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Successfully Introducing Puppy To a Cat – It’s Possible

Bringing home a new puppy is so exciting for everyone involved. Getting your puppy used to the home and environment is one thing but introducing a puppy to your cat might not go as planned.

Cats can react very sensibly and either anxious or aggressive to new situations especially if another animal enters the home.

That is why their first introduction must be calm and pleasant for everyone to ensure a peaceful life together.

Cats and Dogs Living Together

Cats and dogs can definitely get along and live together. Despite their different behavior patterns, they could become very close friends.

Cats are more reserved and don’t like to be thrown into new situations. They will most likely seek some quiet spots in the home to observe the situation first.

Puppies, on the other hand, are very energetic and curious. A puppy loves to be around other animals and people and will probably enjoy the presence of the cat way more than vice versa.

The key to peacefully living in a multi-species household is a controlled and slow introduction which won’t start with them meeting.

If not controlled, your puppy will probably lunge at the cat in an attempt to play which will lead her into defending herself and probably leaves your pup with a nasty scratch on the nose.

This Works Vice Versa

Introducing a kitten to your dog is also possible.

It’s probably even easier because of the likelihood that you where there during all the developmental stages of your dog when you had him since he’s a puppy.

Being cautious when your dog is known for territorial behavior is really important in this case.

Another possibility is getting the puppy and kitten at the same time.

However, I wouldn’t recommend getting one of them as an adult and the other as youngster at the same time.

In this case, there’s no confident pre-existent animal and you’re introducing two animals with unknown histories on new territory.

How To Introduce a Puppy To a Cat

Before you bring your new puppy home, think about some prior experiences that your cat had with other dogs.

Is she afraid of them and quickly hides somewhere or does she even react aggressively at their sight?

You won’t see a scared cat for a few days once the puppy arrived home. Anxious cats will avoid eye contact at all costs and will probably refuse to enter the house.

But cats can also react quite aggressively towards dogs. Especially if you have a larger breed, she will quickly feel intimidated and can cuff if unsupervised.

If you have a toy or small breed your cat could see it as prey and start chasing it. So you have to be very cautious at their initial meeting.

Cat leans against dog while the canine blinks with the right eye.

When buying a puppy, choose a responsible breeder who comes with the bonus of owning cats already (or at least socialized his pups with cats).

This will give you a head start and your puppy will react more appropriately to the cat.

It is not guaranteed but we also chose a breeder with cats although we don’t have any ourselves just because she has already learned to live peacefully with other animals which is great for socialization.

What to Do Before

Your cat will probably try to seek some privacy when a new puppy arrives.

Always provide your cat with a chance to escape from uncomfortable situations.

This will make her calmer and more confident overall. Provide her with a den or condo where she can hide and give her something like a cat tree so she will be out of the puppy’s reach.

Get both animals checked by the vet, so you can be assured that there are no underlying illnesses that could make the introduction harder.

Remove anything toxic from your home and always supervise.

Inforgraphic on how to introduce your new puppy to a cat. From how to keep them separate to the first meeting.

Keep Them Separated

It is very important to keep both animals separated prior to their initial meeting. This will give them the opportunity to get used to the presence of one another without meeting.

When you bring home a new puppy you will start by letting him explore only one room of the house to avoid him getting overwhelmed.

Put your cat in another room, separated by a door, and provide her with food and water. Supervising them won’t be a problem at this point as you will have to keep an eye on your puppy 24/7 anyway.

You can also attach a leash to your puppy to keep him from running into other rooms and controlling potty accidents.

Always reinforce calm behavior and correct your puppy if he is scratching on the cat’s door or digging.

Scent Swapping

Both cats and dogs strongly experience their environment through scent. They can remember the scent of their home and can associate it with positive experiences.

While keeping both your pets separated, put something like a blanket in each room for a couple of days and swap it, so they can get accustomed to their roommate’s smell.

For stronger association, place the blanket or pillow near the feeding area where endorphins are released while eating, so the scent of the other animal will be associated with something good.

After they became familiar with the scent, you can then swap their rooms for a much stronger experience.

Repeat the process a couple of times until both have settled in the home with all the new smells.

Crate When Being Left Alone

If you cannot supervise your puppy for a short period of time, crate him. You will find any information on crate training here and how you can properly introduce the crate.

Make sure that there is no way that either your puppy or your cat can escape from their confined space and get to one another.

Tire your puppy out before crating him and provide him with chew toys to keep him occupied.

Take some time out of the day and concentrate on bonding with your cat and your puppy individually.

This will ensure a positive and calm environment and relieves stress. It will also prevent your cat from thinking that she will be replaced now.

The First Meeting

For the first meeting, choose a quiet, puppy-proof room in your house with enough space for your cat to escape.

Provide your cat with escape routes onto a cat tree or into another room where your puppy cannot follow.

Tire out your puppy beforehand with a nice walk or a play session. Keep your puppy on a leash to prevent him from running up to the cat and startling it.

Under no circumstances let him off-leash during the first meeting even when they seem to like each other.

Take your puppy on a leash and walk to one side of the room; after a few minutes, you can let out the cat from the other side of the room.

Cat lays on dog's paws and they cuddle.

If they immediately start to growl and hiss at each other, stop the meeting and go back to the steps mentioned above.

Let them explore at their own pace. Your puppy will probably try to get to the cat as soon as she enters the room but your cat will be more reserved.

She will need more time to evaluate the situation, so don’t try to lure her closer, she will come if she wants to.

