Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: February 10, 2023 by Crystal Uys
Despite the stereotype of “fighting like cats and dogs,” cats and dogs can live together peacefully in the same household and even become best friends. If you are thinking of adding a canine companion to your feline household, some simple common sense precautions will ensure that everyone gets along.
Why dogs chase cats
Dogs chase cats because of their prey drive. Dog breeds with a higher prey drive may not be a good choice for your household, or it may take more time and effort to integrate them safely into your household. If you adopt a shelter dog, shelter workers may be able to tell you whether the dog has a history of getting along with cats.
A dog’s prey drive may be triggered by a cat hissing or otherwise acting aggressively toward the dog. Some dogs will chase cats simply because the cat moves past them.
Slow and gradual introductions
Whether you’re introducing a new dog to a resident cat, or a new cat to a resident dog, slow and steady is the key to successful introductions. Create a safe room for the newcomer. Both cats and dogs are scent driven. Exchanging scents between the two animals by rubbing a towel first on one, then the other, allows them to gradually get used to each others’ smells before they even meet face to face. Always supervise initial interactions, and limit the time if needed. Keep dogs leashed during introductions. Have treats on hand to reward positive encounters. If there’s a problem, back up to the previous step, and go slower the next time.
One way to get cat and dog used to each other is to have them associate meal time with each other. Feed them on opposite sides of the door of the safe room. If you eventually want to feed them in the same space, watch closely to make sure the dog doesn’t steal food from the cat’s bowl and vice versa. Feeding them separately may make for more peaceful mealtimes in the long run. You can also feed your cat in an elevated area such as a counter or cat tree.
Once you’ve successfully introduced cat and dog, supervise initial interactions. Don’t leave them alone together in the same space until you can be completely comfortable that they are getting along. It may be safer to crate your dog, or keep your cat in a separate room if you can’t be home.
Some cats and dogs may be comfortable with each other right away, while others may take weeks or even months. Patience and time will go a long way toward ensuring a peaceful household for all family members.
This article was previously published on Answers.com and is republished with permission.
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.
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Really good informative article, enjoyed reading it! Thanks Sean
We’re watching the new show about cats and dogs on Animal Planet with Jackson Galaxy and are learning a lot about helping cats and dogs get along.
These are all fabulous and TRUE tips. When Dakota joined our family, Cody had been living here for 3 months. We did the scent exchange (we took it one step further and included OUR scent too, mine and my husband’s). When we brought Dakota in, we left him in his crate for about a half hour and we let Cody walk around and sniff and inspect him. Cody hissed at him ONCE and that was it….only once….he has never hissed at him again. Also, I put a baby gate up by the kitchen (Dakota is not permitted in the kitchen, that is where Cody eats), and I put one up in the hallway. I let the back half of our condo be Cody’s “safe” haven. In the back is is litter (in my bathroom) and my office, (where all of his toys are). I wanted him to have a large area to “escape” to in the event he and Dakota didn’t get along. (We are blessed that they DO get along and love each other). I also did what you suggested and every time we left the house til Dakota was 2 yrs old he was in his crate (night time too), to ensure Cody’s safety. Now, occasionally Dakota will chase Cody but the reason is twofold (and he doesn’t do it much) 1) Dakota is a “herding” dog and he feels Cody needs to be “herded” lol, and 2) He will chase him if Cody initiates play. Believe it or not it is 99.9% of the time CODY who initiates games of chase! He LOVES to get Dakota going and then he flies over the gate where he knows he can’t get him. Your post was fabulous and spot on!
Thanks, Caren! And thank you for sharing how things worked for you, Cody and Dakota. And I’m laughing, picturing Cody initiating games of chase and then retreating to the space behind the gate. Isn’t that just like a cat! 🙂
Thank you for this article, I am picking up my puppy in two days so this is was perfect timing!!
I rescued a Male Maine Coon cat and he’s making incredible strides and I’m proud of him however he’s terrified of people and I’ve no idea how to help him. He’s 50 inches long and 22 inches round and he doesn’t realize how big he’s is and he hurts my female who’s tiny and sits on her head cutting off her air. His name is Chance and her name is Asya Rose. Any help and suggestions would be truly appreciated, please.
You may find some tips on how to help him deal with strangers in this article, Kate: https://consciouscat.net/2017/07/12/help-shy-cat-deal-visitors/ You may also want to consider working with a feline behaviorist. If you can’t find anyone local to you, I can recommend Mikel Delgado http://www.felineminds.com/ and Daniel Quagliozzi https://gocatgosf.com/ Both offer remote consultations.