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How to Introduce a Kitty to Your Dog Household
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How to Introduce a Kitty to Your Dog Household

Critter Culture Staff
Updated Jun 13, 2022

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"Getting along like dogs and cats" is not a compliment, and there are many good reasons why. Both cats and dogs can be very territorial, and they often clash over space, food, and your attention. While dogs can be gregarious and downright pushy sometimes, cats have a definite tendency toward personal space and sunbeam-related naps.

The very different personalities typical of these animals can make introducing a new kitty to a dog household somewhat challenging. However, it isn't impossible, and dogs and cats raised together usually get along well enough. If you have a dog and want to bring a cat into the home, things can get tricky fast. You may have to go through some steps to ensure a smooth transition.

1

Pick the right pets

person looking at a cat in a shelter Svetlanais / Getty Images

Getting your pets to live peacefully together starts with getting the right pets. Before committing to a new cat, try to get a feel for its personality. Are they jittery and tense? Do they have experience around dogs? Are they territorial? Some kitties will never be good pup companions, while others will probably adjust to their new situation quickly. While you can't be 100% certain in advance, try to screen for calm, easygoing cats.

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2

Create a dog-free space in your home

Young white cat sitting on the cat tower against lace curtains. kyoshino / Getty Images

No matter how chill your new cat is, they'll need a little time away from your doggo. Before bringing your new kitty home, create a canine-free space they can retreat to when needed. This can be a room your dog isn't allowed into, or it can be elevated cat platforms mounted to the wall. Installing a convenient retreat helps reduce tension and limits the fighting, especially at first.

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3

Plan to keep them separated at first

Ginger tabby cat and golden retriever sitting at dining table Janie Airey / Getty Images

It takes time for cats and dogs to accept each other. Remember that both animals are going to be somewhat defensive about "their" territory. If you have the space, think about setting up a barrier that will let your cat have one side of your house while the pup can roam freely on the other side. Plan to restrict your dog's movements since cats can usually make it through whatever you set up.

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4

Introduce your pets by scent

Smiling woman on sofa reaching out to cat Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Cats and dogs live in a world of odors, and their first impression of each other will be through scent. The day you bring kitty home, put your dog in a room with the door closed and let the cat walk around and get a sniff of the furniture. After an hour or so, switch. Bring the cat somewhere safe and let your pup come out to smell the cat scent for a while.

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5

Train your dog

Woman's Hand Feeding Treat to dog zeljkosantrac / Getty Images

Habituating your dog to the smell of your new cat is the start of a training process you can use to keep things safe. A couple of times per day, bring your pup to something that smells like the cat and let the dog sniff it. Reassure your pooch, give treats, or just talk in a relaxed and happy tone. This helps train your dog to stay positive and relaxed around the cat.

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6

Schedule supervised visits

woman indoors in her kitchen at home with pets cat and dog knape / Getty Images

As you get more confident about the two pets' attitudes toward each other, it's time to bring them together for a supervised meeting. Don't try to force them together. Just be in the room while they have a chance to see each other. If they get along right away, that's great. If they're wary, that's fine too. If they're immediately hostile, go back to separating them for another couple of days.

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7

Gradually expand their time together

cat and dog at home Evrymmnt / Getty Images

While it may take time, your dog and cat will gradually come to accept each other's presence. Expand the time they spend together while you're there to supervise. If their first meeting lasted 15 minutes before you had to move them, try to build up to 30 minutes. If they only lasted 5, work on 10. Eventually, they'll be able to tolerate each other for more than an hour without you having to intervene.

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8

Try leaving them alone

itten and labrador retriever puppy sleep together on a bed Elena Medoks / Getty Images

When your dog and cat are okay for more than an hour with you in the room, it's time to try leaving them without you for a while. Start by just walking out of the room for a few minutes and gradually work up from there. Eventually, you want to be able to leave for a whole workday and come back to domestic harmony, rather than shredded furniture and spilled food dishes.

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9

Take them outside together

owner with dog and cat outside Oksana Shufrych / EyeEm / Getty Images

Dogs and cats both like to be outdoors, though your cat may not be up for long jogs in the park like your pup is. While you're still in your early days of training, try letting them both out into the yard simultaneously. This gives them both the space they need to get a breather from each other, but it also encourages play behavior that might bring them closer together indoors.

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10

Keep an eye on things

woman with her cat and dog at home bulentumut / Getty Images

The getting-to-know-you phase can last from a single day to a few weeks. When it's over, your dog and cat should be okay with each other. You still have to watch how they act together, though. It's normal for dogs and cats in the same space to occasionally have friction, but as long as you live together, you'll have to keep an ear out if there's a real spat.

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