Some of you may already have multi-pet households and are familiar with the challenges this can bring, while others may just know the joy of one pet and are hesitant about introducing another for fear of fighting. While it’s true that cats and dogs are very different animals with opposing traits, there are many instances of them getting along perfectly well and there’s no reason this can’t be the case for you. It’s very exciting getting a new pet, but it’s important to remember and think about your existing pet too, and the impact this will have on an animal used to an unchallenged claim of their territory.
The initial stages are vital for a peaceful transition all round. Now, we don’t usually like to point fingers, but it’s fair to say if there are going to be any problems during the introductions then it’s likely to be caused by the dog. For one, dogs love to chase, and with cats’ instinct to run if frightened this can mean them not getting off to the best start with one another. A way to avoid this is to keep your dog on a lead as a precaution when they’re first in the same room together, until your cat feels more comfortable. Keep the lead loose but make sure to hold it firmly in case your dog does begin to chase; it’s often a good idea to do this as a safety measure until you’re certain that the situation is safe for all parties. It’s also important for cats to have access to a, preferably elevated, place to escape to for when they want to retreat for solitude. Be sure to let them have easy access to this as forcing them to stay close and interact will only cause anxiety and inhibit any relationship building. Treats can be helpful to use, just as you would for reward-based training; giving your cat a treat for good behaviour will eventually mean they associate the dog and its close proximity with treats, and likewise praising and rewarding playful but non-threatening actions from your dog will encourage more of this in the future.
Remember that, like people, new pets can take a while to get to know each other and develop a certain level of trust and comfort. Cats in particular can take some time to build a trusting relationship, so in the beginning stages they may keep themselves out of the way and appear cautious; sometimes, it’s a case of letting them take their time to assess the situation and gradually they will become more comfortable with your dog. The age of either pet can also be a factor of how well they respond to one another, and so may be something to consider before you extend your furry family. Younger cats will likely be more inquisitive with dogs, and their playful nature often means that they don’t scare so easily and this can lead to a strong bond. Likewise, puppies are renowned for being energetic and boisterous at times so this can be overwhelming or frightening for felines, in particular if they’re not quick to pick up on any warning signs from your cat too. If your dog is of a gentle and caring breed or temperament, this is better suited for cats to tolerate, and we all know that in most homes it’s often the cat that makes the rules. When choosing your new pet, take time to thoroughly research different breeds and try to match your pets’ personalities as much as possible, that way you’ll give them the best chance to really be the best of friends and not just fight like cats and dogs!