It’s often thought that cats and dogs living together will end up fighting like, well, cat and dog.
But the truth is, cats and dogs who have been brought up together in a stable environment will often get along just fine.
The tricky part is usually when pets who are used to having their home all to themselves are suddenly expected to share their space with another pet.
If you have a cat, and are thinking of getting a dog, or vice versa – here are some practical tips on what to expect when you have multiple pets in the same household, and what you can do to help new pets settle into your home.
1. Personality matters more than breed
It’s a common belief that certain breeds of dogs and cats are predestined to get along better with each other.
But, this is not necessarily always the biggest factor when predicting if pets will get along.
Whilst there are certain things you need to consider (huskies and cats, for example, are not always a great mix due to a husky’s powerful instinct to hunt smaller animals), it’s also important for owners to take both pets’ individual personalities and life-stage into account, too.
If any breed of dog has territorial issues, they probably won’t find it easy to share their home or get along with other pets, regardless of breed type.
Similarly, an elderly dog seeking a bit of peace and quiet will not be appreciative of an inquisitive kitten clamouring all over their back, or a puppy who wants to play all the time.
If you already have one pet, and you’re considering adding another to your household, it’s important to think about the needs of your existing pet first.
2. Train your dog to ‘stay’ – and not to react to cats
To get along peacefully with cats, a dog needs to have learned the art of self-restraint and to be in control of their impulses.
If your dog is an excitable ball of impulse-driven energy, it might struggle to adapt to a cat moving in.
Or, if the shoe’s on the other foot, a cat will probably resent an excitable new room-mate cluttering up their personal space.
Avoid introducing your dog to any new feline friends until they have mastered the ‘stay’ command. If you can, try to keep your dog on a lead for the first few meetings, too.
3. Introduce your pets gradually
Meal-time is a prime opportunity to get your pets used to one another and start forming some positive associations.
Before your pets meet, try to keep them in separate rooms in your house.
In prep for the first face-to-face meeting, let them smell each other’s bedding or toys. Doing this means your pets won’t be complete strangers when they come face-to-face.
As for the big meeting itself, here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Keep your dog on a lead, and keep both pets on opposite sides of a closed door. Doing it this way means they won’t see each other, but they’ll be able to smell each other. They’ll recognise each other’s smells from the bedding or toys they sniffed previously.
Step 2: Feed both your pets at the same time, still on opposite sides of the door. As they’re eating, the smell of each other becomes intermixed with the smell of their food, forging a positive association.
Step 3: Repeat this ‘closed door’ method every mealtime. After a few days, replace the closed door with a baby gate to give them a good view of each other, and then after a few more days, remove this entirely.
As your pets become more and more familiar with each other’s smells, they’ll eventually feel relaxed enough to eat virtually side by side, with no major dramas.
4. Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise
If your cat and dog are going to be pals, you need to make sure that your dog is getting plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
Dogs who are able to burn off surplus energy are more likely to resist the temptation to chase the cat, or get their kicks from tormenting it.
Toys, high-intensity trick training and herding-based activities are a great way to help unleash your dog’s prey-driven instincts in a controlled setting.
5. Provide a cat with their own space – and keep the dog out!
Where cats practically invented the concept of ‘personal space,’ it’s fair to say dogs have no such concept.
Should their canine friend become a little too much, cats need to know they have a designated ‘safe’ space in your home that they can easily and quickly retire to for a bit of peace and quiet.
You also need to help them protect it, by being proactive in keeping your dog out of their area.
If space in your home is limited, vertical territories such as cat trees are an ideal solution. Cats naturally feel safer when they are high up, and where they can safely survey what’s happening below them.
6. Keep your dog out of the cat litter tray
Dogs might not need privacy while they are doing their business, but cats sure do.
Cats are incredibly particular when it comes to their toilet habits, and it’s vital that they have a quiet space where they can poo in peace.
Ideally, you should try to place the cat litter box somewhere the dog cannot access it at all. This is important for two reasons:
- It stops them from sticking their nose in (quite literally) where it’s not wanted
- It stops your dog from snacking on cat faeces
For reasons known only to dogs, cat faeces are irresistibly delicious, and make the perfect snacky snack.
But – aside from the fact it’s totally gross – your dog eating cat poo is a really bad habit that you need to discourage from the get-go.
Cat faeces from cats who go outdoors and enjoy hunting can contain intestinal parasites, such as tapeworms. Parasitic worms can cause all kinds of health problems for your pooch if swallowed and left undetected, which brings us nicely onto our final tip:
7. Keep both pets on top of their regular flea and worm treatments
Your pets will be living in close proximity to each other, so it’s vital that you keep both of them up-to-date on their regular flea and worming treatments.
Fleas and other parasites like worms will easily move from one pet to another, and if one is left untreated, it can quickly lead to nasty health problems.
One of the easiest ways to keep track of this is to sign up to Itch.
Itch will send a tailored dose of flea and worm medicines to each of your pets, exactly when needed.
You’ll never forget to protect your pets at the same time, and your cat and dog won’t need to fight over who brought fleas into the house!