In my house, our 10-pound, 3 year old male Tuxedo cat (aptly named Bond), rules the pack. And while I long for adorable pictures of our cats and dog cuddling, that doesn’t seem likely at our place. But many cats and dogs DO get along and here are some tips to deal with common issues between them:
Space vs Height:
In the canine world the more alpha a dog is, the higher he or she sits. This is why you’ll hear trainers suggest that spoiled dogs or stressed-out dogs not be allowed on beds or sofas. This is because they are assuming the role of alpha (and why wouldn’t they if they are being treated like it?) and all that territorial barking and snarling is really just their way of protecting you.
But with cats, the more personal space you have means the more in charge you are. Which is why when Trigger gets into Bond’s face, Bond will take a whack…or chase him….or hiss. Cats can be very picky so it is important to introduce the animals slowly and to make sure the cat has enough counters to jump up on to get away from the dog. Also make sure that the dog doesn’t invade the cat’s common resting areas, food spots or litter box.
Who Would Win in a Fight?:
While some dogs (like your terrier) have very high prey drives and will chase cats for fun or to run them out of the area, most dogs will want to play with the cat rather than attack or eat it. In fact, when you have a puppy and a cat, you should probably be more afraid that the cat will hurt the puppy. This is because the natural defense for a cat is his claws (and a good reason why your cat should never be declawed). Your cat will swipe at a new puppy and unfortunately will most likely go for his or her eyes. Many puppies get their eyes scratched by the resident dog for surprising the cat or getting too close. It’s good to let the dog and cat work things out themselves but be cautious when your cat takes out his claws….and worry more about those claws than your dog snacking on the kitty.
A good thing to try is nail caps. While they do fall off and can be tedious to put on…it allows your cat and dog to work out their differences without the risk of a bad scratch. The nail caps do exactly as they sound: they are glued over your cat’s nails and are made of a soft rubber to protect others and furniture against sharp claws.
Who Came First?:
If you have the chance, get your dog first. Teaching a dog to ‘Leave It’ is a lot easier than teaching a cat the cue. Also, older dogs tend to be calmer and have less curiosity or need to get into other animals’ faces. Older cats are more set in their ways and they get that way quickly – from about 6 months to a year cats are considered adult. Once older, they can be more picky and territorial. Kittens are more brazen when they are younger but this can work to your advantage. Kittens take introductions to other cats much better (so it’s also a good idea to get cats that are near the same age or of the same litter) as well as to dogs. Shere Khan ran right into Bond’s face and started nuzzling him the moment we let her out of her crate. Bond was so surprised he didn’t have time to fight her. Getting your dog first, teaching him good commands and then introducing a kitten who has not had time to form discriminations will help in getting that friendly relationship started early.
There are a few things you can do to make the transition easier for your cat, who will undoubtedly be more high maintenance. On great thing is a product called Feliway that releases hormones that cause cats to mellow out. We found that it made our kitties a little sleepier but definitely calmer. It is not a cheap product but really worth the cost. We also noticed that yelling or punishing Bond didn’t help. Instead, if we made sure he had tons of food, water, space and about 3x as much love as he usually got, he was much less likely to pick a fight with Trigger. A new arrival to the home can mean competition to your cat so it’s important to make sure she knows that she is still well-loved and take care of.
To Each His Own:
Like I said, as much as I wanted a cuddlefest between all my animals, I’ll have to settle for pictures of just the cats in cute sleeping arrangements. I do have my hopes on one day adopting a new kitten that will see Trigger as nothing but a large cat but in the meantime things have calmed down now that Trigger has become bolder and Bond has nail caps on. And while they don’t love each other they have learned to tolerate each other and that’s good enough for now. It will help if you don’t have unrealistic expectations because cats and dogs are two very different animals that communicate in very different ways. Furthermore every cat and dog has their own personality and every story can be different.