Despite the stereotype of “fighting like cats and dogs,” cats and dogs can live together peacefully in the same household and even become best friends. If you are thinking of adding a canine companion to your feline household, some simple common sense precautions will ensure that everyone gets along.
Why dogs chase cats
Dogs chase cats because of their prey drive. Dog breeds with a higher prey drive may not be a good choice for your household, or it may take more time and effort to integrate them safely into your household. If you adopt a shelter dog, shelter workers may be able to tell you whether the dog has a history of getting along with cats.
A dog’s prey drive may be triggered by a cat hissing or otherwise acting aggressively toward the dog. Some dogs will chase cats simply because the cat moves past them.
Slow and gradual introductions
Whether you’re introducing a new dog to a resident cat, or a new cat to a resident dog, slow and steady is the key to successful introductions. Create a safe room for the newcomer. Both cats and dogs are scent driven. Exchanging scents between the two animals by rubbing a towel first on one, then the other, allows them to gradually get used to each others’ smells before they even meet face to face. Always supervise initial interactions, and limit the time if needed. Keep dogs leashed during introductions. Have treats on hand to reward positive encounters. If there’s a problem, back up to the previous step, and go slower the next time.
One way to get cat and dog used to each other is to have them associate meal time with each other. Feed them on opposite sides of the door of the safe room. If you eventually want to feed them in the same space, watch closely to make sure the dog doesn’t steal food from the cat’s bowl and vice versa. Feeding them separately may make for more peaceful mealtimes in the long run. You can also feed your cat in an elevated area such as a counter or cat tree.
Once you’ve successfully introduced cat and dog, supervise initial interactions. Don’t leave them alone together in the same space until you can be completely comfortable that they are getting along. It may be safer to crate your dog, or keep your cat in a separate room if you can’t be home.
Some cats and dogs may be comfortable with each other right away, while others may take weeks or even months. Patience and time will go a long way toward ensuring a peaceful household for all family members.