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Dog-Friendly Cats and Cat-Friendly Dogs: Learning to Live Together

Some dog breeds are more likely to get along with cats and some cat breeds are more likely to get along with dogs, but even if you get the right breeds for your pet combinations, cross-species friendships can still take some getting used to. In this article, we’ll take a look at how, in the right environment, your cat and dog can learn to live together in relative harmony.

Cats and dogs are very different animals and their distinctive personalities don’t always blend well. This is where we get the common misconception that cats and dogs will never make good housemates. But many cats and dogs can actually get along perfectly well, if they’re provided with the right environment. The key is to begin with two animals whose breeds and personalities complement each other.

Introducing Your Pets

If they’re given time to comfortably get to know each other, most cats will be able to get along with a dog just fine. Playing and napping together, a puppy and a kitten who are raised together will generally learn right away to tolerate each other and can grow to be real friends. Certain precautions will need to be taken, however, if a household that already has a dog as an established member decides to take in a new cat or kitten. We can’t all have the world’s best-trained pup, but some behaviours can (and should) be addressed, whether we’re shooting for Crufts or not.

Your dog is more likely to be relaxed around cats in their adult life if they are exposed to cats during their primary socialisation period – from about two to nine weeks of age. Your cat may also be safer paired with a dog breed which has a lower occurrence of predatory behaviour, making them less likely to lay chase.

A multi-pet household may not be the best option for you if your dog has a tendency towards predatory behaviour, such as chasing other animals, or if they have injured or killed another animal in the past. It’s worth noting that although it’s safe to have one cat and one dog living together, if you have two or more dogs they may feed off each other’s apprehension, which can result in the cat becoming seriously injured (or worse).

Meeting for the First Time

Make sure your cat is at the dog’s eye level when you first introduce them. You should also provide a sense of security (and a real safety net in case of emergencies) by keeping a firm grip on both animals. Immediately remove the cat to try again later if either one of the animals appears frightened or aggressive. You may end up making matters worse if you force the situation when it isn’t working.

You should soon see your dog and cat appearing more relaxed around each other if you take a few minutes several times a day to give the pair time together (with careful supervision).

Keeping Watch

Until you are certain that they are completely comfortable with each other, you should never leave a cat and dog alone together. You may be in for a sorry sight on your return if you leave them alone while they’re still sizing each other up. Either one of your pets could end up with injuries such as scratches and bites. Unsupervised interactions like this have the potential to traumatise your pet so severely that they are never able to socialise with another animal, even if no visible wounds occur.

If your cat and dog have a scrap, keep in mind that the risk doesn’t only extend to the cat. There can also be a danger to your pooch. Eye injuries can be a major risk in brachycephalic dogs, for example.

Consider Your Cat

Cats are more than capable of having a particular dislike for a specific dog living in their home, even if they aren’t opposed to all dogs and don’t mind seeing them from a distance now and then. Think of it in terms of other humans: you may be happy to have a roommate and get on with most of the people you live or have lived with, but there’s bound to be at least one person out there who you simply would not gel with.

Sometimes, cats will have the same experience. If the scratching and hissing aren’t letting up even after you’ve devoted a lot of time and energy into trying to get a cat and dog comfortable with each other, it may simply be a case of personal (or purrsonal) taste.

For dogs with shorter noses and big eyes (like the generally cat-friendly pug), it’s vital that you look for a relaxed cat that is unlikely to swipe out in fear – after all, it takes only one hit from a claw for a dog to lose an eye.

The Purrfect Feline

If you’re already a dog-owner and have come to the conclusion that your dog would be fine with a feline companion, your best move is to limit your search to dog-friendly cats. For instance, the prime socialisation age for cats (as for dogs) is between the ages of about two and nine weeks, so you could prioritise kittens within this age group. Alternatively, you could opt for an older cat, but ask if they were socialised around dogs in the past.

If you can’t gather information about your cat’s socialisation history (as will often be the case with rescues), you can look for a cat with a low flight response, a relaxed and confident nature and a mellow disposition. More information about the best cat and dog breeds for a mixed pet household can be found in Dog-friendly cats & cat-friendly dogs: A guide to the friendliest breeds. The book from Perfect-Pets has all the information you need to choose the best possible companions and introduce them to each other safely.

With your help, careful consideration and a pinch of luck, you can have a cat and dog who live together happily. It will be a learning curve for both animals, though, and you’ll need to supervise them carefully for some time. Above all else, you will need to accept that you can’t force them to be friends: If it isn’t working, it isn’t working, and one of them may need to be rehomed.


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