Making room in your home for both cats and dogs can be a wonderful experience for everyone. Cats and dogs can learn to live harmoniously together if we carefully set up behaviour parameters for them and make certain they have their own space.
Choose well for good companionship
In the case of kittens and puppies, the job of assimilating them to each other may be relatively straightforward as there is no previous ‘baggage’ to bring to the relationship. Dogs and cats that grow up together rarely have a problem getting on, if good behaviour toward each other is encouraged from the beginning. Never allow your dog to play rough or chase the cat. Trim cat claws to avoid any injury during play – but do not remove their claws, it’s painful and unnatural. Give cats a place to get away, a high cat pole or cat door, so if the dog does become over friendly, there’s an escape in sight!
Some breeds of dogs just can’t help but chase a cat…
Of course, some breeds of dog are better at getting along with cats than others. Terriers and hounds have a natural instinct to hunt a smaller animal, so these types of breeds may need more training not to chase a cat. And as any cat lover knows, some cats are seriously laid back and others are skittish, some will never want to be friends with a dog. In the end, all animals have their own personality and a certain amount of chemistry between them must occur to become good friends.
Give them time
If you are introducing older dogs or cats to a new member of the family, you need to give them time and assure both parties that everything is ok. Lead by example by acting calmly around them, not rushing them together. Showing affection to them both shows them everything is good and there’s enough of you to go around. Leaving a cloth or an item of clothing with the other animal’s scent in bedding is a good way for each animal to get used to the other. Gradually increasing exposure via a pet gate can help them get to know one another without the pressure of full contact.
If you are rescuing an animal it’s important to check their temperament around other animals.Unfortunately some will never be comfortable because of past experiences. Extreme reactions may mean they are not the sort of animal who wants to share their home or their human with another species.
Important things cats and dogs need to do without interruption
You should always feed cats and dogs separately to eliminate anxiety around meal time and to ensure each animal eats its own food. Nutrition for cats and dogs is not interchangeable – and while cats are not usually interested in dog food, dogs are very interested in what the cat’s got. Pet food is specifically designed to meet the nutritional needs of each species and cross feeding can cause complications and health issues over time. And of course, we don’t want the cat to go hungry!
It’s also important to give a cat its own space for litter away from the dog. Never allow dogs near the litter tray – this is well and truly cat territory and could result in the cat not using the tray and doing its business in places you don’t want it to. Of course some dogs have a nasty habit of eating things they shouldn’t, so it’s really best to keep temptation out of their way.
Good friends make for a happy home
‘Fighting like cats and dogs’ should be reserved for cartoons. It doesn’t have to be a reality if we think carefully about the needs of each animal and give them the space to be themselves. With the right amount of affection, the right nutrition, training and support, each animal should feel relaxed around the other. Good exercise for dogs, games and escape routes for cats are paramount. The occasional swipe from the cat may keep the dog on its toes, but in no time, they’ll be cuddled up together like the best of friends, and you’ll know all is well!