You’re thinking of adding a cat to your household. The problem is, you already have a dog. Many people believe that felines and canines are enemies, most probably because of what they have seen in movies and TV.
But it is possible for dogs and cats to coexist within the same household. Many pet owners have successfully achieved the goal of having a cat and dog live together happily with one another. Or at the very least, tolerate one another and live peacefully.
Understanding the nature of dogs and cats
Now before adopting a cat and buying pet food or other cat supplies for it, there are a few essential things that you will need to know, especially if you do not have experience owning a feline.
Unlike dogs which are more gregarious and territorial in their nature, cats are typically aloof and are startled easily. Dogs are pack animals and thrive in the company of other dogs and humans. Cats, on the other hand, are solitary.
Dogs require ample space while cats prefer a smaller space. Cats are independent while Fido may need more care from its humans.
Bringing a cat into a household that already has a dog can be particularly challenging. To meet these challenges and integrate your new family member, here are a few crucial considerations you need to think about.
Take your dog into account
Not all dog breeds tolerate the presence of cats in a house. In particular, breeds that have a high prey drive and those that are highly territorial will not appreciate the addition of Fluffy to your home.
Apart from your pooch’s breed, you also have to consider his unique personality and energy level. For example, a kitten will not be an ideal fit for a home with an elderly dog.
If you wish to continue with the adoption of a cat, make sure that you have a backup plan in place, in case your dog does not accept your new cat.
Dog training is key
In the most successful cat and dog households, the pets were raised together while young. This is because kittens and puppies are easier to introduce together and socialize with one another. Puppies tend to be less confident, making it easier for cats to establish their dominance.
However, if this is not possible and you have an older dog, you have to pay more attention to Fido’s training before even considering adopting a cat. Your pooch should be able to control its natural impulses even before you bring a new cat home.
Set up your home properly
Another crucial thing that you need to do before bringing home a cat is to make sure that you prepare it properly.
As mentioned earlier, cats are independent and require their own space where they feel safe and protected. This space should be free from the intrusion of your curious dog. Your new cat and your dog may share the same space, but your feline will greatly appreciate its own space.
Take advantage of the fact that cats are climbers. Apart from investing in a cat tree (or two), you can strategically-place shelves and bookcases around your home where Fluffy can be safely perched.
Find an area in your home where you can place the litter box away from your dog. Felines need to be alone when going to the bathroom. Plus, there is a risk that your dog may contract health problems when it eats your cat’s poop.
Finally, find a separate space for each pet for their meal times. Insisting that your pets eat at the same time at the same place is a recipe for disaster. Let your dog enjoy his favorite meal away from your cat and vise versa. You can easily achieve this goal by creating and sticking to a feeding schedule for both pets.
Introducing your new cat to your dog
Once you have undertaken the necessary preparations and precautions, you can now present your new cat to your dog. Here are the critical steps you will need to follow.
Keep them separated at first
During the first few days, keep both animals separated from each other. You can either confine your dog and cat from each other by using separate spaces or allow each pet to roam freely around the house when the other is confined in another area. This allows each pet to investigate and familiarize with the scent of the other.
If you notice that your dog digs or barks obsessively for more than a day, you may want to bring in a professional for help.
On the other hand, if your dog remains calm and stops obsessing over the cat, you can make a leashed introduction.
For this step, you will need to put Fido on a leash before putting both pets in the same room.
Observe both pets carefully. Ideally, your dog should be calm and not obsess over the cat. Your feline, on the other hand, should also be calm and go about its normal routine (eating and using the litter box) without any fuss.
If both pets are relaxed around each other, you can proceed with unsupervised interactions. However, if there are signs of fear or aggression from either one or both, you may need to go back to the first step.
Bringing the two pets together
You can only leave both pets together unsupervised when they are calm around each other. This will typically take around a month.
Cats and dogs can peacefully coexist in the same home. However, you must be willing to put in the necessary work to bring the two together.
Farah Al-Khojai is the Managing Partner of Pet’s Delight. A passionate entrepreneur, Farah holds a Bsc in Government from the London School of Economics. She is always on the lookout for new opportunities to develop and grow the pet and equestrian retail and wholesale market in the UAE and beyond, and is proud to be at the helm of the first and the largest pet care provider in the market representing world-class brands including Orijen, Applaws, Hunter, Savic, Flamingo, Ruffwear and Rogz.