How To Get Your Dog Used To A Cat

Nick Durante
by Nick Durante
Credit: Shutterstock / New Africa

Living with a dog and a cat is the best of both worlds. That said, it can be quite stressful to introduce them to one another if you’ve never done it before. As a loving pet owner, you may struggle with how to get your dog used to a cat.

The best way to get your dog used to a cat is to keep the cat in a separate room for 3-4 days. While the cat is in the sanctuary room, you can slowly let it out for short periods, so they get used to each other. Carefully desensitize your pets and let them sniff each other.

Keep a baby gate between them the first few times they meet in case either of them acts aggressively. After they meet face-to-face a few times, you can let your cat out of its room and integrate it into the household. Follow along as we explore how to get your dog used to a cat.

How Do You Introduce A Dog To A Cat?

1. Create A Sanctuary Room

The last thing you should do is give your new cat free reign of the house when you introduce them to your dog. This will stress your dog out, and the cat will likely get into trouble. Instead, you should dedicate a room in the house to your cat.

Keep your cat in the room for most of the day and only let them out when you can watch them. That way, you won’t have to worry about your dog and cat getting into physical altercations. Put food and water in the room and regularly replenish it.

Have your cat sleep in the sanctuary room for at least three days. Check on them as often as you can and let them out to interact with the dog. Give them the chance to explore the house as well, but make sure to keep an eye on them.

2. Desensitize Them

Dogs and cats rely on their senses and instincts to protect themselves. Because of that, they are often quite apprehensive around other animals. The best way to get your dog used to a cat is to desensitize them with a few simple steps.

Desensitizing pets is all about making them react less intensely to certain stimuli and animals. You can easily desensitize your dog to the cat if you create a barrier between them. For example, a baby gate is big enough to keep your pets apart, but they can still see each other.

Bring some toys into the room to give your dog something to focus on besides the cat. Let your dog get close to the gate, then let them play with the toy. This will make the cat seem like less of a big deal, thus desensitizing them. Pet your dog each time they shift their attention away from your cat.

3. Ease Into Face-To-Face Meetings

You can’t keep a baby gate between your dog and cat all the time. Don’t freak out if their first face-to-face meeting doesn’t go well. They may growl, bark, and hiss at each other. That doesn’t mean they hate each other, but they must get it out of their systems.

It’s an easy process if you have someone there to help you. Have one person stand by the cat and another stand beside the dog in case you must separate them. Let them sniff each other so they can get used to the scent.

Give each animal plenty of attention, so neither of them feels like you are picking favorites. Let them interact for as long as you can monitor them. However, you must prepare to quickly separate them in case their first meeting goes sour.

4. Integrate Your Cat

After a few face-to-face meetings, it’s time to integrate your cat into the household. You can tell it’s time to give your cat free rein of the house when they have both become desensitized. Open the door to the sanctuary room and let them explore freely.

It’s important to watch your pets closely during the integration process. This is a special time, and it will take a bit for both animals to get used to the change. That said, you’d be surprised how quickly dogs and cats can adapt to each other.

The most important part of this step is to make sure you eliminate anything that could cause an altercation. For example, it’s a good idea to separate their toys in case they are possessive. Over time, you won’t need to watch them closely as your dog and cat learn to love each other.

5. Keep Their Feeding Areas Separate

Food is often involved when dogs and cats fight. This is often because people mistakenly keep the food bowls too close to each other. Ideally, you should feed your dog and cat in different rooms.

It’s okay to feed them in the same room, but you must at least keep their food bowls at opposite ends. You must also watch them as they eat to make sure neither one of them tries to interrupt the other. Dogs and cats hate to be interrupted while eating, and it can get ugly fast.

Free feeding doesn’t always work out well when you have multiple pets. Instead, dedicate certain times of the day to feeding your dog and cat. That said, you may have to free-feed your pets and keep their bowls full if you work long hours. In that case, simply train them to stay away from each other’s food bowls with positive reinforcement techniques.

6. Attention Equality

Just like humans, dogs and cats are quite sensitive and hate to be left out. They will watch you closely throughout the process and will be aware of how much attention you give the other pet. Since your dog was there first, it’s important to make sure they feel extra special.

That doesn’t mean you should ignore your cat, but you shouldn’t give them more attention than your dog. Pet both when your dog and cat are close to each other. Not only will this make them both happy, but it will also desensitize them further.

How Long Does It Take For A Dog To Accept A Cat?

There is no iron-clad timeline, but it often takes up to a few months for a dog to accept a cat. During the process, the dog will slowly warm up to the cat and accept them as family. Dogs are territorial, and it can take a while for them to realize that your house is now the cat’s as well.

The process can go by much faster if you use the desensitization methods we mentioned earlier in this guide. You will likely notice that your dog doesn’t react to the cat as strongly after the first week or two. After a few months, you won’t have to worry nearly as much about altercations, and you’ll likely be able to leave them alone.

Sadly, it’s important to note that it doesn’t always work out when people bring cats into a household with a dog. Some dogs are simply too aggressive and territorial to accept any other pet. In that case, you may have to bring the cat to your local humane society if the dog continues to act aggressively toward the cat.

Summing It Up

Separate your dog from your cat for at least 3-4 days when you bring the cat into your home. Keep a barrier between them and let them see each other a few times per day during that time. Have them meet face-to-face and make sure they sniff each other to get accustomed to the scent. Once they are comfortable, you can let your cat wander your house freely. It will take a few months until they’re used to each other, but the wait is worth it.

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Nick Durante
Nick Durante

Nick Durante is a professional writer with a primary focus on home improvement. When he is not writing about home improvement or taking on projects around the house, he likes to read and create art. He is always looking towards the newest trends in home improvement.

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