Getting cats and dogs to live together
Many of our clients have multi-pet households, for all sorts of reasons, and many of those involve keeping dogs and cats together. So many times though, we hear that the dogs and cats don’t get on together, but many of us also find that they can become the best if buddies if they are introduced correctly at the start. Even dogs that naturally chase cats out of the garden or other small furries, such as squirrels, can learn not to chase their new house friend, once they have become accustomed to them.
Preparation is key and it will take time for your new and old pet to get used to each other. Just like people, it can take a few meetings before a friendship is forged. Cats can take a long time to get used to another cat, so trying to get them to accept a bouncy, energetic dog could take even longer, but it is always possible!
Depending on the cat or dog, it can sometimes take years to build a relationship, which can vary from simply wanting to be near each other, mutual grooming, simply being tolerant of each other in the same room, or to an understanding that they both live in the same house and keep their distance.
Sometimes, you may find that either species gets a little upset. Cats will often hiss and vocalise and may even strike out if they feel threatened. Dogs will bark and growl, chase or stay locked in the position they are in until the cat passes.
The use of indoor crates can be very useful for the incoming pet - either a dog or a cat. Keeping dogs and cats physically separate for 2-3 weeks while both still being able to get used to the other’s presence, behaviour, smell, appearance etc can mean a much smoother and more successful transition to a shared household.
It is also important to understand that dogs and cats react in different ways:
- Play – Your dog may want to play with their new friend and if the cat is young and outgoing this could be the start of something fun, but be careful as some cats could find this too much and simply get scared. So all this needs to be carefully monitored and controlled in the early days.
- Prey – Some dogs instantly see cats and try to chase them as they see them as prey. They may even start growling and barking straight in the cats direction. In most cases though, it is relatively easy to train them to recognise cats as animals they are not allowed to chase.
- Cautious approach – Some dogs might not want to go near their new live-in companion and become very timid/nervous. Cats will also show this type of behaviour and may look for the nearest way out, or hide behind anything they can get behind. Again, indoor crates are a great way to overcome this.
- Aggression – Your cat might outwardly show aggressive/defensive behaviour towards your dog, this will include, hissing, spitting and even lashing out. This is a natural reaction at first, but giving them the protection of an indoor crate will again help them to overcome this.
And when they do meet for the first time:
- Ensure your dog is on a lead - just in case.
- Ensure you have treats to distract them if their interest becomes a little too much.
- Separate your dog from the rest of the house so that your cat can get to know exit routes and hiding places before their first meeting.
- Give your cat the freedom of the house, let them wander around the rooms and when they come near to where the dog is, try to get their attention by using treats so they become comfortable with the presence of the dog.
- Always make sure they have an exit. Don’t shut them in a room and let them sort it out!
- Always be calm and do not try to excite your dog.
If you need further advice on either how to introduce a new cat or a dog, or you need advice on how to improve the relationship between existing animals in your household, please feel free to speak to one of our vets who will be able to give you lots more useful tips and advice.