Introducing Dogs and Cats: Understanding Body Language

Bringing home a new pet can be very exciting, but if you already have a pet at home, there may be complications. Adopting a new dog and introducing them to your cat, or vice versa, is a process that is unique to those two animals.  Paying close attention to each animal’s body language can help alert you to that a  meeting is about to turn south. Body language in cats and dogs can have various meanings, so pay attention to…

introducing dogs and cats

The Tail

For cats, a tail held high usually indicates positive body language. For instance, if a cat is holding their tail high, they are probably feeling very confident. However, watch out for a high tail with fur that looks erect. This can mean that your feline friend feels threatened! Dogs, on the other hand, usually carry their tails high when feeling agitated or aggressive. If your cat’s tail is held high and your dog’s tail is in a neutral position the first time they meet, it is a great sign.

The Ears

If your dog has pricked ears, use caution. This body language usually indicates that they may ready to take an aggressive action. Make sure that your dog is relaxed and look for ears lying back before introducing them to your new cat. In contrast, cats prick their ears forward when they feel self-assured and confident.

The Belly

We all know a dog who rolls over immediately to get a good belly rub! For dogs, showing the belly is a submissive type of body language that signals relaxation. However, this body language exhibited in cats tells a different story. If your cat is lying belly up with claws out, they are acting in self-defense. Both animals should be in an upright position when introduced for the first time.

The Mouth

When introducing dogs and cats, look at their mouths. Panting is body language that communicates stress for both cats and dogs. If your new dog or cat is panting when interacting with other animals, he or she may feel frightened. Both animals should have relaxed breathing when meeting for the first time.

Their Posture

Both species will shrink in on themselves when they feel afraid. A cat or dog holding their head low, with their tail curled under their body, is probably in an extremely frightening situation. When introducing your cat or dog to their new brother or sister, look for good posture to indicate that both animals are feeling safe and secure.

The Eyes

It’s all in the eyes! Dilated pupils in both cats and dogs is body language that indicates fear, aggression, or arousal. Blinking, on the other hand, usually means that both animals are feeling friendly. Beware of direct eye contact that has no blinking. If your cat is intensely staring down your new puppy, this could mean that they are challenging him or her.

When introducing your dog to your cat, look for overall body language that indicates relaxation and positive moods. For information on this topic, check out Introducing A New Dog or Cat to Resident Pets. Looking for more ways to help your dogs and cats get along? Here are some great ideas!


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