Can cats and dogs live together in peace? Yes, definitely. Some cats and dogs become best of friends, while the others learn to co-exist peacefully, spending little time with each other. A good-natured, well-trained resident dog usually accepts a young cat as a member of the family rather easily.
Photo by Asaf antman
In order to help the animals accept and to get used to each other, the owner must know and follow the proper introduction procedure. You cannot lock a cat and a dog in the same room and expect harmony. Patience and persistence will be necessary.
Step by step introduction1) Create a 'safe room' for the cat where it can be isolated from the dog. A spare bedroom is usually perfect for this purpose. This is going to be a place where the cat can feel comfortable and safe.
2) Take the dog to the door of the cat's safe room. The door must be closed during the first few days. The dog should gradually become acquainted with the cat's scent. Reward good behaviour from the dog's part with treats and verbal encouragement; discourage bad behaviour like barking or growling with verbal correction or a spray bottle. The same applies to the cat; discourage hissing and reward calm behaviour.
3) Arrange scent exchange. Place a towel or blanket in the cat's room for a day or two. Place another towel or blanket in the dog's bed or favourite sitting area for a couple days, too. Then switch the towels or blankets. This will allow the animals to get familiar with each other's smell.
4) Let the animals sniff each other through a baby-gate or a barely opened door. Make sure neither dog nor cat can get over the gate set-up, and neither can fit its head through the opening. Secure the door so it doesn't open or slam suddenly. When you are not at home, or when you are unable to supervise, keep the door closed. Do not proceed to the next step until both the animals are calm when they interact through the door opening. It may take some time, but it is necessary in order to ensure the safety of both the pets. Remember to reward good behaviour and discourage bad behaviour.
5) Arrange supervised meeting of the cat with the dog. Once both the animals are comfortable with each other's smell and presence through the slightly opened door (baby gate), it's time to let them meet each other with no barriers. Ideally, two people are required for this exercise. One person must supervise the dog, and the other person must supervise the cat. Put the dog on a short leash. Sit with the dog and the new cat in the same room. Begin by sitting in opposite sides of the room, and reward calm behaviour in the cat and in the dog. Correct any negative behaviour with a spray bottle, verbal or leash correction. The idea is to promote peaceful co-existence. Repeat these short visits several times a day, gradually giving your dog more leash as appropriate. As the animals become more relaxed with each other, lessen the distance gradually until they can sit side by side without signs of tension and aggression.
6) Allow the animals to interact. Once the cat and the dog are comfortable sitting side by side, let them interact. Supervision is crucial in this step, especially in the beginning. Proceed with caution! Be ready to separate the dog and the cat if there are any signs of agitation or fear (for example, the dog's tail held high and tensed, or hair raised on the cat's back). Keep rewarding positive behaviour and discouraging negative behaviour. When you see the interaction progresses positively, take the dog off the leash, and keep supervising the two closely. If you see problems, and if they don't abate with a few simple voice commands, back up to the previous step for a few days. Gradually make the no-leash sessions longer.
7) Allow unsupervised contact between the dog and cat, but maintain the cat's safe room. This can be done when the dog and the cat have completely accepted each other and stopped showing signs of aggression (fear). Leave the baby gate at the doorway to the cat's safe room. Leave the door open and let the cat and dog keep interacting through the baby gate when you cannot supervise them. As the cat feels more comfortable with the dog, it will venture out of the safe room. Always leave the cat's safe room open and accessible. Make sure the cat has high spots out of the dog's reach to jump on if need should arise.
Photo by Hartmut Bösener
Important things to remember
What if it doesn't work?Sometimes, even though you've tried your best, it just doesn't work out. Some dogs may be too dangerous to be around cats. In some cases, the opposite is true. If something is telling you it's not meant to end up with peace, respect the message. In this situation, the best thing you can do is finding the newcomer a new loving home. While you are on it, keep the dog and the cat separated.
Read also: Tips on Introducing a New Cat to a Resident Cat
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