Dogs and Cats Living Together: How to Introduce Your Pets

Dogs and cats are incredibly different beings, with dogs seemingly more social and cats apparently withdrawn and disinterested. However, experts believe cats and dogs can get along if certain steps are taken.

Not only is it important to consider the personality of your own pet, but it also essential to be mindful of the way you introduce new animals into the family.

This is even more the case when the animals are different species, such as dogs and cats living together.

Do Cats and Dogs Get Along?

File photo of a cat and dog
File photo of a cat and dog. Experts believe there is no innate reason why cats and dogs should not get along. Getty Images

A study published in 2020 suggested there is no ingrained reason why a cat and dog should not get along.

The Italian project interviewed owners about their dogs and cats living together, and found that, while they do in many instances play and spend time together, there are differences in their personalities, such as their level of sociability.

Dr. Travis Arndt, medical director of the American Medical Center of Mid-America, agreed, telling Newsweek: "There really is not an innate reason to suggest animosity between dogs and cats.

"However, there are some behavioral differences between dogs and cats which can lead to conflicts and mistrust.

"First, dogs are social animals; they tend to want to meet and greet all creatures that come into their 'territory.'

"By contrast, cats are independent creatures who tend to lead solitary lifestyles."

In the study, cats and dogs had to learn to read one another's body language for social cues, such as how a cat's elevated tail is an invitation for socialization, while the same from a dog triggers hostility in the cat.

Do Certain Breeds of Dogs Get on Better With Cats?

File photo of a dog and cat
File photo of a dog and cat getting to know one another. Animal personalities are most important to their getting along. Getty Images

Arndt explained that personality and socialization were the most important part of cats and dogs getting along, not breed.

He said: "Individual pet personality, level of training and socialization are more determining factors than breed when determining if different species will be able to co-exist.

"Dogs or cats who have easygoing, laid-back personalities that have been well socialized to other animals and people, and in particular dogs that have a good grasp of common obedience training, tend to be easier to introduce to other animals.

"Dogs that have been well socialized and trained usually either realize that not every animal or person they meet wants to be sniffed or they will at least sit and give space when commanded."

Of course, the age of a cat and dog will also play a role, as an older cat that wants its own space will be less likely to get along with a young, bouncy puppy.

Training might be important if your dog, whether due to breed or personality, is particularly excitable, which could alarm a cat.

Arndt added: "Training and socialization prepare dogs and cats for different situations and how to behave.

"Likewise, it allows pet parents to better predict how their pet will react to future situations based on past exposures.

"For instance, if my dog barks at cats seen while walking around the block, I could predict that it will probably take longer to introduce them to a new cat that I want to bring home. To make the introduction successful, you need patience and a plan."

How to Introduce Cats and Dogs

An owner with their cat and dog
File photo of an owner with their cat and dog. It is important to be patient when introducing cats and dogs into the same household. Getty Images

Marny Nofi, senior manager on the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Behavioral Sciences Team, told Newsweek of particular ways, in which you can introduce your animals that will help create a harmonious home.

To start, if you are bringing a cat into a home with a dog, it is important to refresh the dog's training, especially around recall (answering to their name) and their readiness to pick up or drop objects when told.

She also said it was important, when introducing the new cat, to do so under supervision and with praise and treats for both animals, so both can associate the other with treats.

"Taking things slow will help to avoid a bad first impression. Some cats will be quite confident around dogs; others will need to adjust to their new housemates more slowly," said Nofi.

"Watch for defensive behavior such as hissing or growling. If this occurs, take a step back and move more slowly," she warned.

"When you're not present or can't directly supervise, keep your cat and dog confined in separate areas of the house until you're completely sure that they're safe together.

"Always provide the cat with safe spots up high that the dog can't get to, such as a cat tree or window perch, so they can get away from the dog if they choose.

"It's important to be patient and remember that introductions take time. It could take several weeks or more to help animals get used to each other," added Nofi.

Arndt also added that it was important to give your cat space to get used to a dog, whether it's the new cat or the one meeting your new dog.

He said: "Focus on creating a safe space where the cat feels comfortable. Recognize that if you are bringing a cat into a new space. Behaviorally this is a huge life event.

"Allow them time to settle in and get comfortable before introducing them to each other. Understand that all dogs and cats are individuals and that there is no formula for how long it can take for them to get comfortable with their new surroundings and other pets.

"Let them get comfortable naturally, which may mean restricting access to the house to one or the other pet for long periods of time or during different hours of the day. For example, let the dog have custody of the sofa from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m, but then it's the cat's turn to take over control of the living room during the off time."

Both Arndt and Nofi suggested keeping the dog on a leash for early introductions.

File photo of dog and cat meeting
File photo of a dog and cat meeting. Dogs and cats have different personality traits that are important to bear in mind when introducing them to each other. Getty Images