Try to match complementary personalities. Don’t get a timid cat for a rambunctious dog. Don’t match a nervous dog with a revved up kitten. Look for personalities and dispositions that will go together nicely, rather than being on opposite ends of the scale.
Before the two actually meet, there is some prep work to be done. If you’re bringing a new cat into the home keep in mind that everything about you and your environment will be unfamiliar. Before tackling a dog/cat intro, give the cat time to get her bearings. Set up a sanctuary room for the cat that is equipped with a litter box, scratching post, toys, food/water bowls, and places to hide. Make sure the cat has time to get comfortable in the new surroundings and gets comfortable with you before you try to introduce her to the dog. It would also be a good idea to put the dog in a separate area so you can let the cat start to venture out and get to know the house and her new environment. This way, when you do start the introduction she’ll be familiar her escape options and areas of safety. Cats are territorial so this step is an important one to help your new feline family member begin to feel at home.
Before you begin actually introducing the two pets, clip your cat’s nails to reduce any potential damage should the unthinkable occur. Take your dog for a good walk or engage in playtime so he’ll be more relaxed and not revved up.
Now for the actual intro: Put your dog on a leash. Don’t attempt to do an introduction if your dog isn’t leash-trained. You need that extra measure of control. Place the cat in a room with a baby gate to prevent the dog from gaining access should he slip out of your grasp. Sit outside the room with your dog and reward him with treats and praise when he focuses on you and not on the cat. You can have toys for him as well. Clicker training is great tool to use in this situation so you can click and treat the dog for a relaxed body posture or for turning his attention to you. If the dog gets tense and starts staring at the cat, divert his attention. When he breaks the stare, click and reward.
If the dog is not comfortable, move farther away from the cat’s safe room. As the dog gets more comfortable you can then move a few inches closer.
Stay at a distance that’s comfortable for the animal who is most stressed out. If the cat is too afraid to be in sight of the dog, then it’s time to move farther away. Find the distance that puts the cat at ease and less on high-alert.
Work up to having the cat roam around the room while the dog is on leash. Continue to reward the dog for relaxed behavior. This also sends cues to the cat that the dog isn’t a threat. This allows them both to feel comfortable enough to inch closer and engage in some sniffing behavior.