Welcoming a cat into a dog household

We recently added an adult cat to our family. This may not be newsworthy if our home were not already inhabited by two very loved and spoiled adult dogs.

We knew the dogs liked cats as visitors; they were fine with an ongoing series of foster cats and kittens confined to one room of our house.

But we didn’t know whether Autumn and Dani would be okay with a cat coming to stay for good – and having access to the whole house, just like them.

We knew there was a risk. Would this upend the delicate balance of our happy household?

So far, it’s been a great experience. We’ve had some jealousy and shenanigans, sure. But, overall, integrating a cat into our dogs’ lives has gone exceedingly well over the past two months.

We’re pleased to share that Galaxy has been accepted by the dogs as a full member of the pack!

Here’s how we did it, in case anyone else out there is looking to make the move from dog people to dog-and-cat people. We highly recommend it!

A room (floor) of her own
When we first brought Galaxy home for good on June 8, she was in a fairly freaked-out state, since after leaving our home at the end of May she was taken from her kittens, had major (spay) surgery and then spent 10 days at the shelter.

We wanted to give her a place to relax, recuperate and continue healing, so we gave her the run of our entire basement and kept the door closed so the dogs could not enter. In the basement, Galaxy has a large private quarters with plenty of hiding places and comfort spots, including a sliding glass door and sunny window she can perch in to watch birds, squirrels and chipmunks.

Galaxy wasn’t alone in the basement – darling hubby has his home office down there, so he’s there a good 40 – 60 hours a week. He enjoyed her company very much! In addition, Z and I were visiting her daily and showering her with love, affection, catnip, toys, playtime and treats. She loved it!

After a few weeks of living the pampered life downstairs, Galaxy was all healed and ready to see the rest of our house. She let us know by following us up the stairs whenever we left the basement. At that point, we propped the door open and put a baby gate in place. This way, Galaxy and the dogs could see and smell each other through the gate, but there was still a barrier for kitty’s safety and comfort.

From day one, the dogs clearly knew Galaxy was in the basement because they could smell her on us every time we came upstairs. They seemed fine with it – they never acted strangely. They were used to us having foster cats and kittens, and had already met Galaxy towards the end of her stay as a foster mama with kittens upstairs in Zoe’s room.

Let kitty set the pace

Thanks to the baby gate, Galaxy was able to set the pace for integration into the rest of our house. She knew she always had her safe, quiet basement haven – but she was also dying of curiosity to see the dogs and find out where we went and what we did when we weren’t with her.

Galaxy started testing the waters – and the dogs’ tolerance for her – at night while we were watching TV with the dogs sitting quietly on the couch. Galaxy would hop over the baby gate and explore a bit on the main floor of our house.

When the dogs noticed her stealthily creeping around, we would pet and praise them for staying calm and quiet on the couch. As Galaxy saw the dogs were relaxed and not reacting to her, she explored further from the safety of that basement doorway baby gate.

We also knew Galaxy was creeping around the house a fair amount while we were all sleeping upstairs, because E caught sight of her a couple of times. Then, after about a week of midnight reconnaissance each night, Galaxy must have simply decided she didn’t need the basement anymore.

We woke up one Tuesday morning to find Galaxy walking around the main floor of the house and interacting with the dogs like one of the pack. No one acted like it was a big deal, because we wanted to keep everyone calm and relaxed, but we humans were absolutely thrilled! We’ve been a united household ever since.

Bittersweet memories

One sweet – and also sad – moment came later that same day, when Galaxy ventured all the way up to our second floor. Immediately, she recognized where she was and bolted into Zoe’s room to see if her kittens were still there. She raced around the room, sniffing everywhere and calling for her babies in that unmistakable, soft prrrrp that mama cats use.

I have to admit, it just about broke my heart to see and hear her looking for the kittens. We gave her lots of praise, catnip and treats – but alas, there’s no way to reunite her with her kittens. The good news is that we know they’re all in happy forever homes just like Galaxy is, and she has never looked for them again since that first day back upstairs. She seems content to have her one enormous kitten remaining from that time in her life: our Zoe!

The run of the house

Galaxy has continued to blossom now that she’s got the whole house to explore and conquer, and two dogs to playfully dominate. She still goes down to the basement once in a while, and that’s where one of her litter boxes and sets of dry food/water bowls reside. But now she spends most of her time on the main floor with the rest of us – and she does enjoy going up to the second floor too, where her other litter box and dry food/water bowls are.

We allow Galaxy to jump up on table and counters in case she ever needs a safe spot away from the dogs, but so far Autumn and Dani have been gentle and welcoming, as is their nature.

We’ve had a few minor scuffles between kitty and the dogs. Typically, Galaxy will get into it with Dani, our small dog, over toys. Those two both love the same type of toys and even though each has her own, sometimes Galaxy will play with one of Dani’s toys. When this happens, Dani loses her mind and occasionally Autumn even comes over to help comfort Dani and right the wrong by scaring off the feline interloper.

In addition, like any cat, Galaxy gets a case of the wild, crazy zoomies several times each day. The dogs have learned to keep a low profile or they may get playfully pounced on by the pointy-eared demon!

We always praise the dogs when they don’t chase Galaxy as she zooms by. I want Galaxy to feel comfortable sprinting around without the fear of being chased. Hopefully, they will eventually figure out each other’s body languages and play styles, and be able to play together.

Our forever cat

It is clear that Galaxy is part of our forever family now, just as the dogs are. We filled out her permanent adoption papers with the Humane Society of Delaware County on July 8. That was a month ago, and none of us can imagine life without her. Galaxy is funny, clever, affectionate and endearing, and she has developed unique relationships with each of us and with both of our dogs.

Zoe and Galaxy are by far the closest – Z can pick her up, carry her around and kiss her repeatedly on her face without Galaxy seeming to mind. Galaxy has even started to come and lie on the couch with us when it’s family movie night, which I love. She typically stays on the edge of the couch to allow for a quick getaway, but hopefully that too will become a habit she outgrows.

My dream is for Galaxy to become a lap cat – specifically, I would really like her to be sitting on my lap by winter! However, that’s a challenge because if I’m sitting, one or both of the dogs are usually on my lap. I’m hoping one of these days Galaxy will just shoulder her way in and snuggle up with the rest of us on the couch, in one big multi-species cuddle pile. Fingers crossed!

Have you integrated a cat into a dog household, and did your transition go as smoothly as ours has? I’d love to hear your cat and dog stories in the comments below or over on Facebook.


About the author

Proud and loving mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog, cat and snake mom. Travel nut. Writer since birth. PR and social media pro by day - tattoo doula by night.

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