How to introduce a puppy to a cat – 10 top tips

Getting a new puppy should be an exciting time for all the family. However, if you already have a cat, it might not be quite as exciting for them...

Cats often don't like change, so how can we help them to adjust to a new puppy?

How to prepare your cat

A new puppy coming into the home is a big change for your cat, and if they have no experience of dogs it can be very stressful for them. By taking some simple steps in advance, you can gradually prepare your cat for the forthcoming change.

1. If you think you will need to change the location of your cat's food, water, or litter tray, do so well in advance of your puppy's arrival. This will give your cat time to adjust and not have to get used to too many changes at once.

2. Make sure your cat has safe places that they are happy to spend time in, away from where the puppy will be. Your cat needs to know it can hide away, or rest without being disturbed or frightened.

3. Cats usually enjoy being up high, so a well-placed cat tower or even some shelving that's inaccessible to your puppy can make a great place to sit and safely observe the action.

4. As far as possible, try to keep your cat's life and routine as similar to usual as you can. Keep their cat flap or other access to the home available, and if they have any favourite areas of the home, try and make sure they can still spend time there.

5. Buying a puppy also involves buying a lot of new items for the home, from toys to larger items such as a dog bed or crate. If you can add these items gradually, your cat will have time to get used to the new things without everything changing at once.

6. Give your cat plenty of attention, if this is something they enjoy. This helps them build even stronger feelings that being home with you is a good place. 

Introducing your new puppy to your cat

As tempting as it may be to see your cute new puppy with your cat, a bit of patience is definitely needed to get things off on the right foot! By taking it slowly now, you'll be able to help your pets develop a good relationship.

7. When you first bring your puppy home, keep your cat and your puppy apart, to avoid the possibility of stress or any negative experiences.

8. Scent is an essential part of your cat and puppy getting to know each other, so a significant first step is to use scent-swapping. To do this, you'll need a piece of cloth which you can stroke each pet with, or leave in their bed for a day or two before placing the cloth in the other pet's area. As cats can be very sensitive, it's best not to put the puppy-scented cloth too close to the cat's bed or eating area, in case it causes your cat to be too worried to go near these. Your pets will soon start to become used to each other's scents.

9. Once you feel that your pets have become used to each other's scents, you can try letting them explore the other's area of the house. For example, someone could take the puppy for a brief car journey while your cat looks around the place where your puppy's crate is. This will continue to boost their recognition of each other's scent. 

10. When you feel confident that your pets, particularly your cat, feel comfortable with this, you can gradually introduce them. Initially, it's best if they have just visual rather than physical contact, so you could use a child gate or similar barrier between them. If either pet seems upset by this, don't force it, just try again in a couple of days.

After you have managed some successful visual meetings, you'll feel ready for your puppy and kitten to have actual contact. Make sure that both pets can retreat if needed, and if you can enlist the help of a friend or family member, it will be easier if you feel that one of your pets needs to be calmly removed from the situation. 

Over time, you will be able to gradually reduce the amount of close supervision you give your cat and puppy when together. However, if you need to leave them alone in the house, you will need to make sure that your cat has a safe space. If you are crate training your puppy, this will prove extremely helpful, but if not, separate rooms will give you peace of mind that both pets are safe. 

By taking these steps in the early days, you will be giving your cat and puppy the best chance of having a happy shared home life, and who knows, they may even become best friends. 

With a Kennel Club Pet Insurance policy, you can access the free Pet Health Helpline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The veterinary-trained team will advise on any concerns or queries that you may have over your pet’s health – much like the NHS 111 service for people. Call free on 03333 32 19 47.