Dogs and Cats Coexisting
Veterinarian Reviewed on April 29, 2009 by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM
Posted in Behavior Management
All dogs are instinctively quite territorial and will protect their territory, family and home from any other animal that it deems to be a threat. Subsequently, Dogs also tend to mark their territory and will provoke any other kind of animal that it feels is invading their space.
In the same way, cats actually have much the same tendencies and will spray to mark their territory. Cats, though, will usually use their claws and scratch and fight to defend their territory, regardless of whether or not they are smaller than the invading dog.
It is mainly due to this that most people mistakenly believe that cats and dogs cannot coexist peacefully together. Well, this is completely untrue and, in fact, here are a few easy tips on helping your cat and dog to coexist peacefully together:
Your first order of business should be to properly train your dog in obedience training. Your dog will need to know and be able to obey such basic obedience commands as ‘Stop’, ‘Sit’, ‘Stay’, ‘No’ and ‘Leave It’. These commands are necessary for your dog to know and learn, especially since dogs are usually the aggressors in a cat and dog fight.
Most cats can happily coexist with a dog in the same household; especially if the cat and the dog are both given enough time to get to know each other. Puppies and kittens that are raised together will generally learn almost immediately to respectfully tolerate each other, and will usually grow up to be the best of friends, even playing and napping together! However, if you already have a dog that has lived in your home for quite some time, it may be a bit more challenging to introduce a new cat or kitten into the family and it is, therefore, best that certain precautions are properly taken to guarantee the wellbeing of both your dog and your new kitten or cat.
Let your cat have the freedom to wander around your house at her own leisure. All cats love roaming about and investigating and, by allowing her to have free roam of your house, your cat’s scent will soon be scattered throughout your entire house. Once you feel that your cat has investigated every nook and cranny, you can place her in a bedroom and close the door.
Then, let your dog inside the house so that he too can wander around. Your dog will be able to pick up on your cat’s scent and will follow it around the house. This will actually help your dog to become better acquainted to your cat’s individual scent and will help to let your dog realize that the cat is now a part of its household too.
As soon as you feel that both your dog and your cat have become familiar with each other’s scent, you can then introduce them to each other. When you do, make sure that you hold your cat so that she is at your dog’s eye level. Also, be sure to have a firm, but gentle, grip on your cat in case she tries to run away. Likewise, have another member of your household or even a friend, hold onto your dog’s collar firmly so that he does not try to lunge at your cat.
If, however, you feel that either your cat or your dog is having a tough time accepting the other because they are being aggressive or appear scared, you should immediately take your cat back to the bedroom. You can always try the re-socializing at a later stage. Never try to force the situation, but allow your cat and your dog to let you know when either of them has had enough.
Since a dog will start barking as soon as they see another animal in their territory, be it your house or your back yard, it is crucial that your dog has learnt the basic obedience commands so that you can stop him from barking or lunging at the cat. As soon as your dog starts to bark at your new cat, you should immediately command him ‘No’, so that he can quickly realize that the cat is also a pet living in the same household. Soon your dog will calm down and stop barking and then will want to sniff your cat.
Next, provide supervised play between your cat and your dog, playing close attention to their body languages as well. Allow both your cat and your dog some time to get used to each other’s presence in the home. Soon, by giving them enough time and not by force, your cat and your dog will become quite happy around each other and will soon coexist peacefully in your home.
Photo Credit: sskennel
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan