Contrary to popular belief, cats and dogs can be the best of friends. It all depends on how you introduce them to each other, and how you nurture their mutual friendship.
Whether you already have a dog and want to bring a cat into your life, or are the proud owner of a cat and are also looking to get a dog: read our guide on the best ways to introduce these two furballs to each other, and ensure they get along just like friends should.
Consider Your Dog and Cat
For starters, you need to consider the nature and personality of the cat and dog you wish to introduce. While choosing a cat-friendly dog breed and a dog-friendly cat breed is also important, not all animals will behave as you would expect based on their breed.
Consider their behavior and the personality traits they are exhibiting, and make sure they match. A dog that is inquisitive and playful most likely won’t get along all that well with a cat that is territorial and a bit skittish.
Keep Them Away From Each Other
Don’t introduce your pets to each other on the first day. When an animal first arrives at their new home, they are likely to feel some anxiety and stress. After all, they’ve just been plunged into a brand new setting.
Let the new pet adjust to the environment, and set up a room exclusively for them, where the other pet has absolutely no access. Spend time with your new family member there, and make them feel as relaxed as possible.
Both cats and dogs rely very heavily on their scents, so introducing their noses to each other first can be of huge help.
Take the blanket your cat and dog sleep on to the other animal, and let them sleep on it for a night, or snuggle with it during the day. That way they will get to know this unfamiliar scent, and get accustomed to it mixed in with their own. When the face to face meeting does occur, they will no longer be complete strangers.
Provide a Safe Space for Your Cat
In all likelihood, the cat will feel more uncomfortable than the dog in this introduction scenario, especially if they were the first pet living in your home. They may view the dog as an invader and imposter, so you need to make sure they have their own safe space that is all their own they can retreat to.
Leave their favorite room off limits for the dog for as long as you need to – and it could mean months, even years. Ensure they always have an escape route available, and that they are able to climb up somewhere whenever they are near the dog, so that they have the higher ground.
Take Baby Steps
When you feel both animals are ready for the introduction, make sure you choose the best possible time. You want both of them to be calm, ideally well fed and not too energized.
Keep your dog on their lead and let the cat take the lead. If they want to get closer, let them. If they want to keep their distance, that’s okay too.
Keep repeating this step for as long as you need to, and until the two animals are comfortable being in the same room. You can then let your dog roam a bit freer, always under your supervision, and always making sure the cat has somewhere to escape to.
Never Crate Your Pets
Don’t place either the cat or the dog in a crate when they are in the same room. The dog might take it better, but your cat will feel nothing but trapped and anxious if they aren’t able to escape a situation they are not comfortable with.
A crate, if you do use one, should be a safe space, so only ever place your pets in it when they are sleeping or when they need to calm down. Don’t use it as a space where they will be restrained.
Focus on the Dog’s Behavior
As you already know, dogs can be trained – cats, not so much. This is why it’s always better to focus on the actions of the dog and correct them.
You will know your dog best and understand whether they respond to treats, commands or tone of voice. You want them to be calm around the cat, and you want them to look at you when you call them, so reward both of these behaviors.
If your dog wants to chase the cat – stop this behavior immediately, as once they learn it, it will be quite difficult to unlearn. After all, the chase is superb fun for the dog, while the cat may really hate it.
Redirect the dog’s attention and let the cat leave the room.
Be Equally Attentive to Both
By making sure both of your pets get plenty of attention from all of the members of the household, you’ll prevent any potential jealousy and unwelcome behavior. However, bear in mind that some animals will naturally gravitate towards certain humans. If your dog and cat are stuck on different people, let them enjoy their time with their favorite person.
On the other hand, if there is no clear favoritism shown by either animal, make sure they get plenty of snuggles, walks, playtime and treats, and do treat them as equals, even though they have very different needs and wishes.
To Wrap It Up
Cats and dogs can be great friends, as long as you teach them how to behave, and ensure they are not left to their own devices until you are 100% sure they won’t get on each other’s nerves. It will take patience and plenty of time, but as long as you follow through, you’ll wake up one day to find them sleeping together at the bottom of the bed.
Guest Blog written by: Julia with Dogs Planet
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Many purrs and barks!