Dogs and cats are two species of animals that are very different from each other. They have different habits and ways of communicating. It is not without reason that the saying “live like a dog with a cat”, that is, arguing with each other constantly. Nevertheless, it is possible to lead to a situation in which the dog and the cat live in harmony with each other. In some cases, a deep friendship may even develop between them. While you can’t make animals like each other, you can at least try to get them to tolerate each other and not hurt each other.
It is worth remembering that every dog and every cat is different. Each pet has a different experience, character and may behave differently in a given environment. Therefore, there is no one good way to get your dog used to your cat. Methods of working with pets must always be selected individually. However, there are a few things that can be done and a few mistakes that can be avoided to ensure a successful introduction to your pets.
The biggest mistake you can make when introducing your dog to a cat is to let both pets loose in the hope that they will get along somehow. Unfortunately, doing so is usually a recipe for disaster. A frightened cat may attack the dog or run away from it. In turn, a sudden movement of a cat can awaken the dog’s hunting instinct and provoke it to chase or even try to catch the cat with its teeth. We should do everything we can to avoid these types of scenarios. Ultimately, it is our job to keep both pets safe and teach them to coexist peacefully.
Proper socialization of both animals is very helpful in building a proper relationship between a dog and a cat. During the socialization period, both puppies and kittens learn which animals are safe and which are potentially dangerous. If the dog during the puppy period was with cats, did not reprimand them and was rewarded for calm behavior with them, there is a good chance that it will accept the cat’s roommate without any problems. Similarly, a cat that has become accustomed to the presence of dogs at an early age and feels safe with them, will more readily accept a dog in its new home.
However, I must emphasize that for the proper socialization of both species, it is not enough for both dogs and cats to be in the breeding farm. The most important thing is the quality of their interaction with each other. If a breeder allowed dogs to chase cats and allow cats to attack dogs, it’s hard to talk about proper socialization.
If you would like to have a dog and a cat at home, the easiest solution may be to take a young puppy and a kitten home at the same time. Caring for two young pets of different species can be difficult. However, this solution gives us the best chance that the animals will get along with each other.
In what order to bring pets into the house
As a rule, it is much easier to bring a cat into a house where a dog already lives than the other way around. Cats get very used to their environment and don’t usually like change. Even a small change of furniture can throw a cat off balance, let alone the appearance of another animal in the house. Especially if we have an old cat at home who needs peace and quiet, introducing a frisky puppy can be especially difficult.
Select pets in terms of temperaments
When deciding on another pet at home, we should consider whether the temperament of the pet we want to adopt will be consistent with the temperaments of animals that are already in our home. As you know, temperament cannot be changed by training or upbringing. Therefore, it is worth considering it when choosing your next pet to avoid unnecessary chaos.
Learning to resign
If you already have a dog in the house and want to introduce a cat to it, you need to work on giving up. In this post, I show you step by step how to teach your dog to “leave”. When a cat shows up at home, the dog’s greatest temptation is to chase it. Therefore, simply practicing giving up eating is not enough. I also recommend practicing giving up the thrown ball or the stick. Your dog’s emotions when chasing a toy are similar to chasing a cat.
We start learning very much like giving up food. We take a stick, ball or other toy in our hand, say the command “leave it” and calmly put it on the ground. As soon as the dog tries to catch the toy, lift it up. When we manage to put the toy on the ground, we praise the dog and reward. After a few successful repetitions, raise the bar and instead of laying the toy calmly on the ground, drop it. If the dog moves towards her, we block him with a leash or with the body. It is also a clear signal that this task is still too difficult for the dog. So let’s go back to the previous stage and work through it better. The next stage is throwing the toy in front of you. If the dog is unable to give up the thrown toy, there is little chance that it will give up the fleeing cat.
It’s also a good idea to exercise a calm reaction to cats during walks. You must not let your dog chase them. It is best to redirect the dog’s attention to yourself from a distance. If we have a developed “leave” command, we can use it here. If the dog still has problems with giving up cats, it is better to walk in the opposite direction or pass the cat along a large arc, than to provoke the dog to chase.
Bringing your dog or cat home
Regardless of whether we bring the cat into the house where the dog lives or vice versa, we must properly prepare both pets and our apartment. It is best to temporarily remove any items that may lead to a conflict. So we hide bowls, toys and lairs. The cat litter box is best placed in a place where the dog cannot reach. If your pooch has a problem with defending resources, it is worth solving it before the cat or other pet appears in the house.
