It might be a stereotype to say cats and dogs fight, but both are just as capable of sharing the home as having multiple cats or multiple dogs under the same roof, as pet food supplier James Wellbeloved explains. The trick to helping pets learn to get along with each other is a little planning and slow, patient introductions. Here are some key tips to encourage a lifelong bond between your pets.
1. Patience is a virtue
Some cats and dogs learn to respect each other’s boundaries right away, but this is not always the case and can require intervention on your part. A playful dog might make your cat very nervous, while one swipe from your cat’s claws across your dog’s nose can be enough to end a friendship for life. Be patient and understanding as you try to guide them towards becoming friends.
2. A good sniff
A great trick to “introduce” your pets to one another before they even meet is to take a towel and rub it on one pet and then allow the other to smell it. Use another towel to do the same for the other. Later, start to spread both scents around the rooms your pets are exploring, so they learn to associate each other’s smells with safe spaces.
3. Little by little
Even the friendliest dog can feel threatened when confronted with a new cat or dog in their own home and may react aggressively. To avoid this, let them meet in a neutral, open area where neither will feel trapped. If you are introducing a cat and a dog, you can keep your dog in their crate or on a lead to create “a barrier” between them. However, never put your cat in a crate during an introduction as they will likely become stressed by being unable to escape.
Play with each of them separately, allowing the other to watch. Eventually, both your pets will learn not only that the other is here to stay, but that you love and trust them, so they can trust each other.
4. Dog-free zones
Cats need their own quiet space where they can eat, sleep and use the litter tray and disturbing this space can be enough to put them off their food, litter or bedding entirely. Therefore, if you are bringing a new cat into a home with a dog, dedicate a part of your home the dog doesn’t normally use. Even sniffing outside the door can be enough to distract your cat from his or her peace and quiet, so train your dog to stay away.
5. Familiarity versus feline needs
As a general rule of thumb, the pet that already lives in your home deserves the respect of having their territory shared slowly. By gradually introducing your new pet into different areas of the home, your existing pet will feel less overwhelmed and accept the new situation more willingly.
The only exception to this is the cat’s need for a quiet space that is large enough that his or her food, bedding and litter tray aren’t on top of one another. If you are bringing a new cat home, this might require some rearranging of your home beforehand.
Some cats and dogs become friends right away, especially if they meet as puppies and kittens, but don’t be alarmed if it takes a few weeks or even months for them to become totally comfortable with one another. Once they know each other’s boundaries and the rules of the house, they will start to tolerate each other and, eventually, become close friends.