For decades now, dogs and cats have been portrayed in popular media as mortal enemies, pursuing some unknown agenda against each-other where we humans become occasionally caught in the crossfire. The reality, however, is that like most animals, dogs and cats can be taught to live harmoniously together and even become great friends.

The trick is, as with most things, in being patient and understanding. Neither dogs nor cats have the same mentality of a human and while both have pack animals in their ancestry, they nonetheless have very different sets of instincts and dispositions from one another. However, with a little understanding, a little patience and a lot of love you’ll have these two historic ‘enemies’ sharing a pet gear double stroller before you know it! Here’s how to get it right…

Image by Flickr

 

Preparation is the key

We’re going to assume that you’re introducing a pup or young dog to an adult cat, although if you have a kitten extra care must be taken. Kittens are fragile and while playful pups are extremely endearing… they’re not the gentlest or most careful creatures.

Your first step should be to create a ‘safe space’ for your cat that the dog will not have access to, ideally somewhere that they are familiar with where they sleep or relax often. Make sure that they are able to access their food, water and litter tray without coming into contact with your new friend.

It’s important that your cat gets controlled exposure to the dog through becoming increasingly familiar with the look and scent of them. A stair gate is a great way to facilitate this and it’s worth considering using Feliway which will keep your cat feel safe and secure by subtly exuding relaxing pheromones. Cats need to have access to high spaces in order  to feel safe and secure, so make sure that they’ll have plenty of access to these as they’ll be invaluable in helping your cat cope with this new development.

If possible, you should keep your dog in a crate and give them free but supervised access in 15-20 minute increments to your home and family.

 

The importance of scent articles

While cats are far better visually equipped than their canine counterparts, both animals use smell to communicate, so it’s a great idea to use scent articles to acquaint both pets with each other’s smell. A scent article can be a toy or an item of bedding which the pet can infuse with their scent. After exposure to the article, your new pet will become slowly accustomed to their new friend’s scent and vice-versa.

Managing first contact

Ensuring that your pets’ first real exposure to each other is well managed is one of the surest ways of creating a lifelong friendship. Fortunately, you’ve already laid the groundwork for the best possible start.

Your dog’s first instinct will be to get up close and personal, while your cat will want to observe the pooch from a comfortable distance. You must control the dog and stop them from chasing the cat, as this will create a rift that’s very difficult to repair. Keep initial contact short and sweet with lots of praise for both pets and a rewarding treat for all.

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