BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

How to Get a Dog and Cat to Get Along: We’re One Big Family

Image showing a dog and a cat getting to know each other
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

If you are a pet lover, you will probably want to have more than one pet. Do you dream of a wonderful home where you live in harmony with a dog and a cat, or maybe even more? This is one of those things that’s easier said than done, however. Perhaps you just don’t know how to get a dog and cat to get along under the same roof. You think to yourself: Is it even possible? Cats and dogs are known as natural enemies after all. The answer is yes, it is possible! It has been done before, and we will teach you how.

A cat’s natural instinct is to run when they see a dog; however, it is possible to have both pets co-exist in peace. Envision it: you lounging on a couch with a cat lazing in your lap and a dog sitting at your feet. They love you, and they love each other. They will often cuddle as they sleep together in the same bed. Ah, the peace. Ah, the harmony. Sounds like a dream? It will be a dream no more after you’re done reading our article!

Image showing a huski and a kitty relaxing together

You may wonder how people who have both pets successfully manage to have the two longtime enemies by nature in their homes without World War III breaking out. Don’t worry; we will have you enjoying synergy and peace between your cat and dog soon enough. We intend to outline in this article the steps to make your canine and feline fast friends—such that they have each other’s back and treat one another as one big family.

Preparations Necessary for a Successful First Meeting

The core of contention between cats and dogs lies in their natural wiring. Canine loves to chase small prey and animals. The moment it crosses their field of vision, the game is on. On the other hand, cats are also antagonistic towards dogs. They feel threatened and on edge in the presence of a dog.

The middle ground and common interest between a cat and a dog is you. You are their benefactor. They love you and would like to please you. Love for you is however not enough.

Portrait of a young woman with dog and cat.

They will fight to the death if you do not take some steps before and during their first meeting. Humans also have to follow some etiquette when socializing. This is especially when you meet people for the first time. You shake hands, kiss on the cheek, you try to be polite and courteous.

The same is needed when you want to bring dogs and cats together. Below are some cats and dogs equivalent of proper etiquette for that very first meeting to help your cat and dog bury the age-long hatchet, calm their natural instinct, and play nice instead of trying to kill each other.

Consider the Cat and the Dog’s Traits

The right information is always vital, especially when that information is about the nature and characteristics of the breed of your cat and dog. Some breeds of dogs are friendly, sociable, and not as territorial as others. The same applies to cats.

If you intend to adopt or buy a cat or dog, having as much information as is available will help you in your decision. This will save you and the animals a lot of stress. You can go with compatible personalities and breeds.

Little puppy and little kitty sleeping together

Other than the personality and the breed, also consider their age. It’s best if you could start by getting a kitten and a puppy. Let them grow together and form a bond.

It is the easiest way to get a cat and a dog together. As newborn, they are innocent, and their natural instinct has not yet bloomed so by the time they become adults they are already used to living together.

Prepare the Meeting Ground

Unfortunately, not everyone can start with the first step by getting kitten and puppies. You may prefer having adults, or you may get to inherit a pet from a loved one. Or perhaps you adopted them. Whichever it is, you need to get ready for the new one’s arrival.

A cat and a dog meeting for the first time outside

Ensure that you have prepared a personal space for the pet. Get them their own litter box, bed, or basket. Have toys ready and very importantly, keep the food separate.

Dispense Extra Energy

Cats are shy creatures and will not by nature be the first to attack. But a dog loves to play, and upon seeing a small creature, he won’t be able to resist making a move towards the cat. It is, therefore, necessary to have exercised your dog’s spirit, soul, and body before the first meeting.

Image showing little puppy playing with a kitty

Especially if you have a hyperactive dog, make sure he is exhausted and has expended any extra energy through exercises like high-intensity trick training or playing fetch right before the first meeting. In this condition, he will not be interested in chasing the cat at first sight.

Face to Face for the First Time

The big moment has arrived; your dog and cat are meeting for the first time in the same room. Make sure they are both calm, particularly the dog. He will probably chase and bark at the cat if left alone.

Although this may seem obvious, do not for any reason bring home the newcomer—either the dog or the cat—and leave the two of them alone as you wander off to pick something in the car or do some other things around the house. By the time you come back, the whole house may be upside down, or even worse.

A dog and a little kitty meeting for their first time

It is not the responsibility of a friend or your kid; you have to be the one to bring in the newcomer. It is similar to when there is a new transfer student in the class. The teacher has to be there to introduce him or her to the class.

If you can, tell your dog to sit and stay. That will be better because it changes the energy in the room. Your cat will sense that the dog is not hostile. It will calm her down as well.

During the introductions, you need to put the dog on a leash and hold on firmly. Do this at least for the tense initial minutes during which they first acknowledge each other and try to determine what to do next.

Puppy and kitty laying on the grass looking at each other

If your dog wants to approach the cat and the cat doesn’t seem opposed, let him. Just don’t let him off the leash yet. If things get hairy, you will want to be able to pull him back immediately.

If the cat doesn’t like the attention, don’t force it. Let things run their course naturally. Just make sure not to leave them alone together for the first few weeks even if they seem to tolerate each other’s presence.

What Comes After the First Meeting?

The hard part isn’t over yet. The reason why you’re not allowed to leave them to their own devices yet is because they may think the new presence is a temporary thing. The moment they realize it’s permanent, they may feel frustrated over the breach in their conditioning and rebel.

