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How to Introduce a Puppy to Cats (10 Great Tips)

Written by: Lorre Luther

Last Updated on February 27, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

a cat and a puppy outside

How to Introduce a Puppy to Cats (10 Great Tips)

If you already have a cat at home but are considering adopting a puppy, you might be wondering if there are any steps you can take to minimize stress for all parties involved. Cats often don’t react well to changes in their routines or environments, and the introduction of a new pet can cause stress in some cats.

However, you can do things to ease the process, from ensuring your cat has a place to go when they’re feeling overwhelmed by your new puppy to giving your pets lots of time to get used to each other before permitting them to hang out together without supervision. Read on for 10 tips on how to introduce a puppy to cats.

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How to Introduce a Puppy to Cats

1. Move Your Cat’s Litter Box and Food/Water Bowls

If your cat’s litter box and food set up are currently somewhere your dog will have easy access to, consider moving these feline essentials to a different location to lower the risk of conflict between your pets. Cats often require time to adjust to changes, particularly those involving litter boxes and dining routines.

Try to make the switch in advance of the day you plan to bring your new puppy home, as it can sometimes take kitties a while to adjust their bathroom and dining routines. Moving the litter box just a few inches each day will make the process easier for your cat to tolerate.

Cat tray with crystal litter and scoop on floor near light blue wall
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

2. Prepare a Cat-Friendly Hideout

Prepare a canine-free space for your cat so they’ll have somewhere to go when your new canine companion arrives. Make sure your cat has access to all the essentials in their safe space, including a litter box, food, and water.

You can add a cat tree or shelf to give your pet some vertical space to enjoy. Cat trees and shelves provide ways for cats to lounge far off the ground, which gives cats a sense of comfort and safety. Also, you can add a few toys so your cat can entertain itself without having to leave their room.

3. Hit the Store Ahead of Time

If you’re adopting a new puppy, you’ll probably need to hit the pet store for essentials like food and water bowls, a collar, toys, and a leash! So, consider adding a playpen and treats to your list. After you bring your puppy home, you’ll need to have a way to keep the dog separated from your cat during the introduction process.

A playpen provides a comfortable way for you to temporarily keep your puppy from chasing your cat during those first introductions. At every step during the introduction process, you’ll want to provide positive reinforcement when your two pets interact peacefully.

boston terrier puppy inside a large cage play pen with the door open
Image Credit: Christine Bird, Shutterstock

4. Get Started With the Obedience Training

Start teaching your puppy basic commands such as “sit”, “come”, “stay”, “no”, and “off” as soon as possible after your new companion arrives home and settles in. Even leashed puppies who become too excited can scare an already anxious cat, which certainly won’t help your pets get comfortable with each other.

Teaching your puppy basic commands can help you create and maintain an environment comfortable for both of your pets during those initial interactions. It can take some dogs a few weeks to master basic commands.

5. Start With Restricted Contact

Consider confining your puppy to a playpen for those initial meetings with your cat. Keeping your new puppy contained makes it possible for your cat to take a look at your new canine buddy under controlled circumstances and for your puppy to get a good whiff of your cat.

Add a soft blanket to ensure your puppy has a comfortable place to snuggle while the cat is out and about, and include a few toys and age-appropriate treats so your puppy begins to associate tasty goodies with your cat. Keep things short and give both animals lots of love and yummy rewards to celebrate calm interactions. End the session if either pet starts showing signs of agitation or aggression.

puppy inside play pen
Image Credit: Amber Aquart, Shutterstock

6. Allow Leashed Contact

Once your pets interact without incidents, you can move on to allowing more personal contact. Leash your dog and allow your cat to explore. Stay close to your puppy and be prepared to leave if your new addition becomes too excited or begins to show too much enthusiasm towards your cat.

Keep the meeting short, and always allow your cat to do the approaching! It’s also best to provide positive reinforcement and treats to both pets when they behave appropriately.

7. Get Help During the First Leased Introductions

It’s often helpful to have a second person around when you first introduce your cat to your leashed dog. Having someone else there who both pets trust can make a huge difference in keeping things calm. Not only will two sets of eyes be able to pick up on any signs of stress, agitation, or excitement more easily, but a second person can also provide treats to the pet you’re not with so your other companion gets the benefit of immediate positive reinforcement as well.

A second person can also be helpful if things become heated, and you need to step in and intervene to keep the peace. It can often take a few weeks for your pets to become comfortable enough with each other to move on to off-leash supervised meetings.

Scottish fold cat and a caucasian shepherd puppy
Image Credit: Jarodka, Shutterstock

8. Move on to Unleashed Supervised Contact

When it’s time to let your dog have unleashed visits with your cat, follow the same procedure as you have been and remove the leash from your dog when they’re calm and relaxed. Stay in the room to supervise and step in immediately if things get out of hand.

Make sure your cat can quickly get to their safe room from where you do the introductions. Some dogs and cats zip right through this stage, and other pairs take a bit of time. Dogs with strong herding and hunting instincts sometimes need time to master appropriate behavior around cats.

9. Allow Unsupervised Contact if Appropriate

Determine whether your pets are ready for unsupervised contact. Some cats and dogs become best friends and rely intensely on each other for companionship. Others simply co-exist in the same space but largely ignore each other. Only leave your pets together without supervision if you’re comfortable that all parties will be safe while you’re away.

If your pets’ interactions are too heated for comfort, and things do not seem to be moving in the right direction, consider bringing in a veterinary behavioral specialist to give you a hand. A few tweaks can often improve the situation and lower your pets’ stress levels.

puppy and cat sleeping
Image Credit: JacLou, Pixabay

10. Be Aware of Hissing, Growling, and Tail Thwacking

It’s normal for pets to be anxious when being introduced to another animal, and you can look out for any signs of fear or aggression in your cat, such as hissing or tail thwacking. There’s generally nothing to worry about as long as your cat doesn’t move toward your puppy or show aggression. But do not force things! If your cat takes one look at your dog, lets out a hiss, and walks away, consider it a win and get ready to try again another day!

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Having a dog and a cat works out well for many families. Some cats become deeply attached to long-time canine family members, but cats can be particular about their space and routines, and many don’t respond well to changes, like the introduction of a new puppy. But your cat and puppy can get along just fine with each other, especially if you give your cat a safe place to hide when feeling overwhelmed and introduce the pair slowly!

Featured Image Credit: rohitink, Pixabay

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