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Having both a dog and a cat live harmoniously together in the home is a goal for many pet owners. However there are many variables that come into play and dictate whether this is possible or not. It is essential to be in-tune to the personality/tendencies of your pre-existing pet (whether it be a dog or cat) and the personality/inclinations of the new pet you are looking to bring into your household.
If you have a cat that falls in the defensive antagonist category and want to adopt a dog with a high prey drive, this may be an unsuccessful pairing. Conversely, if you have an older dog who has no interest in playing with smaller animals, and adopt a cat who falls in the avoidance category of not wanting to engage, then you could have a very successful relationship. Appropriate pairing is the foundation of successful cohabitation.
The tips I am going to mention below are just that, tips and considerations. Unfortunately there is no clear cut way to successfully introduce every dog and cat combination into a home. The rule of thumb is to set both you and your pets up for success. Be proactive with having safety precautions in place (ex. leash, crate, gate, etc.), progress slowly over a long time frame, and use the assistance of a qualified professional who can work with you and your pets in person if you are at all hesitant.
- Keep all introductions short and as stress-free as possible (for both cat and dog).
- The goal should NOT be for your dog and cat to play together, the goal should be for them to simply co-exist together in the home (if they eventually move to the playful stage that would be a plus).
- Have your dog on a leash so they can see and be around the cat, but not directly interact.
- Take your dog for a long walk outside prior to the introduction(s). Relieving pent up energy will help the process.
- Allow your cat access to elevated surfaces, so they can flee and observe from a comfortable area if necessary.
- The better obedience trained your dog is, the easier the introduction process will be. If your dog will reliably “Come” when called, relax in a “Down-Stay”, or “Leave It” upon command, the smoother, more controlled, and less stressful the initial interactions will be.
- Interrupt any chasing, barking, or overexcited behavior from your dog. Make sure you are not using a high pitch voice or a lot of attention/praise. This can add unnecessary excitement to an already excitable situation.
- Keep your cat and dog securely separated when you are not present and can’t directly supervise. The introduction process should be gradual and progressive over an extended period of time.
Remember, safety is our #1 priority, and there is no guarantee that every dog/cat combo will live harmoniously together in the home. However, utilizing short structured introductions on a daily basis will help provide both you and your pets the best chance of success.
Steve Reid is a Certified Dog Trainer and owner of S.R. Dog Training, LLC based in Westchester, NY. Steve’s mission is on “Changing the World for Dogs”. For more information about S. R. Dog Training, send an e-mail to [email protected], call 914-774-7654 or visit www.srdogtraining.com
I have an 11 1/2 year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and a tortoise cat who is about 12 years old. I also have a 15 year old ex-ferral cat I rescued when she was about 3. The ex-rescue, a domestic short hair, is a totally affectionate, easily approachable cat. She and the dog, Rusty, had an encounter one morning, and he learned to leave her ALONE! They get along ok. He usually ignores her, except when he is around his dinner plate. But generally, they move around within a foot of one another, and the cat, Kira, has no hesitation dropping to the ground around Rusty. That doesn’t entice any sort of prey behavior on Rusty’s part. I’d love to get that behavior regarding my scardy cat.
It is slowly getting better, when they’re in the house, it is mostly an avoidance issue…but that’s only because Dax hides…from everything and everyone. She snuggles with me at night on the bed, but during the day may hide, or sleeps up off the ground. If I come up on her slowly, she’ll allow me to pet her, but I can NOT hold her. I have just let her be. She’s been fraidy cat since I got her as an 8 week old kitten. I haven’t forced interactions.
In the last year, in a new house, with new housemates, Dax and Rusty have slowly gotten to a live and let be…but Dax can’t be near me in the study…because she can’t GET here from her refuge in the bedroom.
Usually, what triggers Rusty’s chase is seeing Dax peeking out of the hall towards me. The other thing is seeing a cat outside…we have a very lushly planted garden in back, surrounded by an 8 foot block wall. Rusty will see a cat in the back, and boom! he’s headed through the doggy door and out in the back yard…as he gets close…if it is Kira, it is hilarious. It is definitely “oops”…let me change my direction and/or STOP right here. Kira just stands there like, oh, yea…and she definitely owns the encounter. But Kira hisses, and only holds her ground until she sees an escape route…to the card cable that lets her into the bedroom. If she would hold her ground once, it would be over…Rusty is really a wuss!
What do I do? I’m going to try taking Rusty into the bedroom after his afternoon walk when he is tired and he’s still got his harness on. Usually Dax is there up on her bed. We’ll see what happens…