Time and patience are the keys to successfully introducing your new furmily member to your resident one. A single hostile encounter between them can set their relationship tone for a long time – so let's start positive and keep it positive.
Before beginning any pet introductions, allow your new member at least 24 hours to adjust to your home and get to know you. Swap a couple of their bedding items, so both pets can adjust to each other's scent. Keep your new pet in their separate, comfortable area and give both pets treats while doing this, so they associate the smell with something good.
Things to always keep in mind when introducing any of your pets:
- take every introduction at your pets' pace
- be patient, calm and never force your cat and dog to be together
- a good outcome is that both pets end up tolerating each other - anything more is a bonus
- praise both pets throughout meetings and give them treats
- never punish or use harsh tones
- give your dog lots of attention so jealousy doesn't become an issue
- keep the pets separated when you are not home to supervise until you are confident they can tolerate each other
- if either pet becomes fearful or hostile, return to a previous step – a minor setback will not ruin the friendship, but an aggressive encounter could end badly and affect the future relationship
- remember your pets may take two to three months to reach a comfortable place.
Dog to dog introductions
Choose a neutral place where neither dog has an opportunity to claim as their own.
Introduce your dogs to each other while they’re on-lead, from a distance of at least 4 metres. Watch their reaction - your dogs can approach each other if they both do any of these:
- play bows with a wide/broad tail wag
- look away from the other dog and focus on their humans
- show mild interest in the other dog (without showing concerning behaviour)
- show moderate interest in the other dog but looks back at their humans at least twice.
Bring your dogs closer together and walk them parallel to each other, so they pass side-by-side, not nose to nose.
The dogs should move freely with loose movements – they won’t be stiff or upright. The dogs are showing an interest in each other but are not obsessive.
Allow the dogs to reach each other and watch how they react. Make sure the first nose-to-nose greeting is for only one second before stepping away from the other dog and calling to your dog.
Keep walking in a big loop, and then do another nose-to-nose greeting. This time allow the dogs to say hello for two seconds. Repeat this a few times while gradually increasing the time they are allowed to interact.
Loosen the lead tension and let the dogs interact. Remember to move with your dog so their leads don’t get tangled.
If both dogs have responded well to each other so far, remove the lead and allow short play. Let the dogs play for about one minute, then call the dogs away separately (don’t pull their collar). If you feel comfortable, release dogs for another two-minute play.
If you have any reservations about the free play, leave the leads on and drop them so they trail behind. That way, you can pick up the leashes and move the dogs if needed.
Watch for these signs that the dogs are doing OK:
- they play together within 30 seconds
- they play bow with wide level tail wags
- they sniff nose-to-nose rapidly wagging upright tails
- they sniff each other's backends
- they have brief social contact, but then separate and explore the area
- they playing with mild to moderate intensity, with dogs able to separate and go back to their humans
- playing, then they disengage on their own
- they ignore each other, but are relaxed.
If you see these signs stay alert and be prepared to step in:
- play is rough and intense, but dogs will part and go back to their humans
- they remain stiff and tails wag stiffly
- they sustain direct eye contact
- they pose bodies front-on to each other
- either dog has hackles up
- one dog wants to play more than the other and is persistent
- one dog is afraid of the other. The confident dog gently asks for play, then ignores the scared dog and explores the environment.
Stop if you see any of these behaviours in either of the dogs:
- growls, lunges or barks at the other
- trembling, high-pitched whining, straining on the leash or staring intently and the other dog without withdrawing their gaze
- snaps, growls, snarls, bites or nips
- chomps, clacks or chatters their jaw
- jumps up or over the other dog's shoulder
- are obsessive about each other and you can't get their attention
- completely ignore each other and try hard to avoid each other
- one intimidates the other and the frightened dog tries to hide or gets snappy
- is stiff and upright, with their tail or hackles up and they're attempting to stand over the other
- either dog immediately tries to fight.
When you take your dogs home, make sure that you have hidden any objects your dogs might compete for, like toys, chews and food. Closely supervise your dogs while they explore the yard and house together. If either dog becomes aggressive to the other, distract both without punishing the aggressor. Punishment will likely be associated with the other dog and reinforce the behaviour. Give lots of praise and tasty food treats for good behaviour towards one another so that both dogs associate each other with positive experiences.
Provide your new dog with his own area for sleeping and eating. Feed your dogs separately until you are positive that food will not cause conflict between them. You can either place their bowls in different rooms or use a dog gate to separate them. If one dog finishes first, don’t allow him to hover as the other dog eats. To prevent tension, you should keep them apart until both dogs have licked their bowls clean.
While your new dog is settling in take them both for short walks and play periods together, always taking treats along to reward good behaviour. Take care not to favour either animal, even if you feel your existing dog is jealous. Be careful about letting your pets interact freely until you are sure that they enjoy one another’s company and do not find interactions stressful.
Cat to Cat introductions
Cats are not social animals by nature. They usually hunt alone, live alone and rarely seek company of other cats. So introducing a second cat into your household might present some difficulties.
First impressions are important when cats meet so time and patience are the keys to successfully introducing cats. A single hostile encounter between two unfamiliar cats can set their relationship tone for a long time.
Keep your new cat in their separate, comfortable area, and give both cats treats while doing this, so they associate the smell with something good. The two cats should be able to smell and hear, but not see or touch each other.
Once your new cat is ready to explore your home, swap the rooms your cats can access. This way, they can explore each other's territory at their own pace. Pop your new cat back in their room afterwards.
When your cats are relaxed with each other's presence, open the door dividing their spaces so they can see each other without being able to touch each other. You might need a room divider or screen. Give both cats toys and treats on each side of the divider.
Once they're comfortable with limited exposure, try feeding both cats on opposite sides of the same room. Then return the newly adopted cat to their room again.
After a few days of shared mealtimes, they might be ready to try sharing the house. Let your new cat access the rest of the house for a few minutes at a time, gradually increasing the time they're allowed to explore.
Your cats will be more likely to get along if they’re happy in their environment. Look at the layout of your home. Make sure there are plenty of hiding spots for your cats. Some like to sit up high, on shelves and on kitty condo perches. Frightened cats, on the other hand, tend to hide under and behind things, so make sure you provide spots at floor level as well. Place food, water and litter boxes out in the open so your cats don’t feel trapped when they access these resources. Make sure you have a litter box for each cat, plus at least one extra.
Dog to cat introductions
Take time to prepare the house before the new member arrives. It is important to ensure that there are plenty of high resting places where your cat can easily and safely retreat away from the dog or puppy if they want to. This helps reduce stress and avoid problems with your cat being too afraid to eat/drink or use the litter tray.
When your pets are relaxed about each other's presence, you can try opening the door that's separating them. Place a barrier or room divider between the pets to let them see each other without touching. Give them both toys and treats on each side of the divider.
It will help to have one person with your dog and one person with your cat, so each of you can focus entirely on one pet.
With the door open, ask your dog to focus on you, not the cat and reward them when they do with a treat. You might ask the dog to sit, lay down, or simply call their name. At the same time keep rewarding your cat with treats and allow them to hide or leave the situation.
Repeat this daily, every 30 minutes for around 2-5 minutes per session, until your dog can focus on you entirely and your cat is showing that they're comfortable.
Once both pets are comfortable with this limited exposure, bring your dog into the cat's space on a lead. Close the door behind you so that your cat can't escape and repeat the same interactions as before until both pets are comfortable.
Slowly increase the length of their interactions. Hopefully, after a few days of positive interactions, both pets are relaxed and unconcerned about each other.
For help reading your dog's body language, head to our handy guide!