Living like cat and dog… a statement that doesn’t bode well. Yet there are many dogs and cats that do live together in peace. Is that just a matter of raising your dog? Or are there situations where this is not possible? And how do you get used to a cat to a dog, and vice versa?
I have a cat and I want a puppy
This is often the easiest situation. I would choose a breeder who also socializes the puppies with cats, especially if you don’t have that much training experience yourself.
Take the puppy’s scent home with scented wipes and, well before your puppy arrives, have everything ready for your puppy (bench, puppy pen, stair gates, etc). Let your cat sniff the puppy scent before every meal you feed your cat. Play puppy sounds (barking, squeaking) around the house. Some cats are very territorial and don’t like such a small fuss on their property.back to menu ↑
Introducing your cat and puppy
Safety should be your number one concern. You want to be sure that the first experiences with each other will be pleasant and positive. If your puppy takes a bite out of your cat when first meeting your cat, or your cat puts a nail in your puppy’s eye…
Provide a safe partition. This could be a spacious puppy run, or a stair gate between the kitchen and the room (as an example). When your puppy comes into the house, make sure that the moment your cat sees the puppy, you start feeding your cat. Preferably with his favorite food. Give your puppy a delicious chew. You do both at a good distance from the stair gate (or puppy run).back to menu ↑
I have a dog and I want a kitten
Know your dog. Is your dog completely obsessed with cats and do you think he’d be happy to eat them if he got around to it? Maybe a cat is not the best choice.
If your dog is completely okay with cats, then I would choose a kitten from a cattery that also has dogs, or socialize the kittens with dogs. The same, of course, also applies if you choose a farm cat or an ‘oops kitten’, or a kitten from the shelter. Let your dog get used to the smell of your kitten and the sounds of a cat at home. You can even use a “fake cat” that provides you with the scent of the real cat.back to menu ↑
Introducing your dog to a cat
Again, safety first. If you come in with your kitten in a travel basket, do not let your dog sniff the basket right away, this can be very exciting for your kitten. You can put a kitten in a run, with the litter box, toys, food and hiding places. You can temporarily keep your dog on a leash. Again, try to feed your dog and kitten so that they can see, smell and hear each other from a safe distance.back to menu ↑
Rehome dog and cat
A problem I often encounter is that people adopt a dog (from the shelter, or from abroad, or privately) that says ‘can with cats’.
Then you come home with your dog and he attacks your cat unceremoniously. Cat hurt, dog over the moon, you mad at the misinformation. But the information doesn’t necessarily have to be wrong. Your dog may have gotten along very well with that particular cat in his previous home, but all the changes together are just too much. So start with your rehomer and a cat, as if dealing with cats is completely new to your dog.back to menu ↑
Checklist for a dog and cat at home
– Does your cat have enough possibilities to find its own way at height? (Closets, wall shelves, scratching posts, climbing frames, etc.)
– Can you safely schedule 1-on-1 time with both your cat and dog? (Play, grooming, attention.)
– Can you give both animals a safe space when you are away?
– If your cat has to go to the litter box, can she do it without having to pass your dog?
– Can both animals eat safely while they can see, hear and smell each other?
– Is the cat food out of your dog’s reach (and vice versa)?
– Has your cat made running away (and chasing after your dog) become impossible?
back to menu ↑
What NOT to do
– Let them figure it out for themselves
– Correcting your dog when he growls at your cat
– Correct your cat when he blows at your dog
– Skip steps in the habituation process
– Give your dog the chance to chase your cat (and not give your cat the chance to run)
When will you go for a different solution?
If the living comfort of your cat, your dog or yourself is seriously impaired, you should look for another solution. Keeping your dog in the crate or kennel for 22 hours a day is not a solution. Locking your cat alone in a room doesn’t do either.
If your dog is only obsessive about ‘where is the cat’ all the time, or if your cat is attacking your dog all the time, then I would advise you to consult a licensed dog AND cat behaviorist about your situation. and if it doesn’t see any solutions either, unfortunately, you’d have to reseat one of the two.