Dogs and cats are allegedly life-long enemies. Having always owned both cats and dogs, I find that the phrase along with the premise to be far more inaccurate than accurate. Of course, we all know that there are those dogs that will just chase every cat that they see and those cats which will never tolerate a dog. However, it’s been my experience that managed correctly, the huge majority of dogs and cats can live together. They may not learn to love each other; but they certainly can learn how to tolerate each other’s presence. Dogs and cats that are increased with each other typically do fine their entire lives. They might actually take an animal of another species more easily than among their own, in that there are fewer conflicts over dominance and land.
There are some dogs that shouldn’t be kept with cats. Dogs with a solid hunting heritage may always view cats as prey and might never be able to be trusted with any tiny animals. In addition to hunting dogs, terriers such as Jack Russells and pitbulls are often poor companions for cats. These dogs have an incredibly strong predatory instinct; they chase and attack moving objects without considering whom or what the object may be. Cats and other small pets are just too much temptation for dogs.
Other dogs react less to the animal than the situation and will leave alone a cat that sits still, but chase and attack one that goes. This is especially true of dogs that are kept outdoors. There’s something about being out of the home that really pushes the hunting instinct into overdrive and will often lead to even the most docile indoor dog attempting to chase cats once out. So, an individual would not wish to make the assumption that a cat and dog who tolerate each other indoors will do the same outside. The dog may choose to attack the cat. Finally, dogs that have a history of attacking cats are most likely to do so again and should not be trusted with cats. If you are considering rescuing a previously-owned dog, it’s a good idea to find a history of the dog’s attitudes and behaviors around cats before bringing it into a house with cats.
Most cats, if they have had favorable experiences with dogs, will tolerate canines in the house. Those that will not typically have had some prior unfavorable interaction that’s firmly embedded in their memories. Since most cats, even the ones that hate dogs, do not attack without provocation, these cats may be able to live with a dog. However, they probably will not bond with the dog, will avoid the dog at all costs, and will be pretty miserable. It is kinder to leave these cats in a feline-only household. Again, it’s often possible to find out the history of a cat before embracing it, or to test the cat’s reactions to dogs in an adoption situation.
So which cats and dog can get along? The solution is just about all of the rest of them. In the best of circumstances, dogs and cats really become friends, playing and sleeping together. In other scenarios, dogs and cats may never be overly friendly, but they can learn to tolerate and behave themselves with different members of the family, including those of other species. Provided that you’re willing to work out a positive debut and protect the animals from bodily harm, these species usually get along. The process may take up to six or eight months, or even longer, but can be successfully achieved.
If you’re thinking about bringing a cat into a dog household, or vice-versa, there are measures that you can take to ensure the success of the relationship. First, because a dog can kill a cat, security is your first concern. The dog needs to be able to be kept separated from the cat. This can be accomplished using a crate, or a separate room. The dog should have a refresher obedience course, so it will sit, stay, and come to you when advised, and leave the cat alone if ordered to. In addition, the cat should have a safe haven.
I use a baby gate to keep the dogs out of the room. I have cut a small cat-size opening to the closed mesh of the gate so the cats can dash through it if necessary and not have to jump the gate. My dogs respect the gate, but if you have dogs that jump over it, you might need to decrease the cat door to the room door or install a screen door with an opening big enough for the cats.
The initial meeting and first few weeks are critical times to set the tone for the future, so it’s important to make all introductions go as smoothly as possible. The key is to remember that these creatures will be together for a lifetime; there is no reason to rush their meetings. The litter box and food should be put in this room. The dog in the home can smell the cat under the doorway, but has no real need to meet the new member of the family until the cat is comfortable and bored with its private space. If this is a young kitten, they may end up living in this area for several more weeks. You can actually put the dog in the cat’s area while the cat is out, so that the dog really gets to go through the cat’s scent without bothering the cat. You could also get the pets used to each other’s scents by swapping toys, towels, or other things between them.
The first face to face meeting should be done after the cat is familiar with the entire house. Be sure that the dog is on a leash and under control. Have another person near the cat to provide help, if necessary. Keep the meeting short and positive. Praise the dog to be fantastic around the cat. Use food benefits if appropriate and be sure that the dog understands that good things happen when the cat is present. After a few, short positive meetings, it is time to allow the cat explore for longer periods, with the puppy gift and on the leash. If this step proceeds peacefully, let the dog off the leash and observe the interactions. Make sure that you are always there to prevent any problems before they can quicken. Do not allow the dog to be aggressive in any way to the cat, and lavishly praise the dog for good behavior. If aggression occurs at any point of the introductions, return to the previous stage and slow down. Even if all looks great, don’t leave the cat alone with the dog until you are truly positive that everything is running smoothly. This means that if they cannot be supervised, the cat should be abandoned in its bedroom or the puppy kept crated.
Bringing a dog into a cat household is relatively straightforward. Make sure all animals are praised for their wonderful behavior when they are together. As previously discussed, the puppy can be crated or the cat left in a bedroom when they can’t be watched. Since the cat is already knowledgeable about its territory and the dog is a newcomer, the dynamics of this relationship often turn in the cat’s favor, making the transition relatively straightforward.
Puppies and kittens do present unique challenges. Kittens must be protected from dogs at all times because any dog is large enough to badly hurt or kill a young kitten. A kitten must always be closely supervised even around the best behaved of puppies. Provide the kitty with appropriate toys of its own. Do not let the kitty ‘play attack’ the puppy or chase it. This can quickly escalate into a dangerous situation. For the same reason, don’t allow the puppy ‘play’ with the kitten. The kitten has to be kept in a secure room when an adult it not home. My kittens remained in their own room when I was not at home and at bedtime until they were approximately six months old.
Rambunctious puppies might also be a problem. Without meaning to, an energetic puppy can damage a kitten or even an adult cat. It’s up to you to make sure that their interactions are monitored so that no one gets hurt. Additionally it is really important to work out and play with the puppy routinely. Make sure the puppy has its own toys and uses them. A tired puppy is less likely to bother the cat and less likely to become a behavior problem in the home.
It takes work, patience, and time to present dogs and cats to each other. However, the positive result is well worth the work. I get enormous pleasure watching them. You will be pleasantly surprised how much positive energy is brought into your house by having both dogs and cats living there.