Introducing dogs and other pets

Watch our short video to learn how to introduce your cat to your dog.

Gradual introductions

By taking your time to introduce your cat to other pets you can improve their chances of getting on well. It's much easier to manage a controlled introduction than it is to repair a damaged relationship. Don't be tempted to let your pets manage their own introduction. While cats may struggle to get along with other cats, they can often find it easier to share your home with a different species.

How to introduce your cat to your dog (or other pet)

Gradual introductions are the best way to help your cat and dog (or other pet) get along.

While cats and dogs are often portrayed as natural enemies, the reality is that it's usually easier introducing a cat to a dog than to another cat.

It helps if your cat and dog have had previous positive experiences of the other species when they were young.

Start by giving your cat a room that is not accessible to your dog.

By introducing your pets to each other's scent, you can improve their chances of getting along when they first meet.

Swapping scents is easy:

  • stroke each pet with a separate clean, soft cloth and dabbing it around your home and furniture or leaving the cloth in the cat's environment for them to sniff and investigate
  • repeat the process until your pets show no reaction to the smell
  • if your pets avoid the smell, the scent swapping stage is going to take longer

Cats and dogs - making the introduction

After going through the scent-swapping process mentioned above, you should be ready to make the first face-to-face introduction:

  • keep your dog on the lead and keep them calm - it may help to take your dog for a vigorous walk first
  • train your dog to show relaxed, non-threatening behaviour around the cat, such as 'down' and 'stay' and ensure you are in control at all times. For more information on positive, reward-based dog training, contact the Association of Pet Dog Trainers
  • ensure your cat doesn't feel cornered. Your cat should have a safe escape route or a high ledge where the dog can't reach them. Close external doors and windows to avoid the cat bolting
  • ignore the cat. Your dog will feel that the cat is more important if you focus on it. Do some training tasks with your dog to keep their attention, using treats and praise to reward their good behaviour
  • never restrain your cat or force them to approach the dog. Let the cat leave the room whenever they wish
  • don't allow your dog to chase your cat. Praise and treat your dog if they remain calm and then return the cat back to their own room
  • repeat short introductions until the dog shows little or no interest and the cat is not fearful of the dog. Progress to the dog being on a long line which can be picked up if necessary
  • give your cat treats so they associate the dog with something positive

Once your cat and dog are unconcerned by each other's presence you can take your dog off the lead, but make sure your cat can still escape to a high ledge or furniture. Never leave the dog and cat unattended until you are absolutely sure that they are happy and secure in each other's company.

Remember that cat food and litter trays can be appealing for dogs, so make sure they are out of reach to allow your cat to eat and toilet in peace.