Friends or foes?
We often think of cats and dogs being natural enemies. So when you're looking to have a new furry friend join the family, you might feel that you are a 'cat' lover or a 'dog' lover and being both doesn't work! But that's not always the case!
More families than you might think have both dogs and cats living very happily together!
It's important to keep in mind that you can't make cats and dogs get on, but you can increase the chance of them bonding by taking a few things into consideration:
What do I need to consider?
1. The age of both animals is important
When kittens and puppies are young, they are naturally very sociable and are happy exploring and discovering new things; they will probably accept that making friends with a puppy or a kitten can be fun and there is nothing to fear.
However, if your dog or cat is older, and they have been the only pet in the home, they might not be very receptive to sharing their territory with another animal; or they may have had a bad experience of being chased by another animal and now be fearful and defensive of a newcomer in their home.
2. Consider the breed
Some breeds of dogs are born to chase other animals - for example a hunting dog's inherent behaviour is to chase smaller animals, including cats. It's not always the case of course, and if they are introduced when they are very young, you may find they bond, but you are more likely to have a happy household if you choose a breed like a Basset hound or a Golden Retriever, who are normally very happy to live alongside adults, children and other pets alike!
3. Check their previous history
If you are adopting an older animal and bringing it into your home, try and check where they have lived before and if there were other pets in their previous home. If they have been used to living with other animals, they may well be very accepting of a new feline friend. If they have been the only pet previously, they may take more time to adjust.
4. Be well prepared before the introduction
When you are relatively confident that both pets should get along, make sure that your home is well prepared before they are introduced. You should have resources for each animal, including different food, bowls, toys and their own safe space that they can retreat to should they feel the need.
A high perch with comfy blankets for your cat (which the dog can't reach) and a cosy corner (maybe in a different room) for your dog will enable them to have their own territory until they are ready to live in harmony.
5. Make introductions gradually
Firstly, never leave your cat and dog alone together until you are very confident they have bonded.
Both cats and dogs have a great sense of smell and will immediately detect another animal. Allow them to see each other from a distance and share scent but avoid any physical contact. Keep an eye on how each one is responding - if your dog barks and the cat runs for cover, reassure them if you can and try again another time. Make sure your cat has somewhere to escape to and distract your dog with a toy.
6. The big meet!
When you are confident they are both actually ready to meet up close, keep your dog on a lead so that you can control them if things don't go according to plan - it might be wise to do the introductions after taking your dog on a long walk so they are a little tired and less excitable.
As it's more likely a dog will obey a command, train your dog to 'sit' or 'lie down' so that you will have more control and remember to reward them both for good behaviour - your cat for not running away and your dog for not chasing!
Let them meet on common ground, away from their own territory. Don't restrain either of them in your arms as this could result in injury if either behaves aggressively. Make sure the cat has an easy escape route.
Once you are happy that their first face to face encounter was amicable, repeat again daily until you are happy that a new friendship has been made and they are happy to rub along together nicely.
7. Keep a calm environment
It's great to see natural predators put their differences behind them and bond. With the right encouragement, patience and training, you should have a nice peaceful home and you may even find your dog and your cat cuddling up together!
Keep contact times calm at all times and remember to reward them for being nice to each other.
Use FELIWAY and ADAPTIL to help support both your dog and cat to feel comfortable in the home and together. A FELIWAY Optimum Diffuser will help your cat feel more relaxed and comfortable around your dog. Similarly an ADAPTIL Calm Diffuser will help your dog stay calm and adapt to changes. However, although both products are safe to use in the same household, one product will not work on both pets!
FELIWAY only works with cats, as dogs aren't able to detect the feline pheromones Feliway produces. Similarly, ADAPTIL provides a copy of the pheromone a mother dog produces after she gives birth to her puppies and releases comforting messages to help create a reassuring environment for your dog.