It is also extremely important to provide your cat with at least a few safe hiding places. A tall scratching post or a booth in a place inaccessible to the dog will work well here. You can also install gates for children or special cat doors that will make it easier for him to escape if necessary. Before the introduction, it is worth taking the dog for a long walk, where he can sniff and run as much as he wants. A runaway dog will react much more calmly to a cat appearing in the house than a dog charged with energy. During the walk with the dog, you can ask family members or friends to take the cat into the empty apartment. Thanks to this, he will have time to calmly familiarize himself with the new space and new fragrances.
Stage 1 – insulation
Our priority when taming a dog to a cat should be to ensure both pets’ safety. Therefore, it is best to isolate the animals from each other in the beginning. The cat can be locked in a separate room with a place to rest, a scratching post, bowls, toys and a litter box. You may allow your dog to see the smell of a cat through the door, but do not allow the dog to hit it with its paws or bark loudly. We don’t want the cat to get stressed unnecessarily. To better control your dog’s behavior, it’s best to keep your dog on a leash at home. As soon as the pooch starts to show undesirable behavior or become overly excited by the smell of the cat, we immediately redirect his attention to ourselves or, for example, to olfactory toys. On the other hand, we catch, praise and reward all the dog’s calm behavior.
At this stage, we spend time separately with the dog and separately with the cat. Thanks to this, none of the animals feels lonely. Pets also have time to calmly familiarize themselves with their smells and associate them positively.
Our emotions are very important when introducing a dog to a cat. Animals can read them very well and adapt their behavior to them. When the dog sees that we are being nervous in the presence of the cat, he too may start to act like that. Therefore, staying calm is essential.
Stage 2 – gradual familiarization
When the dog ceases to be interested in a cat in a separate room, we can proceed to the next stage. We install a gate for children in the door to the “cat’s room” and slightly open the door. The gate for children will allow both the dog and the cat to safely learn about their appearance and movements. At this stage, we also constantly control the behavior of both the dog and the cat and strengthen their calm behavior. We do not force the cat to the dog and do not force contact. However, if he decides to approach or pass through the gate himself, we allow it. He will always be able to escape to his safe hiding place when he feels insecure.
At the same time, we do not allow the dog to chase the cat and keep it on a leash for safety. As soon as a cat appears in the field of view, we direct the dog’s attention to ourselves. You can offer him a short training in the basics of obedience or simple olfactory games. We want to show the dog that when a cat shows up, nice things happen, but you can’t chase him. At the same time, the cat learns that it can feel safe with the dog, because its attention is focused on the person, not on him.
When something goes wrong
If, during the entire process, you happen to have the dog chase after the cat or the cat suddenly attacks the dog, don’t panic. Also, don’t punish the pets if something goes wrong. Remember to remain calm. We want the dog or cat to be associated with the dog or cat as positively as possible. In the event of a sudden attack or chase, simply isolate the animals again, give them more time to get acquainted. After some time, when both the dog and the cat behave calmly in their presence, you can gradually open the door from the “cat’s room” more and more, until finally you can also remove the gate for children.
Even if the relationship between the dog and the cat is perfect, it is worth ensuring that each pet has its own, safe place to rest. I also recommend placing the cat’s bowl and litter box in places inaccessible to the dog.
How long can it take to get your dog and cat accustomed to it
There are cases when both the dog and the cat get on well with each other almost from day one. However, it is better to prepare for a scenario in which each stage of getting your pets accustomed to each other will take several days or even several weeks. There are also cases of animals so badly matched to each other that their peaceful coexistence will never be possible. Therefore, you should have a “plan B” prepared for such an eventuality and consider whether we are able to isolate the animals from each other for the rest of their lives, or it is better to look for another, safe home for one of them.
I am very curious about your experiences in introducing your dogs to cats. Let me know in the comment how this process looked like for you and how long it took. Or maybe you are just getting ready to bring your next pet home?
Sometimes we have no choice but to become our pet. A cat or a dog suddenly appear in our lives and become friends. But if we want to make a rational and thoughtful choice of a pet, we should think carefully before doing so. While many of us believe that the cat is less absorbing than the dog, it is a harmful myth that should be debunked once and for all. Like many other myths.
If you’re looking for more advice and information, also check out the Cat questions articles here.
Cat versus dog – species differences
The most important difference between a cat and a dog is that a dog is a herd animal, domesticated between 200,000 and 300,000. years ago, and the cat is a solitary animal, domesticated about 10,000. years ago. These apparently “dry” historical facts have a colossal impact on the behavior of dogs and cats towards humans and each other.
The dog, due to earlier domestication, is much better adapted to life with humans than a cat. In addition, his herd nature helps him find his place in the home hierarchy, even if we have more than one dog.
A cat is by nature a solitary animal that does not need a second cat for its happiness. In the case of incorrect “overestimation”, it can manifest serious behavioral problems, because it is not in its nature to create a hierarchy or a complicated social structure.
