People often marvel that our cats and dogs live together in harmony. Yes, my parents, myself and my sister’s household run multi-pet homes. While rabbits, birds, sugar gliders and reptiles are part of the equation, it is the peace between the purported age old enemies; cat and dogs, that elicit the most comment.
Here are a few tips on getting started.
Cats first. If you are starting with a clean slate (i.e. no pets at all) begin with getting the cat. Once it is larger and confident of your love, then introducing a puppy which the cat can dominate is the easiest route to harmony. Also choose to adopt dogs from fosterers who keep dogs AND cats. These dogs will be accustomed to cats and are unlikely to be aggressive or over excited.
If you already have a dog and want a cat, start by being honest. Do you have control over your dog? Is your dog a benign personality or does it have a high prey drive? Some dogs can never be trusted with cats because the urge to chase and kill is overpowering. It even overwhelms the dog’s desire to please you, his human. However, if your dog has the right personality and you have the required influence over its behaviour, then do consider introducing a cat. An adult cat is ideal as it is less fragile than a little kitten. Again, choose one from a fosterer that has cats and dogs so the cat is familiar with dogs and knows when to stand its ground.
Introductions should be taken slowly. When we were new to this, I would first walk the dog until she was exhausted then put her in a crate and feed her. She would be content and happy and then I’d bring the cat in, in a crate too. They would be allowed to see each other and the crates would be positioned closely enough so they could sniff each other.
Next, I’d let the cat out while making sure my dog received plenty of treats and praise for behaving calmly. If the dog exhibits aggression or over-excitement, try again tomorrow after walking her and exercising her for even longer. The key thing is to ensure your dog is too tired and full to be bothered. Then I’d have the cat in a crate and the dog free to explore. Again intervene if there are signs of aggression or roughness.
During the first three days, ensure they can always smell and see each other but not come into direct contact. Ensure your dog is well exercised and well fed. Allow each pet free time in the main living area while the other is crated and able to see.
On the big day of face to face interaction, be calm. Yes, the owner’s own energy is critical to a smooth introduction. You need to be positive and exude calmness. Be ready to step in but don’t expect the worst. Have your dog on a leash and let both into the room. Then watch the magic as the foundations of a beautiful friendship are laid down.
In the mean time, here are a few things to provide for maximum success.
- Separate feeding areas. Kitty should be fed high up, out of reach of the dog.
- Create high and safe places for kitty to escape to if it becomes too much.
- Exercise your dog as much as possible.