Updated: Feb 18
I have 3 cats and 8 dogs of my own, so have introduced cats to dogs and dogs to cats many times over the years.
If you've brought home a new puppy or rescue dog and already have a resident cat, or you've already got a resident dog and you're bringing home a new kitten or adult cat, then I'm sure you're keen to teach them to live together harmoniously as soon as possible!
If you already have a cat and a dog living together and you're having problems, go back to basics as below and treat them like you're introducing them fresh
Bringing home a new kitten
First things first, when you bring home your new kitten (or adult cat), set them up in a quiet room on their own with a cat tree, bed, litter tray and food/water bowls and let them settle for at least 1 week before introducing them to the other resident pets. You can do a bedding exchange during this time to introduce the scent of other pets to your kitten and vise versa.
Whilst this is happening, introduce the kittens cat trees to your main living area where your other pets reside so that they can investigate.
Bringing home a new puppy
If you're bringing home a new puppy and you already have a cat, then the first thing you need to do is give your puppy time to settle into your house before you introduce them to your resident pets. Set your puppy up in a quiet room with their crate and toys, and spend time with your puppy away from the rest of the house. You can do a scent swap with bedding so that your cat can investigate the scent of your new puppy before meeting them
If you haven't already, get prepared with setting up some tall cat trees for your resident cat, so they can become accustomed to using them
Here are some links to cat trees we like to use
Introducing your kitten or puppy to the house
When the time comes to introduce your kitten or puppy to the rest of the house, pop your other resident pets away so that your kitten or puppy can explore without fear. For a kitten, you should have at least 2 tall cat trees in the main living area so that your kitten can get away from the dog without having to leave the room, and we want to give your kitten time to find and explore these safe spaces before there is a dog on their tail. Your kitten needs to feel confident getting around the room first!
If introducing a puppy, give your puppy time to explore without the resident pets about, and if you haven't already got them, introduce a couple of tall cat scratching trees so that your cat has a safe space to escape to without having to leave the room.
Personally, I allow a new kitten or puppy at least 7 days of exploration without the other resident pets, even if it is in short bursts between going back to their quiet room.
So that would be 1 week to settle in their quiet room, and 1 week of popping into investigate the rest of the house without interference from the other pets.
When your kitten or puppy is safely away in their quiet room, allow your resident pets to come out and explore where the kitten or puppy has been so that they grow accustomed to the scent
Introducing your kitten or puppy to the resident pets
When integrating your new kitten or puppy with your resident pets, we need to look at adding some 'management' to ensure the safety of the your new kitten or resident cat. Management strategies are designed to prevent your puppy from practising unwanted behaviour such as chasing, which will frighten your kitten or cat, even if your puppy has no intention of hurting them. It's not ok to simply hope your kitten / cat will give your puppy a swift bop on the nose.
It is important to understand that your puppy or adult dog will gain massive amounts of reinforcement from chasing your cat, so you must prevent your dog from practising this behaviour at all costs
Purchase more than 1 tall cat scratching tree, so that your cat has a safe space away from your puppy without having to flee the room or house, and so your cat can move around the main living area without having to go down to the puppy's level
Strategically place baby gates at doorways so that your cat can escape to a quiet part of the house if they want to (the main area to escape should be inside the room with the dog, so they feel confident around the dog and not always escaping away)
Feed your cat up high and out of reach from the puppy, so that your cat feels safe when eating
Schedule rest time for your puppy away from the cat, such as in a crate or behind a baby gate, so that your cat can roam without fear for short periods in the day
Keep a house line attached to your puppy if needed, so that you can fully control all interactions and ensure that your puppy can't chase or harrass the cat
Only allow supervised access with the cat until both cat and puppy are able to settle around each other happily. If you can't supervise, pop your puppy in a crate or safe area
When you first enter the main living area with your puppy, make sure they are on the lead, and the cat is safely on their cat post, so we can set the scene for your cat already being in a safe space
If you're concerned about a possible aggressive reaction from your dog towards your new cat, it would be a good idea to introduce a muzzle also
After your puppy has had exercise and is feeling sleepy, pop them in their crate and allow the cat to roam around the room. Your dog is less likely to bounce around in excitement, and your cat can feel safe investigating
Once you have these management stategies in place, it's time to put some time into training and teach your puppy how you want them to behave
Teach your puppy how to settle in the house by working through all of the stages of Boundary Training. If your puppy can learn how to settle on a bed, we can reinforce them for staying here and they are less likely to chase or annoy the cat
Teach a good 'leave it' cue, so that when your puppy spots the cat, we can cue 'leave it' and reinforce your puppy for looking back at you instead
Setup mini training sessions around the cat, so that your puppy gains more reinforcement for paying attention to you
Sit on the floor with your puppy on the lead, and supervise calm greetings. Work on recalling away from the cat, or using a Let's Go cue to break away from over the top greetings
Set your dog up with a long lasting chew or stuffed kong to allow your cat time to explore. Keep your dog on a lead so they don't ditch the chew in favour of a chase
For your cat
1. Show your cat where the safe places are, so place your cat at the top of the cat post with some tasty treats or food whilst you work through training with your puppy.
2. If your cat is worried by your dog's greeting, show them how to get away by putting them up high on the cat post
3. Encourage your cat onto the floor with some tasty treats, whilst you're working on reinforcing some boundary training with your puppy on a lead. This will help your cat to feel safe on the floor
4. Allow calm introductions with your cat in a safe space, so they can come forward to greet your puppy at their own pace
Take your time
It can take several weeks for your cat to feel confident around your puppy, and for your puppy to lose interest in the cat and be able to relax. It is important that you fully supervise your puppy around the cat during this time so that your puppy is not able to chase or harrass the cat. This may mean that your puppy is on a lead in the house during this time, and it means safely securing your puppy in a crate or another room when you go out or can't actively supervise
Once your cat and your dog seem more relaxed together, keep the lead on your puppy, but you can now allow the lead to trail to give them a little more freedom, whilst still allowing you to regain control quickly if needed
If you need support with your dog's training around your cat, we cover all of the core training exercises on our Online Academy VIP CLUB, and you'll get our expert support and guidance to help you with troubleshooting your individual setup.
We have step by step video tutorials for:
1. Household management
2. Boundary training
3. Leave it cues
4. Interupting unwanted chasing
5. Settle on cue
6. Distraction proofing
Find our academy here: https://www.adolescentdogsacademy.co.uk/p/vip-club
Written by Jenny Trigg