It may seem futile, but it is possible to help cats and dogs get along.

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“My cat and dog fight like, well, cats and dogs. The dog always chases the cat, and the cat always claws the dog.”

“My dog and cat live together, each by ignoring the other. I wish they’d be friends.”

“There isn’t a moment of peace at home. My cat and dog are always fighting about one thing or another.”

Although the above statements are fictitious, they are pretty typical of what you might hear when pet owners talk about cats and dogs in the same home. Undoubtedly there can be problems, but are they solvable?

Well, maybe. It definitely is possible for dogs and cats to co-exist peacefully under the same roof. In fact, it’s even possible for them to become good friends. If that’s the case, you may ask, “Why are there often problems? Why do cats and dogs become enemies or at best ignore each other?” The answer to that question depends mostly on your approach to introducing the animals to each other.

The Ideal Situation:

In an ideal scenario, one would get a puppy and a kitten at the same time. They’re both new to the living arrangements, which means that there is less of a chance for resentment from either of them. When introducing an animal into a home where a cat or dog already resides, it often becomes a matter of territory and defending that territory.

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However, that’s not a reality for most of us, as most people looking to introduce a cat to a dog, or vice versa, already have one or the other at home!

What To Do When It’s Not An Ideal Situation:

The first thing to remember is:
Do not to bring a new animal home and simply plop it down in front of the one that already lives there. That’s asking for trouble.

So what do you do to overcome the problem? It’s the old cliché: “slow and steady wins the race”.

  1. Separate the two animals.

    Initially, separate the two animals. Allow the resident pet the run of the house. For a few days keep the new member of the family isolated in a closed room. However, do not ignore either of them. This is a time that each pet needs to be reassured that you care about them, that they’re important to you. Take the time to play with each of your pets and show them some love.

  2. Let them be curious.

    Certainly, each is going to be aware of the other—through their scents and the sounds they make. Most likely, they will be curious about each other. They’ll spend time on either side of the door sniffing and sometimes growling, with the cat hissing and the dog barking. Rest assured, that is normal behavior and hopefully will not last long.

  3. Wait for appropriate behavior.

    When the behavior is neutral, or when the two appear to be only curious about the other, give them treats and extra attention to show that you approve. You can also exchange blankets between the dog and cat so that they become more used to each other’s scent.

  4. Prepare for a face-to-face introduction.

    The first time or two you might want to do this through a child-proof or pet-proof gate, placed just behind the door to the isolated animal’s room. That way the cat and dog can see each other and become more used to each other without actually being able to make physical contact. If either becomes too aggressive, separate them and wait a day or two before you try again. Keep trying until they no longer interact aggressively through the barrier.

  5. Get ready for an interaction without barriers.

    Now comes the trickiest part—letting them meet with no barriers between them. Will such a meeting be successful? This depends a lot on the temperament of each and on how territorial the resident animal is.

    Important note for this step: If things don’t go well, intervene quickly without showing disapproval. (Remember that this is a stressful situation for your animals and that they may try to scratch or bite, so be careful.) Separate the two animals by putting the new one back into their room.

  6. Try, try, and try again.

    Try an interaction without barriers again the next day and keep it up until the two show curiosity without aggression.

    – If the cat runs and hides when you place the two together, that’s fairly typical. Don’t try to force him or her to come back. Let the cat hide until it’s ready to come out again.

    – Dogs, especially puppies, like to chase cats. That’s a given. If this happens, gently let the dog know that this is not proper behavior. Don’t scold. Rather, gently separate the dog from the cat. Most often the two will eventually learn to accept each other and become friends (or even bosom buddies!).

Things To Consider When Introducing Dogs And Cats:

  • Breed of the dog
    • Some breeds are much more excitable than others. Make sure your dog is calm enough to overcome unwanted behavior.
  • Dog training
    • Whether you train your dog yourself or enroll them in obedience classes, it is helpful to have a well-trained dog. That way, if they seem to be getting aggressive with their new fur family member, they will recognize commands such as “sit” or “stay.”

What To Do After They Accept Each Other:

  • Separate their feeding areas.
    • They should learn to differentiate between what is theirs and what isn’t, while also learning not to bother each other while they’re eating.
    • Do this even if they usually get along, it can be stressful for an animal if they can’t eat in peace.
    • It’s better to place the cat’s food at a higher level, on a piece of furniture perhaps, or on the lid of a washer or dryer.
  • Place the litter box in a place that isn’t tempting for the dog.
    • Dogs are often fascinated with litter boxes and want to play with its contents (often times to the owner’s dismay).
  • Separate them when they’re unsupervised.
    • Often, especially if the dog and cat are relatively new to each other, it’s better to separate them when you’re going to be gone for a period of time (ex: grocery shopping or a night out).
    • They may get along okay when you’re gone, but they may also decide that since the family’s away “the mice will play,” so to speak. It’s a “better safe than sorry” sort of situation, at least until you’re sure they can get along without supervision.

The task of introducing a dog and a cat to each other takes time and patience in order to be done properly. It may seem like it’s taking longer than it should (or longer than you want it to) for them to peacefully co-exist, but consider how long it takes for humans. We rarely, if ever, become best friends upon meeting someone for the first time…or even second or third. More often than not, you’ll discover that the end result was well worth your time and effort, as your feline and canine shatter social stereotypes and become best buds!

Click here to learn more about how to help cats and dogs get along!

Remember: All data, information, and advice reflect the views of the authors alone and in no way reflect those of Everything is provided on an as-is basis and every situation is different. Always consult a veterinarian with health-related questions.