Will my cat and dog ever get along?
I saw this question on a local pet forum and thought it would make a great post:
“I recently brought a new cat into my house. She isn’t afraid of dogs having lived with them before. However, my dog goes absolutely berserk when he sees her, barking and trying to get at her. What do I do?”
The first thing I’ll say is that dogs and cats can live happily together, I am proof of this. In our house we have a cat, dog (Border Terrier no less) and hens. You just need to give your pets time and space to work it out. The second thing to remember is that dogs and cats are two very different species. Often we as owners want our cats and dogs to get along because that’s easiest for us (and pretty cute); but in some cases they never will be “best buddies” and the most you can hope for is a mutual understanding to leave each other alone.
If you are dealing with a cat who is not afraid of dogs then that’s great as you have won half the battle already! Saying that, it is still important to give your cat plenty of room to get away from the dog. Cats enjoy climbing and being up high so creating “get away spots” should be fairly straight forward. Alongside this, you will need to teach the dog how to behave around the cat.
Plenty of dogs that don’t like cats or other small furries can be taught to live alongside them, but you have to be consistent and get the message across to your dog right from the start.
So no chasing in the house (as tempting as it is for them), and no barking (distract and reward good calm behaviour). This all goes back to obedience training. Time to refocus the dog on you.
Another thing to consider is the importance of smell. Animals rely on their sense of smell far more than humans and I think we sometimes underestimate the importance of smell when integrating new pets into a household with existing animals. It is advised to keep a new cat confined in a separate room for a few days, during this time you should swap scents between the two of them (rub both down with a cloth before rubbing the other, along with moving their scent around the house – esp favourite spots your dog likes to lie, beds, etc).
After a period of scent swapping you can begin interactions – but slowly. If you use a crate for your dog put him in it with a favourite toy or safe chew and then bring your cat into the room. What you want is your dog to associate the cat with nothing special at all – for him to get used to smelling, seeing her/him in close proximity. To start with your dog may bark, but try not to become excitable or tell him off for doing so; rather encourage and reward quiet calm behaviour. If you use a clicker with training then this would be a perfect time to get it out. Quiet around the cat = click and treat.
The next phase would be to bring the dog into the room the cat is in on a short lead. Ensure you are not tensing up the lead as this can cause your dog to become nervous, stressed or excited. Keep the dog focused on you with high value treats (I would suggest using your dog’s favourite food for this exercise alone). Keep distracting your dog from the cat and focused on you. Again, quiet and calm = click and treat. With all of this it is important to move slowly: be patient, calm and provide lots of love to both pets. The dog may be feeling ‘put out’ so will need extra attention. As always make sure you monitor the pets and read their responses to each other.
Integrating a dog and cat into the same household can take anywhere from a few days to weeks or months, but if you are consistent and patient you will get there.
While you’re working on helping your pets get on, why not break up their routine by getting one of our pet care professionals over! We can take your dog on fun walks or fuss and play with your cat. We offer dog walking and pet care services throughout Milton Keynes and the surrounding villages.