How to Acclimate a Dog to a Cat

Introducing new pets to one another can be exciting yet stressful. It is important to use caution and take time to ensure a smooth transition, especially in the case of introducing a dog and a cat. Acclimating a dog and a cat to each other can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. You can ease the acclimation, and keep everyone safe, by preparing beforehand for the process. Above all, the key is to acclimate them to each other gradually so that neither the dog nor the cat becomes afraid or aggressive.

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Part1 Creating the Right Environment

  1. Prepare the dog for the new arrival.
    • If you are bringing a new cat into a house with a dog, you should introduce the dog to the cat’s smell before the actual cat arrives. Give the dog items that belong to the cat to sniff and become acquainted with its scent. For example, you could allow the dog to smell a blanket or pillow that the cat likes to sleep on.
    • Allowing your dog to know the scent of the cat it will meet ahead of time will reduce the dog’s energy at the first meeting. Smelling a smell it has smelled before is much less exciting than smelling a new smell.
  2. Set up a space for the cat.
    • Whether the cat already lives in the house or you are bringing it into the house, it will need a space of its own away from the dog. Above all, make sure the cat has a room, or other area, where the dog is not allowed.
    • The cat’s litter box, food, water, and toys should be put in this private area away from the dog.
  3. Create a safe, clutter-free environment to introduce the dog to the cat in.
    • Pick a place in the house that will be free from distractions and items that the dog may feel ownership over. This will minimize the chances of a negative first interaction.
    • Erect a barrier, such as a baby gate, in the area where you will introduce the pets. This will allow them to sniff each other through the barrier as you gradually introduce them to each other.
    • You should wait a few days after bringing your new pet home to introduce the animals face to face. This means that this space does not need to be set up until you are ready for this introduction.

Part2 Introducing a Dog and a Cat

  1. Keep the dog and cat separated for several days.
    • Once you bring your new pet home, it shouldn’t meet your other pet or pets for a few days. This will give the new pet some time to adjust to its new surroundings without the added stress of dealing with other new animals.
    • Put your cat, whether its new or old, in a room that is closed off. This will be the easiest way to keep it away from the dog.
  2. Let the animals smell each other without seeing each other.
    •  You should let the dog smell the cat under a door after a day or two. Since you have introduced your dog to the smell of the cat even before it arrives, the dog will know the smell but will still be interested in it.
    • This is a good time to gauge your dog’s interest and aggression for the cat. If it smells the cat’s smell and becomes aggressive, then you will need to take acclimation very, very gradually. If your dog is only slightly interested in the smell, then the acclimation process may be relatively easy.
    • You can even feed them on opposite sides of the same door. This will get them used to the smells of each other in a pleasant situation.[
  3. Let the animals sniff each other face to face gradually.
    • With the help of another adult, let the cat and dog see each other for the first time. don’t hold or restrain the cat because this may make him feel trapped and he may become aggressive. Just hold onto the dog and allow the cat to approach the dog if he wants to. If the cat does not want to approach the dog, then they are not ready to be friends. Don’t let them have physical contact but allow them to make eye contact and to smell each other.
    • Keep the dog on a leash when acclimating it to a cat, holding it firmly.
    • Don’t hold the cat in your arms, as it could wiggle out and scratch you if frightened.
    • If you are worried about your cat’s safety, place the cat in a carrier to make sure the dog can’t get to it.
  4. Interrupt any unacceptable behavior by moving the dog away from the cat.
    • You may need to redirect both animals’ attention with a new activity. Give a toy to your cat and play a game with your dog, anything that will redirect their attention.
    • Do not give the dog or cat treats if they are exhibiting bad behavior, such as growling or hissing. This will only reinforce the behavior.
  5. Teach the dog a command to control its behavior around the cat. 
    • This could be a command like “leave it” or “leave alone.” Use this command whenever you want the dog to leave the cat alone. This could even be of use if the dog is not acting aggressively but you are afraid that the cat might.[
    • Before you introduce a dog and cat it’s a good idea to have trained your dog in basic commands. This will allow you to control its behavior despite the dog’s impulses.
  6. Reward both the dog and cat with treats to reinforce acceptable behavior.
    • If your dog and cat simply sniff each other and do not show aggression or fear, then they should be rewarded for that behavior. Also, if your dog responds to your verbal commands while being introduced to the cat, reward it for that behavior as well.
    • Praise the cat when it is gentle around the dog and praise the dog when it is calm 

Part3 Preventing Conflicts

  1. Give your cat its own space. 
    • Even if your dog and cat get along, most cats enjoy being alone from time to time. To ensure that your cat remains happy, it should be given an area of your home that is dog free.
    • If you live in a house, this could be a floor of the house. If you live in an apartment, this could be a room that the dog is not allowed in.
    • Put up a baby gate permanently to help give the cat its own safe space. The baby gate will allow the cat to move freely over it but will keep most dogs out of specific rooms.
  2. Keep feeding areas separate. 
    • Many conflicts that occur between cats and dogs begin with food. This usually entails the dog wanting the cats food and the cat not liking that. To avoid conflict over food, feed the pets in different areas.[
    • If your cat has an area all its own, feed it there. It is important that the dog does not have any access to the cat’s food.
    • If your cat and dog get used to each other, and you want to feed them in the same room, then you can simply feed your cat on an elevated area that the dog cannot get to, such as your kitchen counter. Height gives a cat a sense of security.
  3. Don’t force interaction. 
    • You cannot force your cat and dog to love each other. Instead, they need to acclimate to each other naturally. Once you are sure that they will not harm each other, you need to let them work out their relationship on their own.
    • In many cases, dogs and cats will come to simply tolerate each other. If you are really lucky, however, they may become friends.
    • In the best cases, the dog will have been trained to be calm and submissive and so the cat will be able to exhibit calm and assertive behavior around the dog.


  • Don’t react adversely to hissing, barking or growling. Be prepared to intervene, however, if hostilities escalate.
  • Not all dogs do well with cats. Some hunting breeds, such as hounds and terriers, may be driven by too strong a prey instinct to coexist safely with cats.
  • Keep the cat’s claws trimmed short. A sudden swipe with an open claw can cause pain and an aggressive reaction from the dog.
  • Make sure that the dog and the cat are kept in separate areas while you are away. Even if all seems well in your presence, aggression can become deadly if there is no one to intervene.


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