Do cats and dogs really hate each other? Try this experiment. Click on ‘images’ in Google, at the top left hand side of the screen. Type ‘cats and dogs together’ or ‘cats and dogs in love’ into the search box and see how many pictures pop up: more than 38 million last time I looked. How do they do it? I’ve been looking into how to create a harmonious cat and dog household, and here’s what I’ve found.
Some of us are dog people. Some prefer cats. But plenty of us love both. Cats and dogs can live in harmony without all hell letting loose, but it’s impossible to predict when it’ll work and when it won’t: some cats and dogs get on from the start, some take a while and others never really get used to each other. Bearing all that in mind, here’s some sensible advice about how to make the most of your chances!
Unlike dogs, cats aren’t pack animals. In the wild they live alone, only getting together to mate. So having more than one animal of any kind in the house can be scary for them. Dogs are also territorial. New smells can also be threatening and frightening for cats and dogs, and both can feel jealous. If you’re introducing a cat to a home with a dog, or the other way round, take it easy and introduce them gradually so they get used to each other’s scent.
The familiarisation process – Smells are everything!
Imagine moving into a new house. The first thing you want to do is explore and familiarise yourself with the layout. The same goes for a new pet. Cats and dogs have incredible senses of smell, using their noses to create a picture of their home.
Let your new arrival have the run of the parts of the house your other pet isn’t allowed, and leave them in peace to explore. After a few days, swap over so they can get used to each other’s smell before meeting in person.
Gently does it…
Dogs might be bigger, but cats are fearless when they’re cross or scared and they’ll happily fly at a dog many times their size. Before they meet for the first time, put your dog on a lead. Make sure they’re both feeling calm and relaxed. Keep your eye on them and make a fuss of them when they act nice.
Keep it short the first time they meet, increasing the length of visits gradually. Don’t leave them alone together until you’re 100% sure they’ll be OK, taking special care if you’re introducing a snack- sized kitten to a big dog!
Spend as much time as you can with them both, and step in gently if either of them starts winding the other up too much. Kittens and puppies are mischievous and playful, and older pets can find it stressful being chased when they’re not in the mood.
Rewards for good behaviour
When your pets react calmly, reward them. Remember when dogs get stressed or upset they like company, while cats prefer to be left alone. Never tell either animal off. Like small children, they don’t respond to being shouted at or swatted. They’re more likely to get the picture when you’re cool, calm, kind and firm. If you’ve ever seen the TV series Supernanny, you’ll know what I mean!
Keeping food separate
Animals get very possessive about their food. Keep their feeding bowls separate, away from each other, and put the cat’s food bowl high up so your dog can’t reach it.
High places ad comfy beds
Relaxed animals are more likely to make friends. So give them what they need to feel suitably chilled. Cats feel safest when they’re up high, so give your cat comfy places to sit where they can keep a beady eye on your dog from above. As for dogs, a cosy bed represents a safe place they can call their own, helping them feel at home.
Puppies and kittens
Young animals stand a better chance of getting on well. Getting a puppy and a kitten at the same time is probably the easiest way to grow a warm and loving relationship.
Patient and consistent
If you’re introducing a new cat to a dog, a new dog to your cat or going for a puppy and kitten combination, it’s important to be patient and consistent. Just like small children, they thrive on both.
Equal amounts of love
Make sure you give your dog and cat equal amounts of fuss and affection so they know they’re equally loved.
What about your pets?
Is yours a happy dog and cat household? If so, how did you do it? Did they fall in love at first sight or was it claws and jaws at dawn? We’d love to hear your experiences. Feel free to leave a comment.
Image Source: Jinterwas