Moving in with a Cat Owner

Aaron Rice Expert Dog Trainer
Written: April 7, 2022

Moves are stressful. You have to pack, take care of your mail, find a truck…there’s just a lot going on. Throwing pets in the mix can make it that much harder.

You may be moving in with your spouse or a new roommate that has a cat. If you haven’t lived with a cat before, you may not know what to expect. If you have a dog, things become even more complicated. There’s no need to stress, though! As long as you know what to expect and you approach things in a calm and patient manner, moving in with a cat won’t be an issue.

Below are some things you should consider when moving in with a cat owner. You’ll also find tips for introducing your dog to the cat (if you have a pup).

What You Need to Know About Living with a Cat

Living with cats and dogs is slightly different. If you’ve had dogs in the past or you have one currently, you may be used to certain behaviors. If you’ve never lived with a cat, the way they react to things may seem foreign. It’s good to know what to expect from cats so you don’t get frustrated, and so you can build a happy and healthy relationship with the kitty.

Don’t Expect Them to Listen Well

Cats can be trained. With that said, it can be extremely difficult, and even then, they may decide to ignore you. Expect the cat to ignore your commands. Instead, you’ll need to learn more about cat behavior and learn to set boundaries and enforce good behaviors. While they may not come when you call, they can at least learn not to jump on the table.

They Need to be Spayed or Neutered

While it isn’t your cat, you should have a discussion with the person you are moving in with about spaying or neutering. While the owner may be used to the cat getting frisky when it’s in heat, you probably don’t want to deal with that.

Keep the Doors Closed!

Cats are often more likely to run away and aren’t easy to call back. They may sneak out if you leave the door open. If you are bringing in groceries or doing anything that requires the door to be open, put the cat in a room with a closed door.

They May Have Claws

Unless they are declawed, the cat may use their claws. They may not swipe at you, but they may dig into your skin when they are on your lap or give you a light scratch if they don’t want to be pet. Ensure their claws stay clean and look for clues that they don’t want to be bothered to avoid getting pawed at.


If you move in and find you have allergies, you’ll want to take steps to avoid a reaction—even if it’s minor. This may mean keeping your distance from the cat, cleaning often, bathing the cat often, and even taking over-the-counter medication (although this may not be a good idea for a long-term solution). If you have options for where to live and you know you have allergies, you may need to look for somewhere else to live.

What If I Have a Dog? Can They Get Along?

Here’s the big question—if you have a dog, can the cat and dog get along? Often, the answer is yes! This will depend on a few factors, though.

If your dog has had experience living with cats and the cat has lived previously with dogs, this is an ideal scenario. If either pet has not lived with the other species, things can be a bit more challenging, but manageable. If the dog or cat has aggression issues with the opposite species, it may be extremely difficult for them to co-exist and you may need to keep them separated at all times. This is annoying, but it is doable.

With all of that said, cats and dogs can become close friends, or at the very least learn to tolerate each other.

How Do I Introduce My Dog to the Cat?

There’s a good chance your dog will get along well with your spouse or new roommate’s cat. With that said, it will take some patience and effort to introduce them. If they have had exposure to the opposite animal before, the process may move quickly and smoothly. With that said, you still don’t want to throw them in the same room together and hope for the best. Make sure you follow the tips below, even if your dog is used to cats and vice versa.
If your dog has never been around cats or the cat has never been around dogs, this process may take a bit longer. It’s not impossible—just remember that you need to be patient and take your time. You don’t want to cause your dog or their cat anxiety.
Below are some steps you’ll want to take to introduce your dog to their cat…

Keep Your Pets Apart

When you move in, you’ll want to keep your pets apart completely for a period of time. Your dog will want to explore its surroundings. This means sniffing around the house and getting the lay of the land. You don’t want the cat around for this. Make sure you have separate areas available for your cat and dog. While the dog is exploring, keep your cat in the designated room. After a bit, swap them out so the cat has time to sniff around and stretch their legs.
You will need to continue this cycle for a bit to ensure both animals have time out of their rooms. It’s not fair to keep either locked up for long periods of time.

Introduce with Smell

One of the advantages of a common area is the smell exchange. Your pets will smell each other on couches, pillows, and other surfaces. You should also provide your dog and their cat with a blanket or towel to sleep on. After a couple of days, swap the blanket or towel out. Give the cat’s blanket to the dog to sleep on and vice versa. This will allow them to get each other’s scent.

Play with Them Separately

Once your pets are more comfortable, start playing with them with a door between the two animals. They will sniff at the door and be curious at first. This is normal. Over time, they should get bored—especially if you have treats and toys!

Let Them See Each Other

Eventually, you can set up a pet gate and allow them to see each other. Make sure when you move ahead to this stage you buy a strong pet gate. Don’t buy a cheaper one and risk your dog knocking it down.
When they first share the same common area, use a blanket or towel to prevent them from seeing each other. If either animal becomes anxious, fearful, or aggressive, remove one from the common area.
Over time, you can slowly pull away the blanket so they can take a peek. If either animal has an extreme reaction, stop the process and take a step back.
Over time, the pets will get used to seeing each other and will be able to introduce themselves with the safety of a gate.

Provide Them with Limited Access

Once they get to know each other better, you can open the gate. Make sure you do this with your dog on a leash. Allow the cat to say, “Hello,” first. Don’t allow your dog to rush them. If they are showing signs of fear or aggression, separate them.

Over time they should become more comfortable. You can then explore having them in the same space without a leash. Eventually, they should become comfortable and may even begin to cuddle and play!

Watch Their Body Language

It’s extremely important to pay attention to body language every step of the way. Below are some body language cues to look out for:


  •       Hissing
  •       Ears flattened
  •       Tail tucked
  •       Crouching
  •       Arched back
  •       Facing sideways
  •       Hiding


  •       Growling
  •       Showing teeth
  •       Looking away
  •       Tail tucked
  •       Yawning
  •       Licking lips
  •       Ears back

If your dog or their cat expresses any of these body language cues, separate them immediately. Don’t hope it will just “blow over.” It’s better to give them time than try to rush things and end up causing an incident.

Reach Out to Stayyy Today! 

If you are moving into a new place with your dog and your roommate or spouse has a cat, you should consider professional obedience training. This will increase the likelihood of your dog staying calm and listening if any issues occur during the introduction phase.

For outstanding dog training, reach out to Stayyy today! We’ll work with your dog to ensure they are properly trained. We’ll also work with you to give you all of the tools you need to be a good pack leader. For more information, reach out today.