Do not force any of the pets to get closer to each other. It will only make it uncomfortable for everyone.

Prevent your puppy from chasing or barking at the cat. This is the time where you will need to discipline him.

Chasing cats is a real problem with dogs and you won’t want to reinforce this behavior in any way.

Reinforcing Good Behaviour

Grab some treats for both your puppy and your cat and reward them for any positive behavior.

If your puppy keeps barking at your cat, don’t simply tell him “no”, show him what to do instead.

Engage in some play with him to get him distracted or give him a basic command like sit.

Always treat any second where your puppy ignores the cat or reacts to it in a calm manner.

You will want to keep him from starring at the cat as it will intimidate her quickly. It is a sign of aggression if your puppy won’t look away from her, so you would need to stop the meeting.

Keep It Short and Positive

Keep the first few meetings very short and try to always end them positively. If one pet gets nervous or tired, give them some alone time again.

They will remember the positive experience and will slowly get accustomed to one another.

Your goal will be to make it so comfortable for them that your cat will eat in the same room with your puppy mostly ignoring her.

Any calm and positive meeting will build up their bond so they will be able to live together peacefully in the future.

Over time you can make the meetings longer while giving your puppy more freedom (still on a long leash).

Let them explore at their own pace and don’t rush the process for the sake of saving time.

Your pets don’t have to become best friends but it would be perfect if they could live harmoniously together.

How to Stop a Dog From Chasing Cats

As this will be a key point in their meeting, I want to explain it a bit further. Chasing is a predatorial and self-rewarding instinct which means that the more your puppy chases other animals, the more he will like doing it.

So you will have to initially prevent any chasing behavior from your puppy by keeping him confined.

Keep your puppy on a leash and place some baby gates between the doors, so your cat will have the possibility to escape from your puppy.

With the leash you will be able to prevent any chasing from even occurring.

In the next step, you will want to get your puppy’s attention while being in the same room with your cat.

You can achieve this by teaching some basic commands like “sit” or “look at me” and plenty of high value treats like cooked chicken.

The more your puppy focusses on you the more he will ignore the cat.

Don’t take things too seriously when introducing a new puppy to your cat. Even if their start wasn’t amazing, time will make them more comfortable.

Remember to always encourage your puppy to be calm and providing your cat with escape routes.

Let me know how your cat and puppy introduction went and what tips you have to make it work in the comments down below.

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About Danielle
I am the founder of PawLeaks where I share weekly tips on dog training and behavior. Sharing a passion for dogs and helping owners to solve problems through understanding canine behavior and modification is my number one goal.

Tiffany

Saturday 1st of May 2021

How would you make this work in a house with an open floor plan? We have bedrooms upstairs, but the cat’s food and litter box are on the main level. She pretty much has run of the whole house other than the doors we keep shut, so to move all of her things would probably be confusing to her, I’d imagine?

Danielle

Tuesday 4th of May 2021

Hi Tiffany, introducing your dog slowly is the important thing and it's easier done if you can restrict access to certain rooms, but you're right in saying that it could confuse your cat if she suddenly can't have access to all the places she previously had access to.

I'd personally just make sure to start introducing them slowly, maybe your cat takes well to the pup. And if you're getting a pup, it's most likely the cat who might have problems because pups love everybody. Your pup might need to learn how to not get too overexcited with the cat though.

Thinking about how to do it properly is awesome but I wouldn't put too much thought into it. Sounds like your cat definitely has a safe haven where she's save from the dog so it should be fine :).

Cheers, Danielle

Danielle Tortora

Thursday 25th of March 2021

How should I go about introducing a new puppy to the resident cat who is smart enough to open all the doors in our small apartment and hates to be confined to one room? Separating them will be basically impossible unless the cat goes and stays with a family member for a few days while we get them used to each other's scents. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

Danielle

Thursday 25th of March 2021

Hi Danielle,

while letting them smell each other before meeting isn't mandatory, it can help a great deal. If it's a pup, you could just ask your breeder to give them a blanket or whatnot with your pup's smell. It's quite common to give new owners a toy/blanket with the smell of the mother, so this request isn't odd at all :). Visting your breeder with the cat for a 1-on-1 session is also possible if the breeder agrees. Of course, that's only possible if your cat is used to traveling.

That being said, puppies easily adapt and it's most likely the cat who needs more time, depending on how pushy the pup can be. If this all doesn't work out, just introduce them slowly to each other in the same room and make sure you check out the other steps and don't let your pup be on your cat's back 24/7 :).

There can be great friendships between cats and dogs, so if you put in the work now, chances are they'll get along better in the future.

Cheers, Danielle

Janette

Monday 7th of December 2020

We just started a week ago. Our terrier (Westie) loves to chase the dog but our cat finds the guts to come close. I’m thinking he’s testing the dog and doesn’t seem to hate the chase. I’m going to try the leash idea, I think that’s genius and will help us as time passes.

Danielle

Tuesday 8th of December 2020

Hi Janette, lets us know how it goes! Getting a cat and dog used to each can be quite the challenge, but as long as one's not vehemently against the new family addition and the other is a puppy/kitten, it's almost always working with the proper introduction and patience :).

Mose

Sunday 27th of October 2019

Learned a bunch. Quite simple to fully grasp. Nice one for sharing with us :)

Duncan

Friday 26th of July 2019

What an excellent post! Very in-depth and helpful article. Your writing really highlights your passion for doggos.

Danielle

Monday 7th of October 2019

Thank you, Duncan!