FIGHTING LIKE CATS AND DOGS?
The image of dogs chasing cats and their being mortal enemies is outdated. With the right introduction they can even become great friends.
Then, of course, it depends on each individual. They have their preferences and their own personality quirks which can make them more or less compatible with other felines/canines. This makes every relationship different and unique. Your dog might get along with the neighbour’s cat but won’t get used to the new member of your family. Introducing them right, however, is the most important step to set them up for a good start.
Here are some tips to consider:
· Give them time!
As it sets the tone for the rest of their relationship you should not rush into things. Slowly bring them closer to each other and desensitise them. Start with letting them see each other from further away, with both of them having their individual space so they won’t feel threatened.
· Have realistic expectations.
It’s possible that you’ll always have to keep an eye on them and keep them apart when not supervised.
· Swap some items
like a blanket so they can get used to each other’s smell.
· Letting them meet in the same room for the first time you might want to keep the dog on the leash so you have better control over the situation.
· Train the dog to associate the cat with something positive.
Praise and reward him for good behaviour.
· Pay attention to the body language of all animals involved.
If the cat’s ears are pinned back or his tail is moving, this is a good indicator that he is displeased, scared or confused. Watch the ears and tail of your dog and the sounds he might make, like whining or barking.
· Keep in mind that the surroundings play a big role.
Just because they´re fine in the living room, doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t be happy to meet in the garden, or in the kitchen with food involved, for example.
· Make sure they don’t eat each other’s food.
As some animals are very fixated on eating they might get jealous. Same with the litter box, make sure the dog can’t reach it and the cat has its privacy while going to toilet.
· Don’t introduce them face to face on your own.
You should have a person for each animal to check their body language and intervene if needed.
· Never let them chase each other.
It might look like a funny game but it could set the wrong tone for their relationship and one of them might end up being terrified of the other.
· Make sure that the cat has a dog-free flight zone available at all times.
· If one of them is upset when meeting, go a step back and give them more time and space to get used to each other.
Here’s a personal experience from Julia, a KLAWS Volunteer:
We introduced our 8-week-old puppy to the 2-year-old, grumpy, antisocial resident cat last year. When we met our puppy at a KLAWS fosterer’s home for the first time, we brought a blanket so we could bring the dog’s smell home to our cat. When we introduced them at home a week later, we made sure that the cat had everything he needed in one room and put the puppy in the next. Through the door they could smell but not see each other. Next step were rooms with glass doors where they first saw each other. We then gave them both food so they had some positive associations and ate next to each other. As this all went well, we let them meet already the next day in the same room. Keeping the puppy on the leash we let the cat approach in his own time. The following days we still left the puppy on a flat leash (so he wouldn’t get caught in the furniture), in case we had to intervene.
Luckily everything went smoothly and the introduction was successful with minor hiccups, like him eating the cat litter.
But even after a year the cat still throws his tantrums and randomly chases the dog. However, the relationship between them is very well defined by now with the cat being the boss and the dog keeping a safe distance and that seems to work for both. We keep them in separate rooms when we have to leave the house to not risk anything.
Even if they did not become best friends like we hoped, they get along well most of the time and sometimes they actually like to stay close to each other and cuddle.