Often I have had clients with a new dog or puppy and an older cat. Bearing in mind that I have just obtained a new kitten myself, I thought I would go into detail about how the two should be put together, if at all. Are cats and dogs able to get along? Well, sometimes yes and sometimes, no.
First and foremost, no matter what we say here, do not try and introduce them without professional help. I did have a client who held new rescue dog and old family cat nose to nose and ordered them to ‘make friends’ at which point the dog grabbed the cat and sadly killed it outright. Shocking I know, but it really happened! So DO NOT TAKE RISKS. It is far better to take a while over introductions, use a muzzle if necessary, and take things very slowly than to sling them together and hope they get along. I do know of a one-eyed dog that was given that free for all opportunity.
We tend to think of one species as wanting the same as the other species. In other words if we are a die-hard dog owner, we might anticipate that the cat is going to behave and react like our dogs would. Note I say ‘our own’ – don’t forget that every dog and cat is different. It’s based on a whole raft of things from genetic input to early experience and all the learning that has gone along the way. So truly there is no single successful route. This can also be compounded by owning more than one dog, or more than one cat.
Introducing a new dog to an existing dog, or new cat to an existing household cat carries it’s own recommendations too! Don’t assume that just because they are the same species they will get along. And don’t assume that because they are different species they won’t get along. It can be a surprise when the cat leaps effortlessly onto the worktop to chew on the roast chicken that was hitherto out of bounds to any other pet! (quick break in writing this just then, as dog and kitten were just chasing one another up and down my stairs!) Some tips on how to help them get along:
Old cat, new dog (puppy)
BEFORE YOU BRING THE DOG HOME
For the cat: Provide an aerial route of entry and exit for the cat This may include • Putting up shelving • Internal doors or even windows fitted with cat flaps • Use a stairgate
Ensure that the cat has a safe area they can retreat to and be prepared for them to go there regularly. Give the cat some safe places they can go where the dog cannot. For many owners this is upstairs. Many clients tell me the cat retreats upstairs and no longer comes down. This is often a cause for sadness for owners but the cat needs to have safety. Give the cat access to food, water and litter tray! Consider using a pheromone product such as FELIWAY For the dog: A young puppy needs supervision and training.
Do not leave the puppy and cat to just work it out for themselves. This can be enormously stressful for both animals. An older cat knows how to defend itself and will definitely do so. A young puppy has not learned manners yet and unfortunately, ‘crash bang wallop’ of a young pup is not really suitable cat manners. Remember that cats will go to incredible lengths to avoid conflict if they can. Cats do not have the facility to be ‘appeased’ like a dog can. Holding a cat to supposedly ‘calm it’ whilst your dog investigates the cat freely may well end up in some nasty scratches and bites to whoever is holding the cat.
A rescue dog that you do not yet know properly is also a situation that needs treating with great caution and patience. • Use a crate (if dog accustomed to this) • Allow cat to come and go • Keep dog busy and allow them to relax – keep this going in several short sessions per day until your dog is totally relaxed about cat moving around. • Next progress to keeping dog on a lead. A useful way is to teach the puppy or dog an ‘OFF’ command and a Rock Solid Recall – both handouts are on my website DO NOT ALLOW THE DOG TO CHASE THE CAT – a cat will almost certainly RUN and this will set off the dogs prey instinct.
New kitten or cat, old dog
Rescue cats? A lot depends on their history. Sometimes you may not get any background on what the cat is used to. Again, don’t take risks – if things do not go well, seek professional help.