What is “That” Doing Here? – Introducing Cats and Dogs

What is “That” Doing Here? – Introducing Cats and Dogs

Cats & Dogs Living in Harmony? Absolutely!


After adoption, one of the most difficult barriers to a successful home placement is how well the adopted animal interacts with existing resident animals. Sadly, this is also the reason for the many of adoption returns. Whether it be same species or different species, it is crucial to set up your animals for success through proper introductions.


Prior to introductions, be sure to set the stage by placing cat necessities (food and litter box) into a room the cat will be able to access, but the dog will not. If introducing a resident cat to a new dog, be sure to make these moves ahead of time so the cat does not resent the dog for upsetting their habitat.


There are 3 common theories on how to do cross-species introductions.  They are listed in order of most successful.


 Slow and steady desensitization


  1. a) Separate your dog and cat into different rooms.
  2. b) Let the dog view the cat briefly through a baby gate, then redirect their attention elsewhere with a treat or toy, offering praise and treats for ignoring the cat.
  3. c) Increase the frequency and length of viewing for several days through the baby gate.
  4. c) Then, have the cat and dog switch rooms so they can investigate and feel more comfortable with the scent of their new fur sibling.
  5. d) After a minimum of one week (more than one week is always acceptable, be sure to make the decision based on body language and reaction of both animals), allow them to meet face-to-face with the dog on a leash so they can be grabbed if the introduction goes awry.
  6. e) Increase the time spent in the same room until they can be trusted to be alone, which may take a few months.


 Look at that


 The premise of this training is to teach the dog that it is more rewarding to ignore the cat than fixate on them.

  1. a) Start by determining the threshold while leashed where the dog notices the cat, but will still respond with their attention when you say their name (threshold has been crossed when dog starts lunging or barking at the cat).
  2. b) Using a positive verbal cue (such as “yes” or “good”), grab a handful of kibble sized treats and have your leashed dog sit for you.
  3. c) Say the verbal cue then give the dog a treat. Continue 10 times so the dog will associate the verbal cue with giving you their attention so they can be rewarded.
  4. d) Once the dog looks at the cat, then looks right at you, move a few steps closer to the cat. Repeat the process until dog can be right next to the cat without an issue. The process will take several days.


 Face to face introduction


Have one person hold the dog on a loose lead, another person watching the cat’s body language.

  1. a) Allow the cat to walk around freely, unless they arch their back or hiss, at which point they should be removed from the room.
  2. b) Have the dog sit or lay down while the cat walks around and sniffs them rewarding them with treats when they ignore the cat, and redirecting their attention if they are interested in the cat.
  3. c) If at any time the dog does not listen to their name or stares intently at the cat and cannot be redirected, stop the exercise and attempt one or both of the alternate options above.



Be sure to be patient regardless of which tactic you choose to utilize. Your fur-siblings can take as little as a few days to adjust to one another or as long as several weeks to adjust. There is space in your heart and home for both of them, but the key is to view the introduction process as a marathon rather than a sprint. Taking the appropriate time for slow introductions will ensure the outcome will be a harmonious household!



Thank you to Lauren Rauchwarter, Pet Haven Volunteer, for the informative post!