Many pet owners dream of a household with dogs and cats living together peacefully. As most of us will know, living with both species under one roof can be hair-raising, not to mention send furniture flying.
Yes, the dog and cat relationship is historically prickly. But this doesn’t mean friendship isn’t possible! It just needs you, as the owner, to take both care and responsibility.
If you have a resident pooch or cat and are thinking of adding another species to the family, or are trying to improve an existing inter-pet relationship, we’ve put some tips together for you to make things easier.
As we know, our pets can be strangely human-like. As is often the case for people, a dog and cat relationship is all about first impressions. The first time your pup meets a feline friend (or housemate) will set the scene for the relationship.
1. Give both parties space
Keep your pup and cat in separate rooms for three to four days before they officially meet. You can use this time to introduce them to each other’s smells and noises.
Pat one and then the other to familiarise them with the scent, and if possible, swap the rooms around. You can even let your pooch sniff at the door to your cat’s room.
2. Go slow
Remember, your pets are animals with strong instincts, so it’s important to have patience with this process. Only introduce them when your cat is ready - they are usually more nervous and take longer to get used to a newcomer, as opposed to typically more enthusiastic pups. Take the next step when your kitty seems relaxed at the sound or scent of your dog.
Make sure your pooch is well trained to stay and heel, or for an excitable pup, keep them on the lead If they allow it, hold your cat for the first meeting. Let them sniff each other and use plenty of verbal encouragement to put both at ease.
This process tends to be easier when both cat and dog are young; they learn faster and a smaller puppy is less likely to cause harm than a bigger dog.
3. Give your kitty a way out
Aim for the best but prepare for the worst. Just in case things do go pear-shaped, make sure your cat has an escape route. This may mean plenty of elevated furniture for them to get to higher ground, or a baby gate that your dog can’t get through.
4. Keep it short
The first meeting will be quite intense for both pets, so don’t push them the first time. Keeping it short will make sure not to exhaust your pets, which may cause them to lash out.
Like any relationship, this one will take work. There are a few things you can do to keep things running smoothly with dogs and cats living together under one roof.
Don’t pick favourites
As we all know, pets can be like kids sometimes. Discourage jealousy and competition between them by being equal with your love and attention.
Keep your pooch well-trained
This one, while it seems like a no-brainer, will help improve encounters with all cats, not just yours at home. Reward your pup for good behaviour around your cat. Try to use positive messaging by redirecting rough behaviour into other activities, like exercise or obedience training.
Speaking of which, make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise, both physically and mentally. This will keep them in a low-level energy state, so they can resist temptation to give chase or be overly enthusiastic when meeting a furry feline friend.
Regular obedience training will keep your pooch’s mind sharp and easy to handle.
Give your cat a sanctuary
Even if they’re the best of friends, chances are your cat will tire of your dog, especially a playful pup. It’s important that they have somewhere to retreat to, even if it’s just a perching spot with a bird’s eye view of what’s going on. High furniture and a room that’s off limits to the dog are good ideas.
If your cat is using a litter box, make sure this is kept out of bounds for your dog.
Keep food separate
Your dog and cat may get along like a house on fire, but remember, food trumps all. Both are likely to get possessive of their meals, so avoid nasty lashing out by keeping the place and timing of feeding completely separate.
According to dog expert Cesar Millan, your role as ‘Pack Leader’ is to direct the energy of your animals to keep the household in balance. This means keeping your dog in the highest level of calm-submissive behaviour. Your cat can then be calm-assertive, allowing them to feel safe and avoiding either pet feeling distressed.
For a home where all pets exist in peace, take your role as Pack Leader seriously! Be patient, persistent and gentle until everybody feels at home.
Here at Nose to Tail, we’ve got a wide selection of treats to keep your pup happy when interacting with a new feline friend. Give us a call on 09 448 2227 to order or pop in to Nose to Tail to pick up yours today!