Dogs who haven’t been raised with cats usually see them not as friends, but as prey. Cats who are unfamiliar with dogs are usually afraid of them. The best chance dogs and cats have of learning to be friendly with each other is if they are raised with or socialized to them before 4 months of age.

If your dog and cat are having trouble getting along, your dog is probably chasing or threatening your cat. If your cat runs away, this usually excites your dog even more. It’s rare to have a cat who can successfully intimidate a dog, but it does happen.

When introducing cats and dogs, the first priority is to ensure the cat’s safety. While cats may scratch dogs, they usually don’t kill them, but dogs can, and have, killed cats.

Many problems can be prevented with proper introductions that are done very gradually. Never put a dog and cat together and try to let them work it out. Instead, keep your dog and cat separated except when you are working on the steps in the introduction process. Introductions must be micro managed and there is no set time for how long they take.

When your pets are not getting along, it’s important to monitor the quality of life of each one. It’s not acceptable for your cat to be in danger, or too afraid to come out of the basement or the bedroom for fear of being harassed or harmed by the dog. Your dog should not be constantly on edge, or “on patrol”, trying to find the cat.

These situations call for re-introduction programs, and providing your cat safe house time, with your dog confined or outside in a safe yard. Most, but not all, cats and dogs can live safely and peaceably together. There are cases in which this doesn’t happen and the best choice is to find another home for one of the pets. You should seek professional help, preferably from a certified applied or veterinary behaviorist or certified experienced dog trainer or consultant before deciding your pets can’t get along.  And enroll in our online course The Peaceable Kingdom to learn strategies you can use to improve your pets’ relationship.

While you are allowing your dog and cat supervised contact with one another (perhaps your dog is on a leash), to ensure you cat’s safety you may need to muzzle your dog. If your dog is muzzled and the introduction goes wrong this will protect your cat from being bitten. We recommend wire basket muzzles from NEVER leave a dog alone while muzzled.