How to Train a Skittish Cat Not To Be Afraid of a Dog

Your cat and dog can live together in harmony, but it might take some time.
Your cat and dog can live together in harmony, but it might take some time. (Image: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

A skittish cat needs extra time and attention to become less afraid of the family dog. Help your cat cope with a slow, controlled transition process that allows your cat and dog to meet each other in a safe environment. Cats and dogs can live together in harmony, but that doesn’t mean they’ll automatically be best of friends.

Transition Your Cat Slowly

Whether you’re bringing home a new cat or introducing the family cat to a new dog, a slow transition is best while each gets comfortable with the other. Start by confining your cat to one room. Place her bed, litter box, food and water in the room and close the door. The dog likely will sniff around the door; your cat can approach as she’s ready.

After a few days, place your cat’s food dish near the door of her room. Put the dog’s dish on the other side of the door. Encourage both to eat while they’re separated by the door.

Let your cat explore your dog’s scent while he’s nowhere near. Place one of his blankets or toys inside the room so the cat can sniff it and one of the cat’s blankets near the dog.

Give Your Cat Control

Once the cat begins to get more comfortable when the dog is nearby, switch living spaces. Put the dog in the room with his bed, food, water and toys, and allow the cat to have access to the rest of the house. Instead of closing the door, place a pet gate across the doorframe so the cat can approach the dog whenever she’d like.

Put the dog on a leash and allow the cat and dog to meet. The cat has control; she can leave the room whenever she feels threatened. Never force your cat to interact with the dog. Make sure she has access to some hiding spots where the dog can’t reach her.

Plan a Play Session

Once you’ve facilitated several successful meetings, initiate a supervised play session. Start with the dog on his leash and a family member to play with him while another family member plays with the cat. Praise both the dog and cat while they’re playing, and give them treats to reward their behavior.

If the cat becomes nervous or skittish, end the play session immediately. Don’t leave the cat and dog together without supervision until you’re sure both animals are comfortable.

Train Your Dog

While your cat is nervous and afraid, your dog might be rambunctious and playful. Though his motives might be innocent, his behavior seems threatening. Work with your dog so he’ll be calm when he’s near the cat. Teach him leave it and to come when he’s called so if meetings between the two become tense, you can control him.

Don’t allow your dog to have access to the cat’s food, water or litter box. Consider feeding the cat on a table or shelf where she can sit up high, look down on the dog and feel safe.

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