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Fighting like cats and dogs

The image of dogs chasing cats and being mortal enemies is outdated. With the right introduction they can even become great friends.

Then, of course it depends on each individual. Like every person they have preferences and their own personality quirks which can make them more or less compatible with other felines/canines. This makes each relationship different and unique. Your dog might get along with the neighbours cat but won’t get used to the new member of the family. Introducing them right however is the most important step to set them up to 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 others 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. Watch the ears and tail of your dog as well as 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, they might not be happy to meet in the garden or in the kitchen with food involved.

  • Make sure they don’t eat each others 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 it’ s privacy while doing its business.

  • 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 escape place 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.

Personal experience: Julia - 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 the KLAWS fosterer for the first time we brought a blanket so we could bring the 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 at the furniture) so in case we had to intervene it was easier to catch him.

Luckily everything went smooth 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 save 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 for they get along well most of the time and sometimes actually like to say close to each other and cuddle.

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