Can dogs and cats get along?

Dear Tabby,

We have three cats but would like to get a dog. My kids really want our cats and our future dog to be best friends. Any tips for helping our cats and our future dog to get along?

Adding to the family in Oak Forest

Dear Adding to the family,

The old saying, “fighting like cats and dogs,” isn’t very accurate at all in many cases. While there are certainly situations where cats and dogs definitely do not get along, many families have dogs and cats living peacefully together and some truly seem to love one another. The good news is that it’s relatively easy to help dogs and cats to peacefully cohabitate and, often, they can grow to become very close friends. Here’s what to do to set your cats and new dog up for cohabitation success.

Training for the dog

Obedience training is very important for your future dog. Along with learning commands that will help him to obey and keep him safe, certain commands that he needs to learn will also keep your cats safe. For instance, “sit,” “stay,” and “down” are all very important commands that will help keep your dog from getting distracted by the cats and to keep everyone safe. Obedience training also helps you to build a good, trusting relationship with your dog, which in the long run will help him to feel secure and confident, reducing the risk of him harming your cats.

Safe spots for cats

Make sure your cats have plenty of places to hide and to get away from the dog when they've had too much interaction. A cat who feels trapped will act out aggressively, thus provoking the dog to lash out as well. If the cats have places where they can go to feel safe, they will be much happier and willing to put up with the dog being in other parts of “their” house. Safe spots for cats are often places up high (like on top of a dresser or refrigerator) or a place that only they can access via a small cat door -- like a laundry room.

Scent mingling

When you first bring your dog home, keep the cats separate from the dog but allow them all to get familiar with each other's scents. For instance, if the new dog is sleeping with a blanket or towel, periodically take that blanket to the cats and let them sniff it and vice versa. This will help them to familiarize themselves with the dog’s scent safely and for your dog to get used to their scent as well.

Baby gates are your friend

Slowly introduce the dog to your cats under close supervision. Baby gates can help the two species to get used to one another while being safely confined. Baby gates also help you to cordon off spots in your home for your cats to access when they need a break. Regularly seeing, smelling and hearing the cats will help desensitize the dog so he doesn’t react every time he sees a cat. All of these tips will go a long way in helping everyone to get used to living together peacefully.

Best of luck!

Do you have a question for Tabby? Email her at

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