A cat has diametrically opposed needs than a dog. This is due to the so-called ethogram, i.e. a set of all behaviors characteristic of a given species. Of course, every living organism needs food and drink, but the similarities stop there. A cat has many unique needs that a dog does not have, and before adopting a cat, you should consider whether we have the time, resources, and capabilities to meet these needs.
The dog needs regular walks, this goes without saying. The cat, on the other hand, needs regular, everyday hunting fun while maintaining the hunting chain. Without this play, the cat’s quality of life runs out of head and neck and is often the cause of behavioral disorders such as attacking household members.
The dog is focused on cooperation with humans – for thousands of years it has been bred for this. The cat as a species has never been used for a specific job, nor has it been genetically selected for that purpose. The natural hunting behavior of a cat simply matched the human needs, therefore the human influence on the cat as a species is much smaller.
This is of great importance in the process of intercourse with the cat. It will not be focused on obeying orders or gaining our approval. For this reason, the relationship with the cat can be difficult for us. We expect animals to obey, and cats rarely obey. At most, they can compromise with us. Also check this article with tips on whether a cat or a dog, i.e. which quadruped is right for you.
Cat versus dog – living costs
When it comes to basic maintenance costs in the form of food or supplementation, they are similar. Typical canned food for dogs and cats does not differ significantly in price. This does not mean that dogs and cats are eating the same thing. You can afford more non-meat additives in your dog’s diet than in a cat’s diet, which is a ruthless carnivore and derives all its nutrients from meat.
However, a cat requires slightly more accessories than a dog. In addition to the litter box, litter and bowls, also a decent scratching post, a few bedding and a few high shelves on the walls. And of course the toys. Taking all this into account, a cat layette will definitely be more expensive than a dog’s layette (leash, collar, bed, bowls, toys).
Additionally, cats do not like sharing, so if we are going to have more cats, we will also have to purchase separate accessories for them. Cats do not live in herds and the use of, for example, one litter box is unnatural for them. Like sharing one toy or bowl, which can generate unnecessary tension.
Basic veterinary care for dogs and cats is not very different from each other. With the proviso that a cat that does not go out has a lower risk of infection with parasites or of getting injured than a dog that goes out every day. Therefore, while a cat can be dewormed rarely, only after faecal examination, the dog is dewormed regularly. It is similar with vaccinations – non-leaving animals do not require the same vaccinations as outgoing animals.
Regular health check-ups are needed for both species, although these are even more important for cats than for dogs. Cats instinctively hide illness and malaise, often until it is too late for effective treatment.
Perhaps the biggest difference between dogs and cats is when behavioral problems arise. Cats are animals that are extremely susceptible to stress and exhibit anxiety reactions more often than the average dog. Unlike dogs, cats do not take comfort from a human handler, much less as dogs. In other words – if a cat has a stress problem, there is a good chance it will require the help of a behaviorist.
In turn, the behavioral problems of a dog can end in criminal liability for us if, for example, our pet bites someone in a park. In the case of cats, this risk is easily reduced, in the case of dogs that have to go out, the risk is considerable.
Cat versus dog – relationship with humans
Scientific research proves that having a pet has a positive effect on our health. Children who grow up at home with a dog or cat suffer less from allergies. Petting a purring cat lowers stress levels and blood pressure. Regular walks with the dog help to maintain good condition and social relationships.
So there is no doubt that both cats and dogs are wonderful life companions. However, each of them in their own way. Cats are much more independent and less focused on the satisfaction of the handler, so they will not endure too long stroking, carrying on their hands or other caresses that they do not want to do. The average dog will be more understanding in these cases.
Define your needs
If you do not have the opportunity to go for a walk with your dog on a regular basis or you have a small apartment, then the cat will actually be a better companion, but with the fact that you will not expect dog behavior from him. If, on the other hand, you do not like dogs, but you dream of going for walks with your pet, you can find a cat that will like to go out. Just remember that a walk with a cat is different from a walk with a dog. They will follow the cat, the dog follows the leg.
If you travel frequently or work long hours, then it is not advisable to adopt any animal. The dog will miss you and the cat will be bored. It is not true that cats do not need human contact. They need. And they certainly need hunting fun that only humans can provide. Taking two cats at once does not release us from the obligation to devote our time to them.
Traveling with a dog is usually easier than traveling with a cat. The dog tolerates changes in the environment well, the cat is quite the opposite. Therefore, if you take a cat, you need to reckon with the need to find a visiting sitter when you decide to go on vacation. Fortunately, there are more and more companies providing professional petsitter services on the market.