We’ve all heard the expression fighting like cat and dog – but can dogs and cats get on? Jan Orchard explains that a little bit of common sense and patience are the keys to a happy relationship.
Dogs and cats don’t naturally hate each other. Dogs do like chasing furry things though and cats who essentially like to walk alone may find the friendly instincts of a pack animal like a dog hard to take.
Here’s the top ten pointers to a happy dogs and cats relationship.
Starting at the beginning with a new puppy and a new kitten is the easiest way – young animals like to play together and will build their relationship. A new puppy or kitten hasn’t built a territory either so there’s nothing to defend. An older cat will very often accept a puppy and may baby it and treat it as a kitten. Some bitches will do the same with a kitten – but you can’t rely on this and should still be careful.
Think about breed – some dogs are more inclined to chase than others. Ask your vet for advice.
If you are bringing a dog into a home where a cat is already established or vice versa, meetings must be supervised and handled with care.
Shelters, rescue groups or private parties looking to place puppies and dogs often know if an animal has successfully lived with a cat, or they will test to see how the pet behaves in the presence of one. Most shelters looking for homes for older cats know if the animal is used to dogs.
If you have a dog and are planning to bring in a cat, start working on your pet’s obedience before you add the new animal. Your dog should be comfortable on a leash, and trained well enough to obey when you ask for them to stay in either a sit or down position while on the leash.
For the cat’s comfort and safety he should be confined during the early stages of introduction. Choose a small area (such as a second bathroom or guest bedroom) where the cat can feel safe while becoming accustomed to the sounds and smells of the dog. Be sure the room has everything he needs, and make sure there are frequent one-on-one visits with human family members.
After a couple of days put the dog on a leash and open the door to the cat’s room. Allow the animals to see one another, but do not allow the dog to chase the cat, even in play. Use sit-stay or down-stay to keep the dog in place while the cat gets used to his calm presence. Don’t force the cat to interact with the dog. If the cat wishes to view the dog from the top of the wardrobe or under the bed, so be it. Reward the good behaviour of both animals with treats and praise. Never, ever just put the two together and wait to see what happens – one of them could be injured.
Keep the dog on a leash for a couple of weeks in the cat’s presence, and always make sure the cat has a way to escape from the dog. Putting a baby gate across the door to the safe area is a good idea. Build up the time the animals spend together, and continue to make the introductions pleasurable for both of them with more treats and praise. A dog who believes being nice to that cat means a reward will swiftly come to the conclusion that the cat is not such a bad thing after all.
When the dog isn’t interested in bothering the cat and the cat feels secure enough to come out from under the bed or off the top of the wardrobe you can take off the leash and let them get on with their new lives together. How long it will take to get to this step will depend on the animals involved, and you must work at their pace.
It not uncommon for dogs and cats to become good companions and to enjoy each other’s company. Take the time to manage your cat-dog introduction properly, and you could be setting up a friendship that will last for the rest of your pets’ lives. Avoid possible flashpoints by making sure neither one has access to the other’s food.
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