If you already own a cat and are planning on introducing a dog into the family (or vice versa!), it is important to know right off the bat that chances are low for the two of them to just get along.
By nature, dogs are hunters, which means that they might see your cat as a form of prey; the exception being dogs that have been around other cats in the past and not had any problems with them.
However, if you are bringing home a puppy that has never had any experience with them, or if you are bringing home an adult dog that has a high desire to chase and catch, then you will need to work to ensure harmony in your home.
Don’t think cats are innocent, either! Many times cats will feel threatened by a dog’s mere presence, causing them to lash out by scratching or trying to mark their territory (in not-so-subtle ways). Cats can be just as loyal to their humans as dogs can – and they typically hate when their daily routines are upset by anything.
In either case, the stress from new arrival can wreak havoc on both parties. It can cause sickness, such as lack of appetite, vomiting, and hair loss to either or both of the animals, not to mention the fact that the stress on either animal isn’t fair to them – after all, the current pet is used to being there first, and everything belongs to him or her, and now you’re asking them to share with a new arrival!
Let’s take a lot at some ways we can work to help cats and dogs get along, and alleviate all of that stress and tension that might pop up in this situation.
The very first time your cat and dog meet it is vital to introduce them in a calm, relaxing manner. Don’t just place the two of them together on the floor – make sure you are holding your dog or cat as you introduce them to the new arrival. Let them sniff each other and stare at each other – and don’t expect the initial encounter to go too smoothly – time can change things!
After the introduction, make sure to keep the animals separate for a while. You can either keep them in separate rooms or put up a divider. Whatever you decide on, after a while you should make sure to allow them the chance to smell each other or interact – even if it is only though a small opening cut on the bottom of the divider.
If you are putting them in separate rooms, make sure to change what rooms you put them in. This will not only give them a change of scenery, but it will also allow your pets to smell each other’s presence in the room, thereby getting used to one another.
Repeat this process a few times if necessary, giving them time to get used to each other and the fact that they will be spending time together now.
Reducing Problem Behaviors
If your cat and dog are starting to get along, but still have several behaviors that are somewhat of a problem, try and reduce these behaviors in a positive way.
For example, if your dog likes to bark at your cat, then be sure to distract your dog instead of scolding or using a harsh tone. Offer your dog a toy or show him or her something of interest. By trying to distract from the behavior rather than react negatively, you are helping ensure that there will be more positive encounters in the future.
If you yell at your harshly scold your pet, it will remember the interaction and how it was treated negatively, preventing him or her from wanting to engage in the future.
Keep Food, Water, Sleeping, and Litter Separate
A key component to your pets existing harmoniously is to make sure that their food and drinks stay separate from each other.
Don’t allow your dog or cat near each other’s food dishes – their automatic feeders, trays, and water dishes are for them, and them only.
The same can be said for the pets’ sleeping areas. Allow your cat and your dog to have their own designated areas for sleeping – it will give them a sense of security knowing that they won’t be bothered.
Another thing to remember is to keep your cat’s litter box away from your dog – cats will get territorial if they believe their safe space is threatened, and this includes spraying or urinating in other areas of the house if their litter box is disturbed. This is their safe space for going to the bathroom, so make sure to keep it feeling safe for them!
Some Other Tips for Helping Your Pets Adjust
You may be tempted to give your cat and dog each their own water and food dishes, beds, and then leave them alone together until they “get used to each other.” However, this isn’t the way you should help your pets to adjust. Make sure the animals are one hundred percent comfortable with each other before you do this – as it can end poorly if one of the animals turns hostile.
Always make sure to reward good behavior, either with praise or treats. If your pets can play together or sit together nicely without fighting or attacking each other, they deserve that praise! Reward positive behavior!
Allow your cat to have somewhere he or she can go to get away from the dog if necessary. Either a cat tree or a special room that only he or she can get into are both good choices, as this provides the cat a feeling of safety and the reassurance that if it feels threatened, it has somewhere to go to be alone. Always make sure that neither animal is afraid of the other before leaving them alone in the house or overnight.
Also keep in mind how different breeds can get along – whereas breeds like German Shepherds, Sheep Dogs, and Pit Bulls might see the cat as an animal that needs to be “herded” or as “prey,” dogs such as Labrador Retrievers or even smaller dogs might be more willing to accept this member of the family, due to their sweeter and more mellow personality.
Many households have cats and dogs that coexist wonderfully, and even play together happily. Following proper protocol when introducing your pets and allowing them time to get used to each other is crucial to keep them healthy and happy, and having the whole family get along well!
BIO: Emily Parker runs Catological, a blog dedicated to helping cat parents love their kitties better. She has lived in both dog and cat homes, and is excited to introduce a new dog to her family (which includes 2 cats) in the coming year.