Tips for integrating dogs and cats

Dogs and cats CAN be pals! The key is patience and calm. Be aware that even the friendliest dogs may try to chase cats at first because they want to play and investigate. As long as they don’t display aggression and your cat has an easy escape route and place to hide, don’t worry – they should sort themselves out. Just be patient and keep trying but don’t force the issue. 

If the dog seems at all aggressive or attempts to bite the cat, separate them immediately and seek out professional assistance. A dog can kill or severely injure a cat in seconds so you cannot be too careful. 

Stay on lead
We strongly suggest that you keep dogs on lead at first for any introductions with cats. 

Stay calm
The more anxious or upset you get, the more it will escalate the dog’s excitement – they’ll think it’s a fun game! Cats may well look a bit freaked out or run away, and the new dog might try to play, but it’s normal. Just discourage him/her gently. If he/she is interested, go with them to see the cats – pulling them back on the lead can only excite them more and make them see cats as a ‘forbidden pleasure’.

More often than not, cats will quickly teach boundaries to a dog with a few hisses or a paw to the snout. Let the cats set the pace – don’t hold them or crate them; they will decide if they’re ok or if they want to step away from the situation! Eventually their curiosity will draw them back. Make sure their food is out of reach of dogs.

Reward good behaviour
If the new dog is friendly and calm, praise them. ANY chasing, barking, growling, etc. at other pets must be interrupted immediately but gently. Distract them with a toy or treat (only give treats when they’re behaving themselves), and gently tug them away by the leash. Do not shout, jerk the leash, or punish. A positive experience means they will associate each other with nice things! It can be helpful to have one person sitting by other dog giving treats and attention but if the new dog comes up to you, don’t chase him/her away.

Unless both your cats and the new dog are very laid-back, it’s still a change which they need to adjust to. Be aware of that and go with the flow.

Important: Do not leave a new dog or cat alone with other animals, particularly if you think there may be an altercation. If the dog really shows aggression or bites/attempts to bite the cat, keep them separated and consult an animal behaviourist. A dog can easily kill a cat in seconds so be extremely careful. 

Copyright: Fisantekraal Animal Welfare, 2017. Kindly credit FAW if you share this information as this helps to create awareness around our work, which helps the animals. Thank you!