Although the cliché image of a cat and dog together usually involves a large amount of chasing, barking and hissing, it is possible for these different pets to get along. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC) 21st Century Dog Owners Study, there are a significant amount of dog owners, 38%, who also own cats. But what is the best way to introduce a cat to your dog, or vice versa?
As natural predators and territorial animals, cats and dogs actually have a lot in common. This can lead to butting heads, but it also means that they can learn to coexist peacefully. Although the AKC acknowledges that a puppy and kitten that grow up together are more likely to get along than cats and dogs that meet later in life, there are steps you can take to helping your existing pet get along with a new one.
Prior to adding a dog or cat to your family, consider the breed of dog you have or are looking to add. Certain breeds are more likely to get along with a cat than others. Non-sporting breeds will have less of a hunting instinct towards your cat, as will some smaller breeds. Research your breed closely before making this decision and speak with your vet if you are uncertain how your dog, or new dog, might interact with a cat.
Once you’ve made your decision and bring home a new pet, you want that pet to grow accustomed to their new home, regardless of what other pets live in it. Begin by confining your existing cat or dog and allowing you new pet to wander the house as they please. This will help your new pet feel comfortable in their surroundings, and allow them to get used to the smell of your current pet. Once your new pet seems comfortable, switch places and confine the new pet but let the existing one run free, allowing him or her to get used to the scent of the new pet.
Gradually allow your pets to approach each other, starting with a baby gate or fence in between them so each pet still has their own space. When you feel comfortable allowing them to meet face to face, keep your dog on leash and give your cat the option to run off to a safe place if they feel threatened. Do not force interaction between them; this new relationship will take time to develop. Don’t leave your pets together unsupervised until you are sure of how they will react.
With proper preparation, research and patient training, your cat and dog can learn to defy the cartoon cliché and get along living in the same household.