Cat-Dog Introduction

Introducing your cat to your new dog requires a lot of time and patience. This is true even if the dog tested well with cats. It may take many hours or days, and some of our foster volunteers report that it took weeks to achieve harmony between the resident cat and new dog. 

Set up a “safe zone” for your cat, a room the cat can escape to if need be. Place the cat’s litter box and food in the safe zone so she can take care of her needs without feeling threatened. Give lots of attention to the resident cat, and reinforce the new dog’s good behavior with treats and attention. You will need to be vigilant to keep your pets safe, and you should directly supervise your cat and dog until they can be trusted.   


  1. Set your new dog up for success by making sure he is well exercised. He is more likely to be calm during encounters with the cat if he has had the opportunity to expend energy in an appropriate way. You may need to work with his foster parent to ensure he gets adequate exercise before coming home with you.  
  2. Once you reach home, don’t take your dog inside right away. Instead, take him on a short, brisk walk around the neighborhood so he can have a bathroom break and get out a little more energy.  He may feel less anxious after a little exercise.
  3. If the dog knows some basic commands, work on those to reinforce that you are in charge.  Work particularly on the “leave it” command.
  4. Initially, keep your dog and cat in separate rooms with the door closed. Your dog and cat will be able to hear and smell each other.  
  5. Your dog should also be on a leash the entire time. If he gets too excited, you can grab him easier and pull him away. Sit with your dog. If he is being calm and relaxed, reward him with praise and treats. If he is being tense and trying to get to the cat, divert his attention by asking him to focus on you. (When he gives you his attention, reward him to reinforce that behavior.)
  6. Your cat will let you know when she is ready to meet the new dog. For example, she may approach the shared door willingly and calmly. 
  7. You can let her peek into the room. If she runs away from the door, close the door and wait until she has built up enough confidence to go through the door.  
  8. When your cat is ready to greet your dog, let her do so from a safe spot. Arrange furniture so she can traverse the furniture to check out the new dog from above. Don’t let the new dog on the furniture!  
  9. While your cat is exploring, ask your dog to sit or lie down and stay. If he gets up, lure him back down with a treat. Reward him for his good behavior.
  10. When your dog and cat are in the room together, your dog should be either leashed or in a crate.  Your cat should be allowed to come up to the dog, but not vice versa. Make sure the exit to the other room is still open so the cat can escape if she feels threatened. Continue to reward the dog for calm, relaxed behavior.  If he reacts to the cat, then use “leave it” and, if leashed, move him away from the cat, but don’t scold or yell at him or him on the leash.
  11. Continue this routine, increasing the length of time of the meeting until the cat and dog are comfortable around each other.
  12. Your dog should sleep in a crate in your room until the cat is comfortable. Don’t let your dog sleep in the bed, especially if that is where your cat is accustomed to sleeping. 

Long-term Work:

  1. Do not leave your cat and dog alone in the same room until you are confident the dog is trustworthy. When you go to work, keep the dog and cat in separate rooms if your dog is still gets excited when he sees the cat. But even if the dog and cat have been fine in the same room under your supervision, you should crate your dog until you can trust him to be on his best behavior with the cat when you are gone.
  2. Work on the “leave it” command. When you use this command, it tells your dog to cease whatever he is doing. This is the command you will use if your dog is antagonizing your cat. 
  3. Do basic training exercises with your new dog while your cat is in the room. Your dog will become desensitized to the cat, and treats used in the training exercises (the treats) will help your dog associate positive feelings with your cat.
  4. Don’t let the dog on furniture. Our fosters and alumni report that they are able to maintain better dog-cat relations when the furniture can be used as a safe zone for the cat when the dog gets too interested or energetic.
  5. Your cat will need a lot of attention during the transition. Give your cat extra attention and treats when your dog is around to reinforce positive associations with the dog.  Many of our volunteers will greet their cat first to help reinforce a pecking order. 
  6. If your cat swipes at your dog, she shouldn’t be corrected — she’s just setting boundaries.  But if your dog antagonizes your cat, you need to correct him immediately with a “leave it” command.  Reward him with praise or a treat if he responds to your command.
  7. Some of our volunteers report that the resident cat will protest the addition of a new pet by urinating outside of the litter box. You may want to add a second litter box in a new location to reduce the possibility of inappropriate urination; if you don’t address the problem right away, it could become a more permanent habit. Clean litter box every day.
  8. Our volunteers report that it is often helpful to have a room or separate area with a cat door (or gate with a cat door) designated for the cat’s litter box and food/water bowls. Cat food and litter (especially the kind that clumps) can cause serious health and digestive issues if ingested by your dog.

 “Introducing Your Cat to a New Dog,” ASPCA, (last visited Mar. 24, 2015).
“Introducing Your Cat to Your New Dog,” PAWS, (last visited Mar. 25 2015).