There’s a well-known expression – ‘to fight like cats and dogs’, which means to constantly argue. However, dogs and cats can be great friends. These tips from veterinarian Dr Katrina Warren will help you to enjoy a harmonious multi-species household.
Ideally, you should acquire your dog and cat at the same time when they are both young. This will help them to get used to each other at a time when both can establish regular routines and socialise with each other. If it’s not possible to get your pets at the same time, then research suggests that you are more likely to be successful introducing a dog to a household where a cat is the first occupant, rather than introducing a cat into a household that already has a dog.
If you have an existing pet, it’s best to introduce the new pet very gradually and under supervision. A gentle introduction is far safer than a rushed one and will hopefully result in your pets becoming good friends. When you first bring home your new pet, put them in a room behind a closed door so that your other pet can get to know the new arrival ‘through the door’ with minimal confrontation. This will enable the pets to discover each other via smell and hearing, so when you introduce them face-to-face they will already be familiar with each other.
When introducing a cat and a dog, people usually worry that the cat will be most at risk. However, you will also need to watch out for the dog. Cats generally like to quickly establish they are the boss, sometimes by swiping or scratching the dog before running away. Be sure to prevent the dog from chasing the cat right from the start, as chasing can quickly become a habit. Keep the dog calm and have treats on hand to distract and reward. Take special care when introducing a kitten to a dog, as kittens are tiny, playful and can easily excite a dog. Always provide good separation until you are confident the kitten is safe with the dog. If you are worried about how your dog will react, make sure you keep them on a lead.
If the relationship is progressing well, you can gradually enable the dog and cat to interact more freely. Provide the cat with a place they can ‘escape’ to and feel safe. Cats like to be elevated, so somewhere they can perch out of reach of the dog is ideal. Reward your dog with praise and treats for calm behaviour around the cat.
It’s sensible to remember that, in many ways, pets are like children. Distribute your affection to both pets and make sure that the dog and cat both know what the rules are for getting attention, for example being calm and sitting patiently.
1 Introduce when young.
2 Train your dog to always sit and stay on request.
3 Provide all cats with a safe haven – a room or place where the dog can’t enter or reach them.
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