Dogs and Cats Living Together
By Arlo the Hound with Help from Honor Tarpenning
It is an age-old dilemma: How do you get a fastidious feline and a curious canine to live in harmony? After all, there’s a reason people use the expression “fighting like cats and dogs.” I, for one, love cats, but they don’t seem to like me very much. I have a friend who is
a Maine coon cat. He’s almost as big as I am and much scarier. But
most other cats don’t want to give me the time of day. I wish I
understood why they don’t want to play the way I do.
anyway, these tips will help you introduce your new dog to your cat, or
your new cat to your dog with only minimal stress for all involved.
Have a cat? Getting a dog?
When you look for a dog, try to find a shelter dog who has lived with cats before. If want to get a dog from a breeder, try to find a breeder who has cats. Many breeders pride themselves on the fact that they socialize their puppies to adults, children, other dogs, and cats before they send them home with you.
Have a dog? Getting a cat?
Before you bring home a new cat, work on obedience training with your dog. When you introduce a cat to your home situation, you want your dog to respond to “sit”, “down”, “stay”
, and “drop it.”
He should also be comfortable and obedient on a leash.
It is best to introduce dogs and cats when they are both very young. They will grow up together and teach each other. Older dogs and cats who have not coexisted have not learned the social code of the other’s species, which makes life harder on everyone. If you have a cat and want to get a dog, get a puppy so your cat can teach him how to behave around a cat. If you have a dog, get a kitten so he will not know better than to play the games dogs like to play with one another.
In the beginning, give Kitty a safety zone.
Provide Kitty with a small room, like a bedroom or bathroom with all the cat-necessary amenities. Your cat will feel safe in this room and Kitty and dog will only be able to interact when you are supervising.
Introduce your dog gradually.
Take your dog into the room on a leash and give him a sit-stay command (this means he should sit firmly on the ground and not move until you give him a release command). Do not let the dog chase the cat. Do not force the animals to interact. Just let them calmly exist for several minutes in the same space. Give them both treats and praise for calm behavior. Do this in short sessions, several times a day. This stage can take days or weeks depending on the personalities of the animals involved. You’ll know when you can let the dog off his leash when he is no longer extremely interested in chasing after the cat, and when the cat is interested in investigating the dog.
Understand body language.
One of the major reasons dogs and cats have a hard time getting along is that they don’t speak the same language. When a dog is on his back he is either ready to play, or being submissive. When a cat is on his back he is in what I call “pointy parts up mode;” all four paws full of claws and a mouth full of sharp teeth are ready to slash into a curious pup. The problem is, we dogs think he’s ready to play! This often results in scratched snouts and hurt pooch feelings.
A home to call their own.
Each animal should have his or her own personal space. Provide small spaces that only the cat can fit into, and high perches the dog can’t reach so your cat can relax out of snout range when he’s had enough. Do not allow your cat to go in your dog’s crate, that’s his comfort zone.
No more litter box woes.
Besides the animals just not getting along, another problem dog and cat families run into is litter box cruising. That is when dogs go into the cat’s litter box and eat their excrement. This behavior is extremely off putting for humans, and cats don’t tend to be too amused either. There are lots of theories regarding why dogs do this, and not too many solutions. The best is just to keep the litter box where the dog can’t get to it, but the cat still can; which is easier said than done. You can keep the litter box on a counter or shelf, but it won’t work if you have a dog anything like me. I love to jump and climb. Just about any counter a cat can climb or jump to, so can I.
There is one amazing product out there that is so ingenious; I wish I had invented it myself (if only I had thumbs and power tools). It is called the Kitty Cabinet and it is kind of like a combination of a table, a box, and a cage. The litter box sits inside a square cage-like area with bars around it. This area sits a couple of feet off the ground. There is a square cut in the bottom, through which the cat can climb, but it is positioned in such a way that a dog would have a very difficult time climbing in, if he could even fit through the hole. The cat can climb in and do his business, but the dog has zero access. One could also use this device to hold the cat’s food and water bowl if the dog insists on eating Fluffy’s food.