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Home > Ask A Vet > Dogs and Cats Living Together: Vet Advice for a Harmonious Relationship

Dogs and Cats Living Together: Vet Advice for a Harmonious Relationship

british shorthair cat and dog in the grass

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Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo

Written by

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

Veterinarian, BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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A friendship between a dog and a cat can seem to be an impossible mission. If a dog is not careful, they can get their face and eyes clawed by a cat. Similarly, if a dog gets angry, they can catch and bite a cat, causing severe injuries.

So, how do we make a dog and a cat become friends or at least have a harmonious relationship? There are plenty of tactics that you can use to get these animals to tolerate each other and even happily share the same home.

Good relationships take time, though, so don’t force the two of them!


What Are the Basic Conditions for Dogs and Cats to Live Together?

Neither of the two animals should have had an unpleasant experience with the animal of the other type. For example, if your cat was hunted by a dog and bitten severely, you will need to make an extra effort for them to get along. If your dog has had unpleasant experiences with cats in the past, they will be reluctant to share their territory with the other species.

This is not a basic condition, but if one of them is a baby, that can be extremely helpful when trying to make the two of them live happily together. In this way, you will be sure that one of them did not have an unpleasant experience with the other. Also, puppies or kittens are much more receptive and curious than adult animals that have already formed their personalities.

welsh corgi dogs and british longhair cat on sofa at home
Image Credit: LightField Studios, Shutterstock

How to Plan Their First Encounter

If you are thinking of adopting a cat or a dog, but you already have one of these animals, it is best to prepare ahead of time for their first interaction. It depends on the personality of each pet on how they will react to the sight of the other species. Your role is to make this event pleasant and stress free.

Here’s what you need to do to be successful during the meeting between the two pets:

  • Give yourself a few days to come up with a plan.
  • Make sure you have someone else with you when the two pets meet for the first time. One will take care of the cat, and the other will take care of the dog. You can’t handle both alone, especially when you don’t know how they will react.
  • Pay extra attention to your resident pet.
  • Keep the dog on a leash during first dates.
  • Avoid visits from family and friends during this period. You want the environment in which the two meet to be as stress free as possible.
  • Avoid loud noises, such as music, radio, or television. They can cause stress and disrupt the first meetings.
  • Do not simply leave the pets together by chance, even if you are sure your resident pet will not react aggressively. The dog could hunt the cat, and the cat will become frightened or aggressive and will not accept a second date.

The first introduction should always be done gradually and with patience. In the first phase, it is recommended to let the pets smell each other from under the door, or you can exchange accessories between them (blankets, beds, or toys). You can also rub a towel on each animal, which you can then put under the food bowls of the two pets. After a few days, you can let them see each other but from a distance. During this time, they will get used to the scent and presence of the other pet. When you feel confident that they are used to each other, you can introduce them properly.

Many dog breeds can coexist harmoniously with cats, even those with an innate hunting instinct. The same is true for shy cats. It will simply take them longer.

Dogs and cats need an adjustment period. The best way is for them to smell and see each other but not touch each other. You will need time and patience to make coexistence between a dog and a cat work.

cat and dog lying on sofa
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

How to Create a Suitable Environment for Cats and Dogs

First, consider the pets’ personalities. Are they territorial or shy? Do they get stressed easily? Are they curious?

Dogs and cats have different personalities and like different things. Most dogs want to run and play non-stop, while most cats enjoy time on their own. If their needs are not respected, they can start fighting.

Here is what you can do to make their cohabitation a great experience:

How to create a comfortable environment for both pets:
  • Cats like to be in high places. Therefore, make sure they have somewhere to climb in case they need time alone or feel in danger.
  • Give your dog interactive toys to keep them occupied as much as possible and less interested in what your cat is doing.
  • Make sure they have enough toys (for dogs) and hiding places (for cats). You don’t want your dog to think that your cat is their new toy!
  • Ensure that both pets have full water and food bowls. Place your cat’s bowl on the counter, by the window, or anywhere your dog can’t reach.
  • Your dog must not have access to your cat’s litter box. If your dog can reach the litter box, your cat can get stressed.
  • Make sure their nails are always trimmed to avoid incidents.
  • Spend time with each one separately. For example, if you walk your dog for an hour in the morning, play and interact the same amount of time with your cat in the evening.
  • Give them the same time and attention. Pets can become destructive or aggressive toward you or the other pet, and/or urinate and defecate in inappropriate places if they are suffering stress or anxiety for this reason.

If they are not yet accustomed to each other, whenever you are not around or cannot supervise them, keep your dog and cat in separate rooms. As they become friends, your dog and cat can live in harmony in the house alone.

cute scottish fold cat and welsh corgi dog lying under blanket on sofa
Image Credit: LightField Studios, Shutterstock

Warning Signs

Even when cats and dogs learn to live together, there will be moments when they do not get along. Here are the warning signs that one of your pets is in danger:

Common warning signs to watch out for:
  • Your dog is focused on what your cat is doing, chasing and cornering them as soon as your cat moves, and completely ignores you.
  • Your cat starts growling, hissing, and pouncing/scratching your dog continuously.
  • One pet is calm, and the other growls, barks, hisses, chases, or attacks.

For such situations, it is recommended to have a backup plan. If the situation becomes aggressive, separate the pets immediately.

Avoid scolding pets, yelling at them, or pulling the leash. Positive reinforcement is required, as you want each pet to associate the other with pleasant events (such as receiving treats). You don’t want them to learn that everyone around them gets tense and nervous and that bad things happen when they’re all in the same place.

Some owners have to give up one of their pets because they can’t get them to like each other. As their guardian, you must ensure that your pets live in harmony and do not represent a danger to each other.



It may take time and patience for your dog and cat to live happily together and have a harmonious relationship. The adjustment period is critical for their future together. Always be attentive to their needs, and try to fulfill them. If the situation becomes too tense or dangerous, contact the vet or an animal behaviorist.

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Featured Image Credit; Chendongshan, Shutterstock

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