Speaking of Pets: How to introduce dogs and cats to one another in the home
Special to the Daily
There’s an old saying about people fighting “like cats and dogs.”
But that image isn’t necessarily true: in fact, our canine and feline companions can often live together in peace and harmony – but you’ll need to keep a few things in mind if you’re looking to keep both in your house.
Some breeds, like golden retrievers, tend to be laid-back and typically tolerant of just about anything, including cats. Other breeds are inclined to do worse in cat households than others—not because they’re malicious but because they have a genetically high prey drive, and to them, a running and darting kitten or cat is prey.
But even if your dog’s temperament could be compared to the Dali Lama and your cat to Mother Teresa, don’t just throw them together in a room and walk off. Unexpected personality quirks can arise without warning, one or the other animal can become frightened or aggressive, and you can end up with serious problems.
By the same token, don’t force an introduction by picking up the cat and shoving it toward the dog: that’s a recipe for disaster by way of a clawed nose on your dog or a mauled cat. Remember, it’s always the cat who’s at greatest danger.
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When you bring in a new cat or dog, many experts recommend confining one pet to a separate room or behind a pet-gate. That enables each one to become accustomed to the new pet’s presence and scent without putting the cat in danger.
If that’s successful, you can bring both animals into the same room, making sure that the dog is leashed and the cat has an escape route. If the dog is calm and pretty much ignoring the cat and the cat is also unruffled, you can begin to relax a bit.
Once you see your cat playfully batting at your dog without claws or rubbing against him, or you see your dog gently nudging or licking the cat or bowing in play, you can rest assured that the two have pretty much worked out their differences.
Because not all dogs are good with all cats, and vice versa, watch for these danger signs during the introductory process.
- If the dog is overly focused on, or stares at the cat or lunges toward it whenever she moves
- If the dog shows signs of direct aggression toward the cat such as snarling or snapping
- If the cat is constantly growling, swatting and hissing at the dog
These sorts of behaviors could signal that this particular feline-canine match isn’t going to work, or that you need to consult a behavioral specialist. In the worst case, you may have to accept that yours will be a one-species household.
Joan Merriam lives in Northern California with her golden retriever, Joey, and Maine coon cat, Indy. She emphasizes that she’s not a veterinarian or animal behaviorist — just an animal lover who’s been writing about pets since 2012. You can reach her at email@example.com.