“They were fighting like cats and dogs,” the saying goes. In cartoons and other media these two common pets are portrayed as enemies; however, if introduced properly, they can coexist peacefully, and even end up being best friends.
This article will teach you 7 of the most common mistakes people make when they introduce a new dog to their resident cat. If you find yourself in this situation, this guide will be essential!
1. Not planning your space
You will want to make sure the litter box is a place where your cat can access it, but where your dog won’t be able to stick his nose where it doesn’t belong (literally). This could be a bathroom on a floor of the house your dog isn’t allowed, or you could get a litter box with a lid and a door your cat can enter and exit.
Depending on the personalities of the animals, you may need to feed them in separate locations as well. If your cat is a picky eater who prefers to graze throughout the day and you bring home a lab whose only goal is to eat everything in sight, your food situation will not end well.
Many dogs love to eat cat food as a treat because it is so high in fat—this does not mean that it’s good for them. Be prepared to figure out how to keep the animals separate at mealtimes.
2. Not considering your dog’s breed
If this is your first time introducing a dog to your cats, it is a good idea to begin with a friendly, calm breed that is known for having a low prey drive. Ideally, the breed will also be mild, tolerant, and easily trainable.
A cross between a poodle and a Bernese mountain dog, the Bernedoodle makes an excellent starting point. And as a bonus, they are hypoallergenic, which means that you won’t be drowning in animal fur and dander from having both a dog and a cat.
Be cautious if you’re working with a terrier, weimeraner, or greyhound—these breeds are known for having trouble getting along with cats.
Of course, these are just generalities and the temperament of your individual dog makes a difference as well.
3. Not considering the animals’ personalities
Even more important than your dog’s breed is both animals’ personalities. It is possible to have a friendly and gentle terrier mix or a golden retriever who won’t leave your cat alone.
If possible, get to know the dog before you bring them home to meet the cat. It will be easier to train a puppy to coexist with a cat. If you are getting an adult dog, ask what they are like around cats and other smaller animals. Do they have a strong prey drive? Are they aggressive or calm?
You will also want to consider the temperament of your current cat. Have they been around dogs before? How have those interactions been? Does your cat seem calm and aloof or fearful and defensive?
Having an idea of how your cat is likely to respond will help you when you’re deciding how fast or slow to take the introduction, or whether bringing a dog into the mix is a good idea at all.
4. Rushing the introduction
Even if all these signs point to the animals being able to get along, you still will want to take the initial introduction slow.
Have your dog on a leash at first so you’re able to control and restrain him in case things go downhill.
Watch both animals’ body language to see how they respond. Ideally, there will be some curiosity from both sides, but both animals will be relatively calm. Keep interactions short, sweet, and controlled until you are confident the animals are socialized.
5. Not giving each animal its own space
Animals can be territorial, and it’s important to give your cat a safe space to retreat and be on its own. Take advantage of cats’ natural climbing abilities and use the vertical space in your home to your advantage.
Shelves, a cat tower, or other high places are all great options for your cat to get away for a little alone time. Whatever option you decide on, just make sure your dog won’t be able to access it.
You don’t want your cat to feel as if she has to hide constantly, so keep watch and make sure she’s not spending all of her time out of the dog’s reach.
6. Giving alone time too soon
Never leave your cat and dog together unsupervised, at least at first.
Even if they get along great when you are there, animals can be unpredictable, and you don’t want to come home to break up a fight, or worse.
Until you are completely confident they can be at peace in the same space, keep them separated while you are away. This can be done by keeping your dog in a kennel (crate training is a major advantage) or blocking off sides of the house.
7. Not having a backup plan
In most cases, if you avoid making the 6 mistakes described above, the animals will get along without issue. However, sometimes with an aggressive dog or a fearful cat, the challenges that come with putting them together cannot be overcome.
Be able to keep them in completely separate areas of the house so they do not interact, or at the very worst, be prepared to re-home one of the animals.
So long as you introduce them properly, a dog can be a welcome new family member in your house with a cat! Have a plan in advance, consider the animals’ breeds and personalities, be patient and give supervision as your pets are warming up to each other.
Do you have a cat and dog living together? Do they get along? Let us know in the comments below!