Dogs and cats can become best friends even if their temperaments are like night and day. According to cat specialist and ‘Animal Planet’ host Jackson Galaxy, if pet owners provide a “positive, loving, encouraging environment,” feline and canine pets can live harmoniously under the same roof.
Prepare for the New Arrival
Socialising dogs with cats while they are young is easier than introducing them as adults. Whichever is the case, you need to do a few things before you let your furry friends meet for the first time.
- Consider the behaviour and personality, rather than the breed, of the resident pet. The energy level and temperament of the new addition, whether a cat or a dog, should match that of the resident animal. For example, if the one you have at home is an ageing pet, he may not get along with a rowdy young companion. To help you get a good match, learn more about dog breeds.
- Exercise your dog regularly so their energy level is more manageable. And they will be calmer in the house. If you are unable to do this daily, have a dog walker cover for you.
- Assign safe areas for both animals. For cats, set up shelves that allow them to travel from one part of your home to another without going to the floor. Set their beds on high places and provide cat trees or other furnishings that allow them to stay beyond your dogs’ reach. You can also use a crate big enough to contain a scratching post, litter area, and bed, but a small enough door so the dog cannot get in. On the other hand, you can use baby gates to keep the dogs in their place. Their respective toys and food must also be kept separate.
Give Your Dogs and Cats Time
Be patient and give the cats and dogs time to be familiar with each other. To help satisfy their curiosity, allow your cats and dogs to smell each other’s toys and beds to get used to each other’s scents before the actual meeting.
After a few days, let the animals sniff at each other from their respective sides behind closed doors. The dogs must be on a leash so you won’t worry that you can’t stop the dog from pulling. Mealtime is the ideal setting as both felines and canines love food. Letting your pets connect their respective scents with food helps positively reinforce their encounter. Keep doing this for the next several weeks.
Then, start introducing the visual aspect of both pets’ mealtime meetings. Instead of a solid door, use a screen or a dog gate to separate them this time. Gradually take out the screen. By this time, they should be comfortable eating next to each other. Your dog must remain on the leash until you feel they are able to control their impulses.
Reward your dog if they show calm and relaxed behaviour. If they begin to bark or try to chase the cat, you can use food as a distraction and move them away. Always praise him when he behaves appropriately.
Keep the Peace at Home
TIPS: As a precaution, keep your dog on the leash until you feel very confident about removing it. You can put him on a ‘Training Lead,” which is a handle-less, lightweight lead that drags behind him unnoticeably. If he misbehaves, you can simply step on the lead or pick it up.
Since dogs are naturally predatory, ensure your dog gets enough exercise every day so that his energy will not overwhelm your cats. When cats are scared, they engage in a defensive behaviour that brings out the chasing instinct of your dog.
As such, it is very important to keep the energy levels among both animals balanced. This is your primary responsibility as their pack leader.