Lots of people believe cats and dogs can’t stand each other, and this will never change. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve seen so many loving relationships between dogs and cats that I can’t believe this myth still exists.
That said, cats and dogs speak different languages, so to speak, and introducing them involves some supervision and patience as they learn each other’s signals. Here are some tips to ensure that your cats and dogs enjoy a happy life together.
Dogs with a high prey drive, including many sighthounds and terriers, may never be safe with cats because they’re instinctively driven to chase anything that runs away from them. Be sure to talk with your breeder or the shelter you adopt from to ensure that the dog you’re getting is appropriate for cats. Dogs with a high prey drive can be trained to stop the chase, but it will require quite a lot of work.
Before you bring the dog in to meet the cat, take him out for a run or a good, long play session in order to lower his energy level and make his greeting a bit less intense.
Shelters often test dogs to see if they’re safe with cats, and they test cats to see if they do all right with dogs. Responsible breeders often raise their dogs with cats, children and other species so the dogs are well socialized as puppies. Likewise, responsible cat breeders do the same with their kittens.
When you introduce a dog to a cat, the dog should be on a leash so that you can control him if he gets too excited and wants to chase the cat. The dog should also be well trained and able to respond to “sit,” “stay,” and “leave it” commands. Don’t leave the dog and cat together unsupervised until you’re sure that the dog won’t chase or hurt the cat.
You’ll make the introduction more positive for both parties if you bring treats to reward good behavior. Treating the dog for being relaxed and mellow, and sitting and staying, will reinforce the behavior you want, and giving the cat treats will help her understand that the dog brings good things.
Cats take some time to warm up to new situations, and this goes for canine introductions, too. Don’t force the introduction by confining the cat in a crate or bringing her over to the dog. Some dogs will need a lesson about just how much the cat wants to play and what type of play is appropriate. A claw in the nose can be a good lesson for an overenthusiastic puppy.
Your cat should have a room where she can go if she wants to get away from the dog. This room should have food, beds, toys and a litter box in it.
Make sure the dog can’t surprise the cat while she’s in the litter box or in another vulnerable position. Keep the cat’s food and water dishes out of reach of the dog by feeding her on the counter or on a window sill.
Even if your dog and cat never become best pals, a proper introduction will ensure that they enjoy a decent and stress-free relationship.
Do you have any other advice about how to introduce cats and dogs? Have you done an inter-species introduction before? How did it go? Sound off in the comments.
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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.