With almost one in two UK households owning a pet, we are a proud nation of animal lovers. Yet, while over a quarter of us own a dog and a fifth of us own a cat, only 7% of the population currently keep both in the same household. This is not because we don’t love cats and dogs equally, but because so many of us feel they cannot cohabit. After all, the phrase “fighting like cats and dogs” has been around at least since the 16th century!
But is this long-running feud between dogs and cats really based on fact, or can our canine and feline friends live harmoniously together? James Wellbeloved have reported that with a little bit of understanding and training, cats and dogs are as likely to get on with one another as they are with their own species, it just takes some consideration of what each animal likes and dislikes. With this in mind, here is your go-to guide for introducing dogs and cats.
GETTING THE SCENT
Cats and dogs explore the world with their nose. Familiar smells tell them they are somewhere they can feel safe, while unfamiliar animal scents can be a sign of a stranger in their territory. Before placing your cat and dog in the same room, rub towels against each of them and then allow each pet to explore the other’s scent in a separate space. Whether they are curious or indifferent, it will mean they will instantly feel a little more familiar with the other when they eventually meet.
THE CRITICAL PEDICURE
It’s natural to worry more about your dog’s reaction than that of your cat. After all, depending on your dog’s breed, one mistimed snap of the jaws could be fatal to your cat. However, it is also worth taking your cat to the vet for a quick pre-dog-meeting pedicure. Dogs have long memories and cat claws can be sharp; a swipe across the nose could be enough to permanently prevent a beautiful friendship.
Choose a space that allows both a good deal of space. Your dog and cat should feel they can retreat if they need and you should keep your dog on a lead so you can prevent any sudden lunges. Once they have had a little sniff and feel comfortable, show each pet love, equally and separately. Let each pet see you play with and stroke the other; they will learn that this other animal is trustworthy and a family friend.
While there are always exceptions, cats are usually quite picky about what they eat and prefer their own food. Meanwhile, most dogs will eat whatever they can reach. So, it is crucial you keep your cat’s dinner bowl out of reach from your dog. If your cat suspects another animal has had its tongue on his or her bowl, it can be enough to put them off their food for good. Also, dogs and cats should be fed food suitable to their species, breed and age to meet their nutrient requirements; eating cat food could cause your dog to become sick or overweight.
A SAFE SPACE
Cats like consistency and cleanliness when eating, sleeping and going to the toilet. Once your cat has determined his or her habits, the dog getting in and disturbing this space can be devastating.
Thus, it is essential to set limits to where your dog can go in the home, keeping at least one room that only the cat can access. Even your dog sniffing outside the door can be distracting for your cat, so consider setting up boundaries for your dog which your cat can easily navigate. Another great way to create safe zones for your cat is by providing vertical space for your cat to climb. A good cat tree or some climbing furniture will allow your cat to perch high above ground level, well away from dogs.
Above all, introducing your cat and dog requires patience. Like any household with multiple pets, it can take time for them to learn to tolerate one another, but with gentle introductions and firm boundaries, they will soon learn that their new companion is a friend.
Have you successfully introduced your dog and cat? Tell us about it in the comments below!