When and How to Introduce These Notorious Sparing Critters
Dogs and cats have the age old reputation for not getting along. Dogs with their over-the-top happy attitude, wanting nothing more than to love and please their owner and cats with the “it’s all about me attitude” are typically polar opposites. But opposites can attract if you do it right. Much like how people size each other up when it comes to dating, personality is a huge factor when considering bringing dogs and cats together.
For example, if you see that the dog or cat instinctively responds negatively to one another they are probably an animal that will not want to grow into having a tolerance for the other species. Negative responses for a dog could include, growling, barking and aggressively acting out towards the cat. On the other hand for the cat, it’s not a good sign that a friendship will ensue if the animal’s hair is standing on end with hissing and even swatting at the dog.
If you are set on having both a dog and cat in your house, and you don’t want your house to constantly be on the warpath to world war III, you need to carefully consider these animals’ wants and needs and make sure their personalities match up for a peaceful living situation.
If at all possible, the best-case-scenario is finding a dog and cat who have already experienced living in harmony with the other species. This will save a lot of time on your end. If this is not an option, then it’ll take some searching to find the perfect mate for your current live-in animal. If you have a dog that is hyper, you should find a cat that can hold its own and be a playmate, without the fear of it getting hurt or look for a confident calm cat that can let the dog know when it does and doesn’t want to play. If you have a calm and lazy dog, you should look for a similar match in a cat, so the playfulness is on the same level and not annoying your dog. If you are starting out with a cat, the process should be similar, however I would encourage you not to look at puppies unless your cat is very playful. Typically, the maturity of an adult dog can help blend with the typical low-key cat.
If you think you have found the perfect match for your current in-house animal, it’s time to really make sure with a trial meeting. As many would think, meeting at a shelter or animal store is not the ideal location for the trial meeting. In fact, this could make the meeting that much worse with the distraction of the other animals and how they may react to your current in-house pet. If the shelter or pet store allows it, the best place for an introduction is a neutral setting that will be controlled in case either of the animals get out of hand. If not, you may want to introduce your pet to a cat- or dog-friendly animal to see if you pet gets along with the other species. If the first meeting goes well, it’s time to begin working on getting the animals to live with one another.
When you first bring home you new dog or cat, it’s important to only have controlled time together. When you are unable to control the visit, they should be separated – give one full access of the home while the other is confined to a crate or a room. This will allow the animal’s time to adjust to the other’s scent. Be sure to rotate which animal has free range. Once the animals warm up to each other, (i.e. neither is obsessed with the other and they are eating and going to the bathroom normally) you are ready for the next level of introduction.
The next step is keeping the animals in the same room together, although the dog will need to be controlled with a leash. The key you are looking for at this step is a calmness to where neither animal is overly interested in the other. This part of the process can take up to a month. If you dog barks crazily at the cat or cannot control himself around the cat, you may need professional training, or consider a bark collar to train yourself. Again, once the animals warm up to the other you are ready for unsupervised visits.
Once you are sure that the animals will not hurt each other when left along, you can begin unsupervised visits in time increments. It’s best to start out with small increments and grow into longer ones as they continue to behave amongst each other properly.
By following these laid out steps, you should have a wonderful atmosphere for both your dog and cat with lots of love to go around!