Teaching A Dog And A Cat To Live Together

So you want to introduce a new dog to your cat. Or your new cat to your dog.

And you want me to tell you how to do it safely without anyone getting hurt. Right?

OK, listen up. After you read the next line, you will want to stop reading and look for another article. Whatever you do, read on and you wouldn’t regret it. Here it goes:

‘There is no safe way to introduce an adult dog to a cat”.

Yes, Now I know that there are lots of articles on the web that will tell you otherwise. I also know that you probably heart of people who have dogs and cats living together safely – even being best mates perhaps. And that’s great…

But I have also met many people who have had a dog and a cat living together for years as best mates… until one day, suddenly, for no reason the dog attacks the cat and… you can guess the rest.

You see, dogs have a ‘chasing reflex’. They are programmed to chase a small furry object – like a cat. So a dog can live happily with a cat for years. And then one day for some reason the cat decides to run. In that situation the dog can’t help himself. He could be the most obedient, gentlest dog in the world but when the cat runs – the dog will chase. And then the dog will bite.

So what I am going to tell you is how to minimise the risk of introducing a dog to a cat:

  • If possible, the best way is to make an introduction at young age. If you want to one day own a dog and a cat – plan ahead and get a puppy and a kitten. In my experience introducing them at young age is most likely to work.
  • If you are looking for a dog – try to find one with prior ‘cat experience’. This is just building on point 1. If you can’t introduce them as youngsters, look for a dog that has lived with cats before. Your local dog shelter is very likely to have one (or few) and as a bonus, you get to save a stray dog.
  • Slow start is a must. Once again, the trigger is the sight of a cat running. Once the cat sees the dog and runs, it’s very hard to get that image out of the dog’s mind. So don’t let that happen.
  • First, introduce the scent. Bring cat’s objects to the dog and dog’s objects to the cat. Let them get used to the scent.
  • ‘Across the closed door’ experience. This is where the cat and a dog are separated by the closed door. Get them used to the sound of the other animal. Feed them on either side of the closed door. This is also a good first test. If the dog barks constantly or tries to dig to the cat, maybe this duo is not going to work out.
  • Introduce in a cat cage. For the first introduction, the cat is in a sturdy cat cage and off the ground (to minimize stress to the cat). You want to dog to sniff carefully and then lost interest. That’s a good sign.
  • Introduction under supervision. This is done with the dog on the lead. Hopefully there will be some sniffing and then loss of interest.
  • Longer term. What you need is long term supervision. I would say – permanent supervision. As in, it is never really safe to leave a cat and a dog alone together. I know that not everyone does it but all I can do is warn.

I don’t mean to frighten you and many families I know do have a dog and a cat living happily together. So good luck and hope it all works out.

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About Dr Vadim Chelom

Dr Vadim Chelom is a Registered Veterinarian, a writer and an educator

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