How to Introduce a Dog to a Cat

By Susan Paretts

First impressions are everything, especially when it comes to introducing dogs and cats. If you're adding a new feline family member to your household, you want to keep the introduction to your resident canine as calm and pleasant as possible for both animals. While it may take a little time, as long as your pooch is properly trained to behave during the meeting and you positively reinforce calm behavior, the introduction should go smoothly.

Preparing the Dog

Train your pooch in basic obedience or brush up on his training before he meets his new feline companion. Teach your pup to "Sit," "Stay" and "Leave it." You want your pup to stay as calm and still as possible during the meeting, which is what the "Sit" and "Stay" commands will do. The "Leave it" command stops your dog from chasing the cat during the meeting. Just prior to the introduction, you'll also want to exercise your dog with a vigorous run or play session. This way, he'll be tired and less likely to annoy the cat or try to chase her.

Preparing the Cat

Get your cat used to being in a crate so that you can use it during the initial meeting with your dog. Once she's crated, give her treats to reinforce the experience as positive. Allow your cat to smell some of your dog's toys or bedding so she's used to his scent during the meeting. Treat her in the presence of his things to associate the scent with good things. Prior to her meeting with your dog, try feeding each pet on either side of a closed door. This will help associate the scent and sound of the other with a pleasant experience.

The Initial Introduction

Crate your kitty and place the crate on a table so that it's out of your pup's direct reach. Leash your dog and bring him into the room with the cat. Command your dog to "Sit" in the presence of the cat. When everyone is calm, with no hissing, lip-licking, growling, barking or lunging, give both your dog and your cat treats. This will help to associate the presence of the other with good things. Calmly praise the animals for calm, nonaggressive behavior. If everyone stays calm, slowly let your cat out of her crate, allowing her to stay as far away from your dog as she wants. Continue to reward and treat each animal when they behave calmly.

Dealing with Aggression

If your pup tries to lunge at the cat during the initial meeting, command him to "Leave it" and "Sit." If the aggressive behavior continues, keep the cat in the crate and calmly lead him out of the room on the leash. Try the introduction on another day. Only reward the cat and dog when they don't exhibit any aggression toward each other.

Getting Acclimated

Slowly allow the cat and dog to acclimate to each other over a period of a few weeks. While you can use the leash to control your dog during meetings if he exhibits any aggressive behavior, try to avoid using leash corrections and scolding. Instead, control him with voice commands so that you don't create negative associations with the presence of the cat. Give your kitty a few spots, such as cat perches, that she can access if she feels threatened by your pup where he can't get to her. Eventually, you can let your dog off his leash in the presence of the kitty. Always separate the dog and cat when you aren't around to supervise them.