We’ve all heard the old wives’ tale about dogs and cats. There are phrases in all kinds of languages about how much they fight or how they can’t live together. But it turns out – with the right preparation and attitude – dogs and cats can live together as friends!
Somewhere along the line we got this in our heads, but it’s just not the case. Dogs and cats can be friends and even form powerful bonds if they are properly socialized and have personalities that complement each other. If those are in place, all it takes is time. Remember that dogs and cats are different and have different needs/natural behaviors, but if you follow these steps they can coexist under the same roof.
How Can You Get Your Dog and Cat to Like One Another?
Dogs and cats can bond to become more than just roommates. They can form long-lasting friendships if the right steps are taken to encourage a bond between your furry friends:
First impressions are everything! Dogs and cats are both complex animals and can get anxious. When a dog and cat are introduced to each other for the first time, if the situation is an anxious one, the animals will associate one other with those feelings of anxiousness and unease. While those anxious feelings can be reversed with even more time and patience, it makes bonding way more difficult.
These tips can maximize the chances of success:
Choose the right spot for the first meeting: If your animal spends most/all of its time in one space, like the living room, it may act territorial with a new animal in the space. Start with neutral ground.
Keep them separated (at first): Across several days, let your animals take turns between which is free and which is put up. That way each pet has enough time to check out the other’s scent around the house.
Make face-to-face introductions: Let both pets in the same room, but keep the dog on a good leash. Continue with this type of interaction until your cat is calm and ignores the dog, and vice versa.
Proceed with caution: Once the pets get along during leashed visits on a consistent basis, they’re ready for the next step. Remove the dog’s leash and let the animals get to know each other better – but don’t leave them alone until you’re sure they’re totally comfortable with each other.
Introducing a new dog to your cat may take weeks or even months, so be patient! It’s also important to note that the younger the animal, the easier and quicker they are to trust each other and form a bond.
If your dog is good but a little… rowdy, obedience training might be a good idea. A lot of dogs have a strong instinct to chase, and that makes cats anxious – especially if they don’t know it’s a game. This can result in your cat going on the defense which can involve unwanted claws and as a result an injured dog. Taking the steps needed to train your dog can make a major difference in how your pets get along.
Recognizing Play Time
One of the biggest mistakes a pet owner can make is to assume that when one animal is ready to play, the other is too. Playing is key for friendships and socialization to happen with cats and dogs, but both animals have to be willing to take part. In the first few weeks, watch how both the cat and dog play. When you sense one isn’t in the mood, separate them carefully. Eventually they will get on the same page, but sometimes a dog can be friendlier than a cat, or vice versa. This is especially true when one animal is very young and the other is much larger and older.
Which Breeds Are Most Likely to Get Along?
First, off, it is important to know which dog and cat breeds are most likely to get along. Proper introductions go a long way, but some dog breed groups can have instinctive behaviors that often affect how they get along with cats.
For example, most terriers were historically bred to hunt, and hounds usually have a natural instinct to chase. With that in mind, a running cat can trigger those predatory impulses. On the other hand, cats may not appreciate a herding dog’s desire to corral other animals or people. So, dog breed groups known for having low energy or easygoing personalities typically work best with cats. But you have to remember, these dog breeds groups’ personalities are generalizations – a ton of breeds can make great furry siblings!
Golden Retrievers are known to be kind and are one of the best dogs for cats. Just remember, retriever breeds have to be trained to not chase after your cat very early on. Once they have that down, a Golden Retriever and cat are likely to be a great match.
Labs are just big sweeties. They love new kids, new pets, and pretty much everything else. Labs are not known to be jealous and are almost always willing to share their space with a cat.
Beagles seem to enjoy the company of cats, maybe because they were bred to hunt in packs and they view cats as a fellow member of the group. However, you have to stick with just one beagle though, because they can acquire a “pack mentality” and are more likely to team up on the cat in a group setting.
What should I do if my dog and cat don’t get along?
Just like with human relationships, familiarity is key to success. Dogs who haven’t been raised around cats often see them as prey. On the same note, cats who are unfamiliar with dogs are normally afraid of them. That means the best chance for your pets is to be sure they are socialized with one another before 4 months of age. If you see your dog and cat aren’t getting along, the dog is probably threatening the cat. As we said before, good introductions and training can counteract this. So many problems can be prevented with good, gradual introductions. If there is an issue and they aren’t getting along, keep your dog and cat separated except when you are working on the steps in the introduction process.
Keep an eye on things early, too. It is not okay for your cat to be in danger, or too afraid to go to a certain part of the house. Similarly, a dog should not be constantly on edge, looking for the cat.
If they really can’t get along, then there are more extreme options. These situations call for formal reintroduction programs, as well as giving both pets safe house time by themselves.
Then, when in doubt, consult the experts! We can offer guidance to help Fido and Frisky get along like gangbusters.