Introducing Cats and Dogs to Each Other

Introducing cats to dogs so that they will get along is crucial to the safety and happiness of your family and your pets. There are several ways to slowly help dogs and cats to tolerate each other and perhaps even grow to be friends. In order to accomplish this successfully, it's important to learn a bit about how cats and dogs think. It's also helpful to have some items to help with the initial meeting and to address future territory issues. Systematic and positive oriented behavioral management is particularly important with the dog.

The Dog Mind and the Cat Mind

Dogs and cats have some key differences as well as a few similarities in the way they think. It's very important to think about the specific personality characteristics of your cat or dog when planning the first meeting. Cats tend to be even more territorial than dogs and are often less interested in sharing their space or making friends. This is especially true if the cat lived with you first.

While territory is important to a dog, association is an even more powerful motivator of behavior. If a dog has a positive association to something, he will be more able to be happy and calm around the cat. If he associates the cat with punishment, for instance, he'll develop a more negative association with the cat. This can lead to more aggression and less willingness to follow your directives around the cat. You can establish yourself as an alpha with a dog much more so than with a cat. Maintaining a relaxed yet assertive kind of demeanor is very important when introducing these two animals.

Items to Ease the Transition

It's important to have several items ready for the first time cat and dog will meet as well as for the future. A leash or carrier for the dog as well as a carrier for the cat will help. Toys and treats for both can help with behavioral management and creating a positive experience for both animals. In some cases, having another person with you might be necessary. Always use rewards, particularly for the dog, each time he interacts with the cat without any chasing, aggression or barking.

The First Meeting

There are several ways to introduce a cat to a dog that work best. It's best if the dog is on a leash or in a carrier and the cat is free to sniff him and check him out. If you're worried that your cat might get aggressive with the dog, you may want to put the dog in a carrier. If you choose this option, make sure you have properly introduced him to the carrier so that he feels safe there. In any case, have treats for both animals on hand. If the cat sniffs without any batting or aggressive noises, give him a treat. Your main task, however, will be to keep the dog quiet and calm. This will help the cat feel calm and free to explore.