How can I encourage my cat and dog to get along?


What’s the best way to get a cat and dog living in harmony? Behaviourist Toni Shelbourne is on hand to help.

Forget the old idiom about fighting like cats and dogs! Felines and canines can not only get along amicably in the same household, but even become best buddies. However, you’ve an important part to play in helping the relationship get off on the right foot.

Manage your indoor space with safe zones by erecting barriers.

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Getting off to a good start

Cats and dogs brought up together since they were young, or where a puppy has been brought into the home of a confident cat will often get along happily together. Problems are most likely to happen when an adolescent or older dog joins your household, or when temperaments don’t match. For example, a shy cat may be wary of a rambunctious puppy. Before introducing a dog to your resident cat or vice versa, do think long and hard about whether it’s the right step to take. 

Most dogs like to chase, it’s part of the instinctive predatory sequence. However, some will then follow through with grabbing hold, shaking, and killing a smaller animal. It’s probably going to be unrealistic to expect a dog with a strong prey drive to live side-by-side with a cat. However, if a dog is a playful softy, the chances are that with the right help and patience, they’ll get along nicely.

If your home is shared with a cat and you’d like to add a dog to your family, a puppy is often the easiest option. If you prefer to rehome instead, ask whether the dogs you’re interested in have been assessed as cat friendly. Bear in mind though, it’s not a 100 per cent guarantee, merely what has been observed in circumstances which may differ from yours.

If you already have a dog, but are unsure as to what his reactions will be around a cat, it’s wise to seek the help of a qualified behaviourist. Some dogs may be friendly towards or tolerant of ‘their’ cat but still chase cats from other households. A recent study of cat/dog households revealed that:

42.8% of dogs lick the cat

68.5% sleep together

62.4% play with each other

A fabric crate will be roomier and won’t have the negative associations for your cat as the carrier she travels to the vet in.

A time and a place

The day you bring your new cat or dog home is not the time to acquaint them. Allow them to settle into their new surroundings and for you to get to know each other first. During this period, and while working on introductions, you’ll need to divide the house to keep them separated from each other, in their own safety zones. You may need to use dog-friendly baby gates and free-standing partitions to create a dog-free corridor to the cat flap for the cat so she can go out and come in.

You can also spend the time introducing and accustoming them both to a crate; use cosy bedding, treats, and toys to make it a pleasant haven where they enjoy spending time. It’s also helpful to teach the dog to settle on a mat. 

Read the rest of the feature in the ‘July 2022’ issue, available to read instantly on our digital edition HERE or purchase the print edition HERE.

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