Brown dog meeting for the first time little white kitty

Conditioning means that you are used to something that has happened over and over again. In this case, your pet is used to the kind of life before the introduction.

Your pet has been living a solo life, having you to them alone, enjoying the space without having to share with a pet from another ancestry, and many more. You need to re-condition both the cat and the dog, most especially the one that has been with you the longest to accept the changes. Things you will need to pay attention to during the reconditioning process include:

Mealtimes

Allow both of them to eat in each other’s presence; the food can serve as a distraction from their animosity or curiosity. At the same time, it sends the message that the existence of the other does not threaten the availability of their personal food supply. Eating together (but make sure to keep the food bowls separate, at least during the initial stages of the introduction) can also bring some sense of unity.

Personal Space

When people get into your space without you inviting them, it can be uncomfortable. The normal reaction is to push them away, fight back, or retreat. Cats and dogs react the same way. To avoid this, ensure they each have their own lounging area, sleeping area, and playpen. Nothing should be shared.

A dog and a cat separated in a house

You should use a barrier to separate the two animals, not just at the first meeting but for weeks. A baby gate is recommended because it allows each pet freedom of movement within their own area. It also allows them to get used to each other’s scents and smells. They can also observe each other without intruding on each other’s boundaries. If you don’t have baby gates, simply putting them in separate, adjacent rooms will do.

How You Share Your Affection

You may also instigate fights among them if you are more affectionate to one than the other. When this happens, feelings of dominance may be aroused in the pet that gets more of your attention and then jealousy and fear would probably be the response in the other party.

Little girls sharing her affection to her dog and cat

They already have nature-inspired issues. Do not add to it. A parent that is fair never shows that they love one child more than the other.

Time

Every friendship requires time to progress; it is not going to happen overnight. You need to be patient. It may take two months or a year and more for the miracle of friendship to happen. Maybe it will never bloom into a beautiful friendship, but at least they will tolerate each other’s presence, with each settling into their own routine within the same household.

Know When to Get Help

If you have given it time and yet the situation doesn’t seem to improve even after several weeks, then it’s probably time to seek out the assistance of a professional. It could be a dog trainer, whisperer, or just about anyone trained for the job.

Dog and cat playing together on the grass

It may require long sessions spread over many weeks and may be costly, but it is well worth it. The consequences of not promoting a proper introduction between a cat and a dog will spell disaster in the future.

Is It Worth the Trouble?

Some people are just dog-lovers, others are cat-lovers. If you belong to the category that loves them both, people might ask: Why instigate trouble and encourage enemies to dwell together? Why not settle for just one or the other? Is it worth it?

Dog and cat sleeping together

The benefits of having dogs and cats coexist under the same roof are plenty. They are different in their nature, functions, and abilities. Each is unique in their own way, but when you have both pets combined, then you get to double the unique benefits, which include the following:

Dogs

Dogs make the best companions. They are known as man’s best friend for several reasons:

  • Loyalty: A dog will stay with you for the rest of his life. A dog will always have your back.

  • Friendship: Dogs are eager to please, will listen to all your troubles, be sad when you are, share in the joys of every day, play with you, and have fun with you anytime.

  • Protection: Some people get dogs specifically because of their ability to protect. They provide security by barking, biting, and attacking anyone or anything they sense as a threat to you or your loved ones.

  • Help: Dogs can be trained to do anything; they can serve as a watchdog, police dog, service dogs, farm dogs, and other human-assisting avenues

Cats

Cats are just as popular as dogs as pets, if not more so. Some people consider them haughty, but others worship them. This is because they:

  • Cuddle like no other: Yes, it is easier to cuddle a cat than a dog. Because of their size and their flexible body, you will be looking forward to each cuddle session with them.

  • Lower stress levels: A cat’s purr has been proven to help lower stress levels and reduce blood pressure.

  • Independent: You do not need to put in much effort to taken care of cats. They do well in small spaces. They also can exercise and groom themselves.

  • Rodent-free homes: The meow of a cat is enough to send mice and rats packing. Cats also hunt anything smaller than them, so roaches, lizards, and the likes don’t stand a chance in your home.

  • Joy resulting from mischief: Cats are naughty, inquisitive, and curious. The saying that “curiosity kills the cat” comes from that part of their nature. They can be entertaining to watch.

  • Numerous health benefits: Having a cat can do wonders for your health. Some acclaimed health benefits include protection from allergies, asthma, the healing and strengthening of bones, and many more.

There are many other benefits associated with cats and dogs. Some are personal to the pet owner, but one thing is for sure: your canine and feline will love you unconditionally.

Wrap Up

There are many success stories of cats and dogs living together in perfect harmony; yours can be one too. The steps stated above can help you achieve that with your cat and dog. The steps do not have to follow each other back to back; they could be used in isolation or as a combination.

There is no one size fits all solution when it comes to pets. The methods that worked for a fellow pet lover may not work for you. Each situation should be treated as unique because there are many variables to consider—for example, the history, age, environment, and health of either the dog or the cat. However, as long as you don’t give up, it is possible for your cat and dog to get along.

puppy-and-kitten playing together

Do you currently live with a cat, a dog, or both? If both, how did you make them get along? If we missed any effective tips, please lend your expertise to us by placing a comment below so there will be even more harmonious homes for both cats and dogs in the near future.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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