helping your dog and cat get along. Remember to:

  • Take their personality into account
  • Introduce their scents to each other gradually
  • Train your dog, play with them before and during the meeting or keep them on a dog lead if needed
  • Introduce a cat tree or a safe place for your cat to escape to
  • Keep their food and toys separate
  • Gradually let them get closer to each other until they are comfortable

Introducing a cat to a dog doesn’t have to be stressful or daunting if your expectations are realistic and you go slowly. Whether you’re thinking about introducing a new animal into the family or you’ve just done so and are overwhelmed, having a happy house is possible!

Always consult with your vet or a pet behaviourist if you have any concerns about your cat and dog getting along.

Keep both your cat and dog happy by following our tips to help them get along. It’s important to protect your pets with Argos Pet Insurance provided by Pinnacle Insurance plc. Explore our pet insurance policies today.

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