Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and exotic animals.
If you are thinking about getting a new puppy and already have a cat, their ability to get along has probably been worrying you. Usually, things work out better than expected but you need to make sure they are both safe. Please follow the steps below carefully for the best results.
Introducing Your Cat and Dog
If the dog is a little older (like from a shelter or rescue), you need to take things a little slower. Some dogs have not had any obedience training and are not willing to listen to you, so you need to delay the meeting for as long as possible. (If this is something you can do.) In the meantime teach your dog “leave it” and emphasize impulse control. Dogs with good impulse control are much less likely to attack.
If you have a new puppy, the introduction is going to take place sooner or later. Make it as soon as possible so that you can be there for it and monitor the meeting closely. The introduction that I have outlined above will work with puppies or with obedient adult dogs.
- Bring the cat into the room where the dog or puppy is already waiting on a leash, hopefully with another person. The cat should really be in a carrier because if he or she gets scared immediately and decides to run you are likely to get scratched up if you are carrying him.
- Put the dog into a down/stay and set the cage on the floor. If you have a puppy pick him up and hold him on your lap.
- Wait for a few minutes. Five minutes seems like a long time when you are just sitting around waiting, but by introducing them slowly this first time you will be saving yourself hours of heartache in the future.
- Let your dog up and go over and sniff the cage. If he is overexcited and lunges, tell him “no” firmly and take him out of the room. If you have a puppy let him down and let him investigate the carrier. Your cat will most likely just sit at the back and avoid the dog.
- After your dog has sniffed the carrier, praise him and put him back in a “down/stay” (or pick up the puppy again) and prepare to wait. Have a seat on the floor and rub your dog´s belly. You have to allow the cat to come out of the cage on his own time.
- When your cat starts to come out of the cage, make sure that your dog is watching you and not the cat. I think this is a perfect time to distract with training treats. (I use chunks of liver.)
- Cats are curious and may come up to check out the dog. Give him a treat and see if he is interested. If the dog is too interested in the cat, it may be time to stop the exercise and try again the next day. If the dog is more concerned about getting his next training treat, that is a good thing.
- If your cat just goes to the opposite side of the room and lies down, your pets will be fine together as long as the dog stays focused on you. If not, leave the room and try again tomorrow.
The next step is up to you. If your new puppy is a Maltese, and your cat is a Ragdoll, there is really not much of a chance of any problems developing if you leave them alone after this. If you have adopted an English Mastiff (or a small aggressive dog like a Jack Russell Terrier), however, and your cat is a small American Shorthair, it is a good idea to take them to different parts of the house and continue to monitor their interactions.
No Dog Yet? Which to Choose?
If you still have not purchased a new dog, you and your cat will have a much better chance by selecting one of several breeds. This is a generalization, of course, but breeds with low-prey drive are much less likely to chase any other pet you already have in your house. These are the breeds that consistently have the lowest prey drive:
- Japanese Chin
- Bichon Frisé
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Golden Retriever
- Old English Sheepdog
- Great Pyrenees
Most of the dogs on this list are not easy to obedience train. Dogs with high prey drive tend to be more alert and easier to train. If you want to increase your dog's prey drive, play tug of war with him, buy him squeaky toys and tease him with them, or buy a “flirt pole," which is a toy attached to a flexible pole similar to a fishing pole.
Dog Breeds You Should Avoid
Most of us do not want our dogs to have a high prey drive, especially when we have other pets. Here are some dog groups to avoid if looking for a pet with low prey drive:
This includes dogs like the Greyhound, Whippet, Saluki, Irish Wolfhound, Borzoi, Afghan Hound, and others that hunt by sight. They are a great group of dogs, and many of them will be calm and never make any movement around your cat, but when the dog thinks the cat is running he or she will pounce. There is no guarantee any individual will act a certain way, but for the safety of your cats it is best to avoid dogs in this group.
Some of these dogs are still very high-strung and will chase and attack your cat. If the dog is very small and adapted to home life (like a Yorkshire terrier), there are going to be fewer problems with an adult cat.
A lot of herding dogs have a high prey drive. It is what makes them good at their job. Others, like the Sheltie, are a lot calmer and do much better around cats. This is not a class of dogs that you would never want around your cats but if you have an aggressive dog, like a Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog), there is a lot more danger.
This is another type of dog that may do fine around cats if introduced properly. If you are buying a puppy from a breeder, be sure to explain that you have a cat and try to choose a puppy that does not have a high prey drive.
Many of the dogs in this class are okay as long as they are not tracking their prey. (Beagles are actually known to be one of the best dog breeds around cats.) The scenthounds can be hard to train since so many of them are pack animals but the basics (sit/down/stay/leave it) can be taught easily and should be worked on before your dog is introduced to your cat.
Gun dogs like retrievers and pointers are easy to train and responsive when given commands. They are good pets, and usually okay around cats, and the only reason I have included them on this list is that they do need to be trained before introduction to the household cats.
Thinking About a Kitten? Best Cat Breeds
In my personal experience, most adult dogs are more likely to accept a new kitten than an adult cat accepting a new puppy. This does depend on the attitude of the kitten though since if he or she is very high strung, and runs off at the first sight of the dog, the task ahead is going to be difficult.
So which cats are going to do well with dogs? If you go to a shelter and end up finding a domestic short hair, the kitten is most likely going to be fine. If the cat is older and has been shifted around from house to house, he or she is more likely to be nervous in a new situation. If you are buying a kitten from a breeder, there are a few breeds that are almost always calm:
- Maine Coon Cat
- Norwegian Forest Cat
No matter what you bring home, take it slow and safe! Cats and dogs should not fight.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 25, 2020:
Hi Peach, yes, I think a lot of cats are smart that way!
peachy from Home Sweet Home on July 25, 2020:
I don't have a dog but I have a very old cat. I doubt my cat would go near any pups either.
Abby Slutsky from America on July 21, 2020:
I do not have a dog, but my son is thinking of getting one now that he is out of the house. This will be a very informative article for him. Thanks.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 10, 2020:
Hi Penny thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I hope you are all doing well up there.
Penny Leigh Sebring from Fort Collins on July 10, 2020:
Excellent piece! I really enjoy that you included the information about differences in breed temperaments for both the dogs and the cats.