We’re all familiar with the cartoonish stereotype of dogs chasing cats, but in fact they can be the best of friends in some circumstances. If you have a dog and want to add a cat to your household, it is entirely possible to do it without chaos or carnage. Most dogs and cats can learn to coexist peacefully and enjoy each other’s company if they are compatible personalities and if they are introduced correctly.
Introducing Cats and Dogs
The easiest way is usually to introduce a young dog to a confident adult cat. But that definitely isn’t the only way it can work out well. The first thing to consider is the personality of the pet or pets you already have. Some dogs cannot live with cats or any other small animals, but most can even if it involves a learning curve. If your dog is prone to chasing other animals, they are probably a poor candidate for a kitty companion. But if they are sociable with other dogs, particularly with dogs smaller than them, they are likely to grow to love their feline sibling. The more confident the cat is, the less likely they are to panic and run from the dog. A timid or skittish cat is much less likely than a confident one to bond with a dog.
It's important to get this relationship off on the right paw. While it is best to introduce two dogs in neutral territory such as a park, this is not true for cats. Bringing your cat to a dog shelter or bringing your dog to a cat rescue is only going to cause upset. It is much better for them to meet at your home. Talk to the rescue about your current pet’s personality and let them find a good match. Many dog rescues are very clear about each dog’s ability to live with cats and smaller dogs on their online listing of available dogs.
Don’t introduce two unvaccinated animals. If one is too young to be fully vaccinated, the other should be fully vaccinated. Ensure they are both protected against parasites as well.
Ground Rules for Your Fur Babies
The first rule of introducing a dog and cat is to ensure everyone’s safety. The dog, regardless of size, should be leashed and muzzled. Having the cat on a harness and leash is also important. Keep their first meeting brief and calm. Both animals should be moved to a secure place away from the other after their introduction where they cannot see each other. Reward them each a treat to help them associate each other with something good.
Repeat these short, supervised introductions several times a day, making each sessions slightly longer than the previous one. If they both remain calm and seem friendly, you can gradually relax security but stay right with them to prevent any nips or scratches or rough play.
For the first weeks and even months, it is important that each animal has a safe space away from the other. Allow plenty of time before leaving them unsupervised together and start with very short periods such as five minutes while you are in the next room. Very gradually build up to leaving them alone together when you leave the house.
Every individual animal is different. Some are more social and respectful of others, while others are more timid or more inclined to rough play regardless of their companion’s reaction. One key to ensuring your dog and cat get along is to make their early interactions positive by providing rewards such as lavish attention and plenty of healthy treats.
By Irene Hislop