Having both a cat and a dog live harmoniously together in the home is a goal for many pet owners. However there are many variables that come into play and dictate whether this is possible or not. It is essential to be in-tune to the personality/tendencies of your pre-existing pet (whether it be a dog or cat) and the personality/inclinations of the new pet you are looking to bring into your household.
If you have a cat that falls in the defensive antagonist category and want to adopt a dog with a high prey drive, this may be an unsuccessful pairing. Conversely, if you have an older dog who has no interest in playing with smaller animals, and adopt a cat who falls in the avoidance category of not wanting to engage, then you could have a very successful relationship. Appropriate pairing is the foundation of successful cohabitation.
The tips I am going to mention below are just that, tips and considerations. Unfortunately there is no clear cut way to successfully introduce every dog and cat combination into a home. The rule of thumb is to set both you and your pets up for success. Be proactive with having safety precautions in place (ex. leash, crate, gate, etc.), progress slowly over a long time frame, and use the assistance of a qualified professional who can work with you and your pets in person if you are at all hesitant.
- Keep all introductions short and as stress-free as possible (for both cat and dog).
- The goal should NOT be for your dog and cat to play together, the goal should be for them to simply co-exist together in the home (if they eventually move to the playful stage that would be a plus).
- Have your dog on a leash so they can see and be around the cat, but not directly interact.
- Take your dog for a long walk outside prior to the introduction(s). Relieving pent up energy will help the process.
- Allow your cat access to elevated surfaces, so they can flee and observe from a comfortable area if necessary.
- The better obedience trained your dog is, the easier the introduction process will be. If your dog will reliably “Come” when called, relax in a “Down-Stay”, or “Leave It” upon command, the smoother, more controlled, and less stressful the initial interactions will be.
- Interrupt any chasing, barking, or overexcited behavior from your dog. Make sure you are not using a high pitch voice or a lot of attention/praise. This can add unnecessary excitement to an already excitable situation.
- Keep your cat and dog securely separated when you are not present and can’t directly supervise. The introduction process should be gradual and progressive over an extended period of time.
Remember, safety is our #1 priority, and there is no guarantee that every dog/cat combo will live harmoniously together in the home. However, utilizing short structured introductions on a daily basis will help provide both you and your pets the best chance of success.
Steve Reid is a Certified Dog Trainer and owner of S.R. Dog Training, LLC based in Westchester, NY. Steve’s mission is on “Changing the World for Dogs”. For more information about S. R. Dog Training, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, call 914-774-7654 or visit www.srdogtraining.com