INTRODUCING A DOG TO A CAT:

Every cat/dog dynamic is uniquely different. Even if a dog has successfully lived with a cat in the past, it does not mean they can live with all cats, or even most cats. It just means they lived successfully with one cat. Some dogs can learn to live with cats. For other dogs, it simply isn’t safe for the cat. Every introduction is different because every dog/cat dynamic is different, and every environment is different.

TRY DIFFERENT METHODS:

There are many different ways to introduce a dog to a cat. If the first method of introduction you try doesn’t work or you don’t feel comfortable with it, try a different option. Even if the dog has had experience with cats and the cat has lived with a dog before, proceed cautiously during the introduction. Always have two people present — one to intervene with each animal, if necessary. If you have more than one dog, introduce each dog separately to the cat.
Every introduction method should be slow and thoughtful. ALWAYS use two people. Animals with a good past experience often adjust well to a new pet in the house. But if introductions don’t go well, seek help from a professional dog trainer or behavior consultant. Don’t ever use punishment: it will often make matters much worse.
Use scent transfer as step one, for slow desensitization. See our Introducing a New Cat information for more detail’s information on scent transfer. Once you have desensitized through scent, can then move on to the actual introduction. The dog should always be on a leash as you begin the introduction process. You may decide to use baby gates, doors, strong secure crates, or other methods in order to keep things structured for the animals. Keep in mind the temperament of each animal as you decide what approach may be best.

BODY LANGUAGE:

When introducing your dog to a cat, pay attention to the body language of both animals. Important: Pay attention to your dog’s eyes. How easily are they able to take their eyes off the cat? Many dogs have what we call “prey drive” which is the inclination to seek out, chase and capture any animal they view as prey. Dogs are not malicious in their thought process; it is simply an animal instinct they are born with. They may stiffen, stare intently, bark/whine. If you see these signs and/or your dog is not able to take his/her eyes away from the cat easily, do not allow the dog near the cat. Ideally, you want the dogs body language to be loose and relaxed around the cat. It’s OK if he/she is interested or shows curiosity towards the cat, but you don’t want to see them fixated or focused on the cat.
If the first introduction goes OK, try again. One introduction isn’t enough. This needs to be a slow, deliberate process in which the body language of both animals is being observed over time, in different environments. The reaction each animal has will depend on environment. Inside vs outside. A face to face through a kennel or baby gate vs off leash. In one home vs another. Environment affects behavior. Be aware of the dogs’ body language around the cat in each new situation, until you know how she is going to respond toward him/her.

IMPORTANT FOR KITTENS AND PUPPIES:

Humans are needed to constantly observe and intervene regularly when puppies and kittens are present. Puppies and kittens have no boundaries. They often run the stop signs of adult dogs and cats (just as children do) when can lead to dangerous situations. It is important to note that kittens may not have any fear of dogs, so you must watch the dog constantly. Because kittens are small and want to run and play, many dogs will be triggered into action with that quick bouncy movement. Even if your dog is OK with your adult cats, it is important to watch closely when he/she is with a kitten. If your dog is young and high-energy, she could hurt or kill the kitten simply by trying to play. For this reason, ALWAYS keep kittens and puppies away from adult animals when humans are not able to monitor.
For puppy introductions to adult cats, you again want to manage all interactions. You don’t want your puppy to learn that chasing the cat is a game. Baby gates can be used to keep the animals safely and comfortably apart. To help you keep an eye on your puppy, you can also put them on a leash. That way, if they begin to chase the cat, you will be able to easily direct her away from that behavior.
Dogs are animals of routine (both good routines and not so good). Any unwanted routines need to be stopped immediately and that requires a human to help guide them into a new routine. As pet parents, our animals rely on us for their safety.