How to train dogs and cats to get along

How many families own both a cat and a dog?

Americans appear to be pet loving creatures. According to a recent Harris Poll, 62% of households own at least one pet. Of those households, 69% owned a dog and 51 % owned a cat. Yahoo reported that generally 2 out of 5 households owned both a cat and a dog.

It’s not too hard to find a cat if you decide you want one. Sometimes one will simply show up at your back door. If you feed her, you have just become a cat owner. It takes a little more effort if you want a certain color or breed.

On the other hand, dogs seldom just show up. You will check shelters and rescue centers to find your forever friend. Or, if you are looking for a certain breed, you will check pet magazines and the internet.

To move this narrative along, let’s assume you have a dog. The dog has been in the household for two or three years and everybody is happy. Then your child comes in carrying a cat and says,”can we keep her, please can we keep her?”

new family member

No matter how hard you try to dismiss the cat, you will end up keeping her. Now you have the challenge of reconciling your dog with the new arrival and arrive at peace between species.

How to train the dog to get along with the cat

if you have had your dog for two or three years, he will naturally assume that the territory – in the house and in the yard is his. However, most dogs make friends with other animals in the household quicker than cats will.(more about this later.)

More depends upon your dog’s personality than the breed. Some cat and dog breeds will never get along.

If you have been taking your dog to a dog park and he is comfortable around other dogs, then it will be easier for him to accept another animal in the household.

If your dog has an aggressive streak, you must take it slowly when introducing a new animal to the family mix.

The first thing to do is to temporarily separate the dog and the cat from each other. They will know the other one is there, but they aren’t going to confront each other just yet.

Put the cat in a separate area of the house. Most dogs and cats have strong scent mechanisms and will know the other one is around even though they haven’t seen each other yet.

Let them follow their noses. They will smell each other between the door. The cat will probably hiss and your dog may bark. It ‘s part of the process.

Give them a week of just smelling and hearing each other before moving ahead with the “getting to know you” phase. During this week of getting used to each other’s smell, make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise, for his body and mind. This will keep him occupied with things other than,”Why is that cat in that room”?

Also, during this time, keep the cat interested in things. Cats don’t mind being in small spaces, but you can’t just lock her away. Spend some time playing with her. Cats love scratching posts. Chasing a ball and string will keep her active. Make sure she is using the litter box you put in the room with her.

She needs to get acquainted with the family so she won’t be at a disadvantage. The cat has a learning curve this week, too.

How to bring the two together, face to face

The newcomer has been in the house for about a week and both the dog and the cat are beginning to ignore each other. Oh, there is some sniffing around the door, an occasional yip or hiss, but not as much as when the cat was first brought home.

You should know your dog well enough to know his reaction to something strange around the house. Will he lunge, bark until everyone is crazy, or do a few sniffs and walk away.

Open the door to the room where the cat has been residing. Just sit back and watch. Don’t interfere in any way unless a real confrontation begins.

If there is a confrontation, separate them immediately. It is easiest to grab the dog’s collar. Cats will aim for the dog’s face and cats have sharp little claws. This will probably be the only physical altercation. Animals usually settle things on their own.

Face to face

By the end of week two, things should be fairly calm. There may be a brief spat or two,  but by now they’ve reached toleration, and before you realize it, they are interacting with each other with little difficulty. Be sure to show each animal plenty of love and playtime.

I should mention that there are other ideas floating around about how to add a new member to the family. I don’t recommend or concur with them but you’ll hear about them.

Some people have suggested that the thing to do is to just throw the cat and dog together–none of this gradual introduction time– they’ll sort it out. Anyway, everybody knows cats are not trainable.

If you want your household completely wrecked, just do that. You may even end up with a trip or two to the vet for bites, scratches and torn skin. Your docile, house-broken cat will become a frightened wild cat. And, yes, not trainable after that kind of treatment.

How the ages of the dog and cat influence their behavior

We haven’t talked about the comparative ages of the dog and the cat. The age of each one will determine how and if they will learn to get along, or at best, just tolerate each other’s presence.

If you are sure you want both a dog and a cat, and you have settled on the breeds and colors then bring the dog and cat home together.

They both will be new to their surroundings, the house, and to you, their pet parents. They will explore everything together and get to know each other all at the same time.

A puppy and a kitten will usually show no animosity toward one another If you can stand the turmoil of two adolescent animals in your home, that will solve the ‘getting to know You” situation.

But, more often or not, one animal is already established in the home when the second animal is introduced.

can we be friends?

An adult dog will accept another animal more easily than will an adult cat. Adult dogs are usually more tolerant of other dogs, even an adult cat, just as long as their space is not violated.

The hardest interaction to reconcile is an older cat and a dog of any age. The older a cat is the more she wants everything just the same as always. An older cat (above 7) may suffer from loss of eyesight, some arthritis and maybe a lack of hearing. Coping with these maladies may make her a little cranky and less likely to tolerate a younger animal.


It’s not impossible to put two species of animals together, but it requires much patience from pet owners. You are putting two species together that have different inherited backgrounds.

Dogs are natural pack animals. Their direct ancestor, the wolf, is a pack animal. Your dog has a natural tendency to be part of a group. If you train your dog correctly, he will consider you as the leader of the pack, and will obey your commands.

The Cat is a lone animal. Her ancestry, the big cats, will band together briefly to bring down large prey.

In our domesticated world, most dogs and cats can overcome ancestry and learn to live together, for food, shelter and companionship.

However, some breeds will never learn to live together. The best you can hope for is that they will agree to ignore each other.


My brain must have gone on vacation when I wrote this. A number of households crate their dogs when the family is gone and when company is around.

This will make a difference in letting the newcomer explore her surroundings and meet the dog. You may only have to put the cat in her safe place when the dog is free.

Whatever the circumstances, let the animals lead.  Always be ready to intercede when things get tense.

After about two weeks , you will notice that things are almost back to normal. The cat and the dog have a truce and you have a new pet in the house.

I always like to hear from my readers. Have you experienced introducing a new pet into your household? Let me know how things went.

2 thoughts on “How to train dogs and cats to get along”

  1. I love your article. I don’t own pets but i have few friends that have both animals in the house. I used to wonder why both can’t get along after watching a dog chase a cat when i visited a friend a long time ago.
    Your analysis has simply made know both can actually live together and get along well. I hope pet lovers will come across this article just in case they plan on having both animals.

    1. Thank you for your reply. Once you understand that the dog and the cat have sprung from entirely different ancestries, you can understand why living together takes a lot of training..

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