How to Teach Dogs and Cats to Co-habitate

Despite the old saying, “Fighting likes cats and dogs,” many dogs and cats learn to live together in peace. Often becoming best friends! Nevertheless, it can take time and patience to get to the point of creating peaceful coexistence in the home. Often, a lot of it depends on personalities.

Whether you own a cat and are bringing a dog into the home, or the other way around, here are tips to follow to maximize the chance of a successful relationship.


Starting out

A dog is more likely to overwhelm a cat rather than the other way around. So, prepare a dog-free sanctuary room or space for your cat. Be sure to include a litter box, scratching post, water and food, and toys.

Ideally, rooms in your home will have multiple high spaces, like shelving or furniture that your cats can go on so they can easily get some space from the dog when needed. For the next several weeks, be prepared to manage your pets’ interactions.


Separate them at first

When you bring the dog (or cat) home for the first time, keep them separate for at least the first three to four days. You do not want to have any contact between the two until the newcomer has had its vet checkup and has been cleared of illness. Even if the pet has already been checked up, keep them separated to reduce anxiety.

Keep the newcomer in a pet sanctuary room with the door closed or on a separate floor of your home. The purpose is to allow your pets to get used to each other’s presence without face-to-face interaction. Cats and dogs can easily smell and hear each other, even if they cannot see each other.



Feed them at the same time, but on opposite sides of a closed door. With each feeding, move their bowls a little closer to the closed door. Continue this until each pet can eat calmly right next to the door. The idea is you are teaching them to associate the presence of the other with pleasant things, such as food.


Teach basic commands

If the newcomer is a dog that does not know basic obedience cues, such as “sit” or “down,” make sure to teach these basic commands before fully introducing them to the cat.


First face-to-face meetings

Once your pets can eat calmly on either side of a closed door, it is time to make first face-to-face introductions. Do not use either animals’ sanctuary area, but rather a common area of the home. Keep the first sessions short. Be sure to keep the dog on a leash and allow the cat to come and go as it pleases. Do not restrain your cat in your arms. If it startles and tries to jump away, you could get injured. Ask your calm dog to sit and reward her with a small treat for good behavior. Give your cat treats as well. If either shows aggression, redirect their attention. You could toss a toy into a different room to lure your cat or call your dog’s name to draw her attention. Repeat the face-to-face meetings daily until they can calmly interact with each other.


Let them loose

When the two appear to get along, allow them loose in a room together, but keep the dog’s leash attached but dragging on the floor so that you can step on it and prevent them from chasing the cat. If tensions erupt, go back and repeat earlier steps. Remember to make sure the cat has access to a dog-proof sanctuary. Continue to supervise until both pets are truly comfortable and calm around each other.