Introducing a Cat to Your Dog

Introducing a cat into your dog family is similar to introducing a new dog, but specific actions must be taken to ensure that neither the dog or the cat is injured in the process.  First, decide if your household is a candidate for a cat.  If you have dogs such as greyhounds or other sight hounds with a high prey drive, a cat may not be for you.  These types of dogs tend to be hard wired to attack anything that runs from them without stopping to think about whether they know it or not.  Introducing a cat into this family comes with a high risk of injury to the cat, unless the dogs were raised from puppyhood with a cat.

If, however, you have decided to introduce your dogs to a cat, there are some things you can do to make sure the cat and the dog do not get injured and can coexist peacefully.  It is important to initially confine your cat to one room with her food, water, and litter box in it.  Make sure the dog cannot enter this room when you are not around.  When you are working to introduce the dog and cat, use a baby gate to block the dog from entering the cat’s room.

Pick a few treats that your dog would do anything for.  Bits of cheese and meat are popular choices.  Cut the treats into small pieces.  Find a treat your cat will do anything for.  Tuna is a popular choice here.  Again, cut it into small pieces.

Put your dog on leash and leave the door to the cat’s room open.  Walk the dog past the cat’s room and give him a treat as you pass the baby gate.  Throw a treat into the room for the cat, as well.  Do this several times a day for several days.  What you are doing is associating the cat with treats in the dog’s mind, and associating the dog with treats in the cat’s mind.

When the cat seems comfortable with you walking the dog by her room, you can progress to the next step.  Take the cat into the living room or other large room and let the dog in the same room.  The dog should be on a loose leash.  If the dog starts to chase the cat, follow too close, or otherwise annoys the cat, call the dog to you and give him a special treat.  If your dog knows the “leave it” command, you can tell him to “leave it” when the dog gets too near the cat.

Always leave the cat loose during this process.  Do not try to hold the cat or keep her confined into a carrier or small part of the room.  The cat should have the option of leaving or jumping up out of the dog’s reach at all times.

Never leave a dog and cat together unsupervised until you are sure that they will play nicely.  It is a good idea to leave a baby gate across the room that contains the cat’s food, water, and litter box.  This allows the cat to escape the dog at any time by simply jumping the baby gate and entering “her” room.  It also keeps your dog from getting into the cat’s litter box.