The experts on how to introduce a dog to a cat would be dog behaviorists who work at a rescue or animal shelter. They can judge whether a dog will be aggressive or friendly with a cat.
Dog trainers or experts on dog breeds would also be good at determining the best method of a dog and cat introduction based on the dog’s temperament.
The last type of “expert” on how to introduce a dog and a cat, would be someone who owns cats but also boards dogs.
Best way how to introduce a dog and a cat
I have my own dog walking and pet sitting business and I own a dog and 2 cats. Besides offering dog walking and pet sitting, I also offer boarding in my home. To date, I have boarded over 30 dogs and have tested out an additional dozen or so dogs.
The last thing that I want is to have a dog attack one of my cats. There is no amount of money from boarding dogs that is worth risking my cats’ lives. As a result, I need to test out every dog that I board.
Disclaimer: I am not a dog behaviorist. If you have any doubts, do not attempt introducing a dog to a cat. All that I am providing is my method and my suggestions. I know what I am doing but you have to assume the risk on your end.
My procedure on how to introduce a dog to my cats
I know that my cats are good with dogs because they are fine with my dog. But their lack of fear can be an issue because they do not know to be afraid of dogs.
Having my dog helps as well. There is no way a dog is going to be fine with a cat if they are aggressive towards other dogs. If they are fine with my dog, then I bring them in to meet the cats.
Note: my steps for introducing a dog to a cat vary greatly from almost every other article on the topic. Almost everyone else suggests separating the animals and to go slow over a number of days. I agree that is the best way – slow and steady.
I don’t have that luxury. I bring dogs in and right away test them out. That is not the best method but I have no choice. If you can, slowly bring the animals closer to each other over hours or even days.
Gather information before you introduce a dog to a cat
I ask potential boarding clients a few questions before testing the dog with my cats. You want to have answers to these questions as well. Here are the things I want to know:
- Is your dog aggressive towards other animals? If they are aggressive towards other animals, then you do not want to attempt that introduction. By the way, shy dogs are usually fine with cats from my experience.
- What breed is your dog? Is he a small or large dog? You don’t have to worry about small breed dogs (most of the time). They can’t do much harm given their size, especially if your cats still have their claws.
- Has your dog ever been around cats? If so, how did he or she react? Sometimes people have already introduced their dog to a cat with no incidents.
So you want to know as much as you can about the dogs’ overall temperament. Based on the answers, you’ll have a good idea how to proceed, if at all
Assume the worst and protect the cat
No one wants a dead or injured kitty, so make sure to keep the dog on a short leash. If you have a large home with many rooms, then put the cat in a room at first. See the section below on how to introduce a cat to a puppy.
Follow these steps for a safe introduction:
- Put the dog on a short leash. Do not allow any slack in the leash.
- Make sure that the dog can not slip out of its collar or harness.
- Make sure the person who is holding the leash is relaxed. Dogs can sense fear and nervousness which makes them anxious as well.
- Have lots of treats. Reward the dog if he is doing great with the introduction to the cat.
- Bring the dog into the house and let him sniff the place.
- Let the dog eventually approach the cat, and this is the important part, ahead of you and with both of your hands on a taut leash. That position will allow you the greatest power to pull the dog back towards you. You will not be as quick if the leash is slack.
- If the dog shows any sign of aggression, pull the dog away immediately!
That is what I do, and there have been times where a dog I am testing has lunged towards one of my cats. For me, that means I can not board your dog – the testing is over.
But you’d be surprised how many dogs are good with cats. A lot of dogs either avoid my cats or want to sniff them. After a while, the dogs just ignore them altogether. Hopefully, you have the same experience.
Now keep in mind that I am only testing out dogs whose owners believe that their dogs are good with cats. I have no idea how many people never even contacted me once they read on my website that I have cats.
Additional steps that I recommend
I am nervous every time I go through this process. If you are attempting introducing a dog to a cat for the first time, then you will be very nervous as well. Here are some other safeguards to make the situation better for everyone involved.
- Do you have a room with glass doors? My backroom has two doors with glass panels. If you have something similar, then put your cat behind those doors. You can bring the dog up to the glass and see how he reacts. If the dog becomes aggressive, then at least the cat is safe.
- If you do not have glass-paneled doors to separate the felines from the canines, then put your kitty in a cat carrier. Bring the dog up to the carrier and see what happens. Once again, your cat is safe if the dog becomes aggressive.
- You need someone to help you. Have someone sit forward on a couch while holding your cat. Then repeat the process above where you introduce the dog to the cat on a short taut leash. But this way, both “handlers” can separate the two. The person with the leash should pull the dog towards them, while the person holding the cat can also move back and away. It would help if you have a harness on the cat.
Either one of those methods will work to protect the cat if the situation turns bad.
How to introduce a hyper dog or puppy to a cat or kitten
That is four different scenarios: hyper dog, puppy, cat, and kitten. Though a puppy by definition is a hyper dog. Most cats will know to be wary, but kittens are totally innocent and may not sense any danger.
A hyper dog could be an untrained dog or a young dog that is a sporting, herding or working breed. You are taking chances with a straight-up hyper untrained dog.
You just don’t know what they will do. If this is your situation, then add all the tricks above into your introduction, plus any other safety ideas you come up with.
I boarded, or have brought into my house, a number of sporting breed dogs and they have done well: Golden Retrievers and Yellow labs, Golden Doodle, Boykin Spaniel, and others.
I’ve had success with Boxers and a Giant Schnauzer from the sporting group, and from various herding group breeds. Herding dogs will want to “herd” the cat but they should not do any harm.
Then there are the puppies! Love them, but they are difficult to control. They are untrained AND hyper. Expect problems with them.
Treats are a great way to let them know that leaving the cats alone will get them lots of goodies to eat. Just follow the steps above and you should be fine.
How to introduce a cat to a puppy or dog
A lot of the steps on how to introduce a dog to a cat applies if you have a dog or puppy and are thinking of adopting a cat. Just keep the safety of the cat as a priority.
The big difference is that cats are not good with moving. And if you just brought them from the shelter to your home, then they are already on edge.
Depending upon your living situations, try to do the following:
- Initially, put the cat in a separate room with their litter and food.
- Make a point of going back and forth petting your dog and then your cat. Try to get each to sniff your hand to get used to the scent of the other animal.
- Then bring the dog to the door where the cat is to sniff. Try to have someone in the room to encourage the cat to approach the door and do the same.
- Switch it up by putting the dog in a room and let the cat wander through your place to get a good smell of everything.
- You can also try feeding them both at the door where the cat or dog is being kept.
If everything seems fine, then do the introductions as explained above.
Do all you can to protect the cat. A dog can easily kill a cat even if the dog is only playing.
Also, DON’T rush the process. Realize that this may take many days to make sure that the two get along. If you rush the introduction, then a negative first meeting will make the entire process difficult to impossible.
The American Humane Society has a lot of good articles on introducing a cat to a dog, a dog to a cat, and other such combinations.
Check out my Links page for resources on adopting a dog or cat. I also wrote an article Boarding a Dog for the First Time. There is a section towards the bottom for pet sitters. But this will apply to you if you are watching someone’s dog.
Good luck and keep the dogs and cats safe!