What’s the Best Method to Introduce a New Dog to a Home with Existing Cats?

April 17, 2024

When welcoming a new dog into your home, it’s crucial to consider the potential dynamics with your existing pets, especially if you have cats. While dogs and cats are traditionally viewed as natural enemies, it’s entirely possible to create a peaceful, harmonious environment between them. This article aims to guide you through the process of introducing a new dog into a home with existing cats.

Understanding the Differences in Behaviour

Before talking about the steps of introducing a pet, it is essential to understand the inherent behavioural differences between dogs and cats. This understanding will allow you to manage your expectations and take the appropriate actions to reduce tension between the pets. It will also help to prevent any misunderstandings that could lead to conflict.

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Dogs are pack animals, used to living in a group. They tend to be outgoing and social, and they thrive on interaction. Dogs often show their affection and curiosity openly, with actions such as sniffing, licking, and tail wagging.

Cats, on the other hand, are solitary creatures. They’re territorial and need their space. Cats often show their comfort and affection in more subtle ways, such as rubbing against you or purring. Rapid changes in their environment can lead to stress and anxiety, which can manifest in aggressive or defensive behaviour.

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This basic understanding of the differences between dogs and cats should form a foundation for your approach when introducing a new dog to your home.

Preparing Your Home for the Introduction

Preparation is the key when it comes to introducing a new dog into your home with cats. This means preparing your home, your existing cats, and your new dog for the introduction.

Firstly, create a separate space or room for your dog. This will be the place where it will spend most of its time initially. This space should be comfortable and full of resources the dog needs, such as food, water, and toys.

Secondly, take time to prepare your cats. Make sure you’re giving them plenty of attention to reassure them that the new arrival is not a threat. You might also consider using a pheromone diffuser, which can help keep cats calm.

Finally, prepare your new dog. Make sure it has been properly socialised and trained. This will help it behave appropriately around the cats.

Preparation is an essential step in ensuring the smooth introduction of your new dog to your home.

The Introduction Process

Introducing a new dog to a home with cats is a process that requires patience and careful management. It should not be rushed, and every step should be taken with consideration of the pets’ reactions.

The first step should be scent swapping. This involves taking a piece of cloth or a towel, rubbing it on your new dog, and then placing it near your cats. This will help familiarise the cats with the dog’s scent.

Next, gradually introduce the animals to each other’s presence. This could be done by allowing the pets to observe each other from a distance or through a glass door, for example.

Gradually increase the time the animals spend around each other, always making sure they are supervised. Keep things calm and positive, rewarding good behaviour with treats and praise.

It’s important that you don’t force interactions between the animals. Let them take their time to get used to each other, and always be ready to intervene if you see signs of aggression or fear.

Post-Introduction Period

The weeks following the introduction are crucial for establishing a positive relationship between your new dog and your existing cats.

Continue to monitor their interactions closely, rewarding positive behaviour and discouraging negative behaviour. Make sure each pet has its own space where it can retreat if it feels threatened.

You can help foster positive interactions by involving your pets in activities they both enjoy. This could include feeding them at the same time, playing games, or having them spend time with you together.

Remember, every pet is an individual and will react in its own unique way. Some dogs and cats may become best friends immediately, while others may need more time to adjust. The key is to be patient, stay positive, and keep providing a safe, loving environment for all your pets.

By following these steps, you can enjoy a peaceful cohabitation between your new dog and your existing cats. Just remember to keep an eye on their behaviour, stay calm, and give them all the time they need to adjust.

Understanding Your Pets’ Body Language

Another crucial aspect during the introduction process is understanding your pets’ body language. Both cats and dogs communicate significantly through body language, but their signals might not always be intuitive to us as humans. It’s important to learn to interpret these signals to better understand their comfort levels and to prevent potential conflicts.

For instance, a dog wagging its tail is generally seen as a sign of happiness or excitement. However, for a cat, a wagging tail could signify agitation or annoyance. Similarly, when a cat’s fur stands on end, it is a clear sign of distress or fear, but in dogs, this might indicate excitement or intense focus.

Dogs usually exhibit their comfort and happiness through a relaxed body, wagging tail, and open mouth with a lolling tongue. Signs of distress or unease in dogs can include pinned ears, tucked tails, and avoidance of eye contact.

On the other hand, cats display comfort through purring, slow blinking, and rubbing against people or objects. If a cat is hissing, has its ears flattened or has a puffed-up tail, it is likely feeling threatened or scared.

Learning to read these signals will allow you to intervene or provide reassurance when necessary. It helps prevent any misunderstanding that can escalate into a conflict between your dog and cat.

Managing Shared Resources

Lastly, managing shared resources like food, water, toys, and litter trays is crucial to ensure a harmonious cohabitation of your new dog and existing cat. Resource guarding can be a significant source of conflict among companion animals, and it’s crucial to prevent such situations.

Most importantly, make sure your cat always has uninterrupted access to its litter box. Dogs are often curious about cat litter, which can make your cat uncomfortable. Consider placing the litter tray in a place your dog can’t access, or use a baby gate to keep the dog away.

Make sure both your dog and cat have their own separate feeding areas. Feeding them in the same area may cause tension or fights. They should also have separate toys to play with, as sharing toys can lead to territorial disputes.

Remember, animals don’t understand the concept of sharing like humans do. So, it’s vital to ensure that all pets have access to their own resources to avoid any potential conflict.


Introducing a new dog into a home with cats can seem like a daunting task. However, with the right understanding of their behaviour, careful preparation, and patient approach, it is certainly achievable. Remember to consider the unique personalities and needs of your pets, and give them ample time to adjust to each other. The key is to create a safe, loving environment where both your dog and cat feel comfortable and secure.

By understanding your pets’ body language, you can better interpret their feelings and prevent potential conflicts. Managing shared resources effectively will further ensure a peaceful cohabitation. Keep in mind that this process can take time and patience, but the result—a harmonious home with your beloved companion animals—is worth the effort.

A successful introduction of a new dog into a home with cats can lead to a wonderful bond between your pets, enhancing the joy and companionship they bring into your life.