Virginia Simpson and Chance

Introducing a New Feline Family Member

by Virginia Simpson, Unleashed Canine Obedience

Anytime you welcome in a new member to the family, it is a time of happiness, excitement and joy!  Helping your dog welcome a new member without resentment or a poor show of behavior is an important factor in the success of solidifying healthy relationships for all.  

Firstly, not every dog should be around cats.  Some dogs have an extremely high prey drive, were not well socialized with cats as pups and/or just don’t like them for no other reason than they just don’t like them.   Probably best to keep your home a cat free zone in those cases.  Signs that a dog is not going to get along with a new cat are if they become obsessed with the cat when they see or smell it and bark or growl at it without ever letting up.  If you have trouble breaking their gaze and they are overly excited by the sight of a cat, they may not make a good cat companion.

As far as cats or kittens go, the preparation and choice method should be similar to picking out another dog.  You want to find a cat with a temperament that will fit well into the existing family pack.  For example, if I have a rambunctious and energetic home with a young and bouncy dog, I probably don’t want to get a cat that is on the timid and shy side.  You’d probably never see or hear from the cat again after you set it down the first time.  You probably wouldn’t want to get a tiny kitten ora much older cat as they may get hurt.  A younger and playful cat would be best.

If I have an older and quieter dog, I will probably get a cat that is a little older, has been around dogs before and has the maturity to listen and control itself when the dog indicates he’s had enough interaction.  If I were to get a rambunctious and outgoing kitten for this home, the kitten may get snapped at by the dog due to its inability to read all the signals and the older dog may not be as tolerant as he once was in his younger years.

Kittens are best suited for dogs that have been well socialized with cats and have good self-control and a calmer temperament.  These are just some generalized guidelines I go by and there are definitely exceptions to every rule!  But you don’t want to spend years trying to shove a square peg into a round hole.  Takes the fun out of the game!

Proper socialization will make for successful integration of canines and felines.  Younger cats will accept dogs a lot easier than older ones and the same goes for dogs.  Additionally, if you can socialize your pup before the age of 6 months with cats and teach them an acceptableway to interact with them then it’s a breeze when they are older.

The first day home:  when you bring your new cat/kitten home the first day, you might take the first day to limit any face to face action and actually keep the animals separated.  Don’t rush the introduction!  It is extremely important to take your time here and do it at the animal’s pace.  Let them be in separate rooms for 24 hours and give your dog a chance to get used to the sounds and smells of the new addition and vice versa.  Then the following day, take your dog and run him out.  Get him good and tired!   Bring him back home, drink some water and rest for a few minutes.  If your dog has not been paying a whole lot of attention to the sounds and smells of the cat,go ahead and bring the cat out.  This preparation will help to keep the intensity level down when the actual meeting takes place.  And that will increase the chances of a good interaction overall!

Have your dog on a leash, a water bottle in hand if your dog tends to respond to a quick redirecting squirt and make sure the cat has a quick getaway if things don’t progress to his liking.  Keep your energy and everyone else’s energy calm and don’t do a lot of talking.  Let them move at their own pace and make sure there is a clear path to safety for the cat.  Do not try to hold the cat.  If the cat becomes frightened, you’ll end up with 20 claws dug into your skin.  This way he can just scurry under the bed if necessary.

Unlike another dog, the cat and dog relationship usually takes quite a while to develop fully.  Very rare for these guys to become best friends overnight, so don’t worry if the first time doesn’t go perfectly.  As long as your dog was not acting aggressively and trying to snap, jump on or bite at the cat, there is still hope!  Just be patient and pay close attention.  Never leave dog and cat unattended until you are completely certain they have reached an understanding of mutual respect.  When you have to leave the house prior to the relationship gelling, make sure the cat is closed up with his litter box somewhere.

Cats and dogs can get along and serve as a beacon of hope for all of us that even though many of us differ in pretty dramatic ways in our looks, beliefs and faiths, we too can learn to coexist happily!


Virginia L. Simpson
Certified Dog Trainer
Unleashed Canine Obedience, LLC
IACP Member #3141
Phone:  513.317.7484