Updated: Dec 24, 2022
While writing personality profiles on dogs there are always those 3 big questions:
"Are they good with other dogs?"
"Are they good with children?"
"Are they good with cats?"
I think most people understand that, even if a dog gets along with the majority of other dogs, the answer is really; it depends on the situation and the other dogs.
How does the other dog interact with dogs? Where are they being introduced? Is there a resource involved? Are they on or off leash? What else is happening in the environment? How are both dogs feeling?
The same applies to children. How old are the children? What is the environment like? How do the children interact with dogs? For some reason though, I don't think most people understand that cats are the same way.
At Doggedly we always do our best to expose our dogs to at least one cat prior to adoption. During this "cat test" we observe the dog's behavior in order the aid in placing them in an appropriate home.
If the dog is calm, and able to sniff or interact with the cat and hang out in the same room as the cat - we consider the dog appropriate to place in a home with cats.
If the dog is barking, lunging, growling, or aggressively obsessing over the cat - we consider the dog a potential danger to cats, and therefor will not place them in a home with them. But are they good with cats? It depends.
In reality, considering both of the scenarios above, a dog may be able to safely live with cats under the right circumstances. Alternatively they have the potential to harm or even kill a cat under the wrong circumstances.
Behavior depends on environment. Every individual dog and cat is different. Health, life stressors, age and situation all affect interactions. It depends just as much on the cat's personality as it does the dog's. It depends on how much time, care, and consideration the adoptive home puts in to the initial integration and introduction. It depends on the dog's genetic make-up, early life exposures and overall personality.
Has the cat ever met a dog before? How old is the cat? What does the cat do when they see the dog? Are there multiple cats?
Just like dogs can be good with some individual dogs and not others - they can also be good with some individual cats and not others.
It's important to manage your expectations.
If you envision a life where your newly adopted dog is snuggling with your cat and your cat is grooming your newly adopted dog within days of meeting, what you're expecting is a Disneyesque movie. It happens, but it's rare. Most of the time, the best we can hope for are two pets that happily coexist and don't chase/harm one another.
How to introduce your new dog to your cat
If we adopted your Doggedly dog into your home with a cat, this means we have done our own cat introduction. However; living with a cat is often significantly different than meeting a cat once or even a few times. It is absolutely imperative to take things slow and allow your cat to get comfortable with the idea of a new dog in your home, as well as allowing your dog to slowly learn how to properly greet, interact with, and live with a feline friend.
Making sure your cat has multiple safe spaces in your home such as a very tall cat tree and a room (or several) with a baby gate where a dog can’t get in is essential for a successful integration. These cat safe rooms should include fresh water, food, and litter boxes. They must be secure so the cat does not worry that a dog could break in.
We highly recommend purchasing a Feliway diffuser as a way to calm your cat during the decompression period. Set this up in your cat’s safe zone.
Dog/cat integration can take a bit more time than dog/dog integration, so don’t get discouraged if it’s taking a while. Remember to let the cats set the pace. By not rushing the process, you will be much more likely to have a peaceful home in the future.
When your new dog no longer seems fixated on trying to find the cat (or after the first 3 days of decompression if your dog is not showing interest), set up an intro training session:
Pick a day when you have some extra time. Secure all other dogs in your home in a separate space where they aren't causing commotion. With your new dog on leash in a room where they are comfortable, open your cat’s door and allow them to choose to come into the room with you and your dog. When the cat enters the room, immediately get your dog’s attention and practice the cues you’ve been working on. If your dog seems too excited, move them farther from the cat and try again. Keep these sessions short and positive.
• Once the dog is not fixated on trying to get to the cat when it’s in the same room,
allow your new dog to approach your cat and sniff. Keep this interaction short and
positive, then call your dog away and tell them what a great job they did.
• Continue facilitating short and sweet monitored interactions for several days to weeks
depending on the dog, always allowing your cat to return to dog free safe zones as they
• Never leave dogs and cats together unsupervised in your home until you are
completely certain your dog will not chase or try to attack the cat. If you have any
doubts, put the cat in its safe zone with the door shut and your dog in a crate in a
separate room when they cannot be supervised.
Please note, if you have other dogs in your home ensure that they are separate during these training sessions. Once you are comfortable allowing your cats to come and go freely make sure that your dog's demeanor toward the cat doesn't change if the other dogs are around. If any of your current dogs have a habit of chasing your cat (even playfully) it can give your new dog the wrong message on appropriately interacting with cats.
Here is a great video on tips to a successful dog/cat introduction: