Despite old myths about cats and dogs not getting along, in reality most cats and dogs seem to get along very well. Cats and dogs who grow up together have a very high probability of getting along throughout their lives.
Even cats and dogs who have not previously been introduced to one another can often learn to get along and even find a great deal of joy in one another’s company. Here’s what you need to know about how cats and dogs do not get along and what you can do to set your pets up for a great relationship.
Setting Yourself up for Success
If you know that you want both a cat and a dog in your life, you can set yourself up for success with a dog and cat that are most likely to get along well. Here are some things that you can do to help set up a happy cat and dog household.
As a rule, the younger a dog and cat are when you introduce them, the greater the likelihood that they will get along well. Around eight weeks is generally the ideal age. It can be intimidating to think about adding a dog and a cat to your home at the same time, but in reality, this might be the best way to start out your little fur family.
If you want to get one before the other, it is probably best to start with the dog, as dogs, as a rule, tend to be more accepting of outsiders as they get older. On the other hand, cats often need to be introduced to other animals at a very young age to accept them. Therefore, it is usually best to start with a dog and then add a cat later.
Pick the Right Animals
Whatever age you are choosing your new pet at, you want to pick the best individual animals to work together. A very shy dog and a very rambunctious cat are unlikely to be as effective a pairing as two outgoing cats or two outgoing dogs.
It can be difficult to gauge personality when you are meeting young animals for the first time, but talking to the breeder or shelter staff about which animals in a litter are the most outgoing or most reserved can help you pick a cat and dog that will likely get along well. Breed also comes into play when you are determining the best cat or dog for you.
Some breeds of cat and dog tend to be more outgoing or more easy-going than other breeds. Breeds of dogs with a very high prey drive, such as hunting breeds, sometimes have more difficulty overcoming the urge to chase cats (even if they’re just playing) that may run away from them or just run in the household in general. Some dogs may live with a cat for a long time before displaying aggression, which can make it extremely challenging to predict when and if such a reaction will occur.
If your dog has ever shown extreme aggression towards cats or meets most cats by growling and lunging, you may not find it possible to integrate a cat into your home. Similarly, cats who always respond to dogs with extreme fear or aggression may not be able to accept a dog into the home.
If you want to try, it may be a good idea to talk to an animal behaviorist about the best way to do it.
The last thing that you want to do is throw a cat and dog together and hope for the best. Go very slowly as you begin your introductions so that your cat and dog will have plenty of opportunities to get to know each other at a distance before they are exposed to one another.
Keep in mind that you do not want to prompt your cat or dog to feel like they need to fight or flee to survive. You want everything to go slowly on their terms. Here are some tips to help you introduce your dog and cat slowly in a way that makes success more probable.
Start in separate rooms.
Before your cat and dog meet each other face-to-face, keep them in completely separate rooms. Being able to walk past the room where the other animal is and smell and hear them makes it much easier to accept each other later on.
Use a baby gate.
Introduce your dog and cat in stages. First, have them become accustomed to each other’s smells and sounds through a closed opaque door, so that they can’t see each other. If they are not responding with fear or aggression, you can progress to a baby gate. It is very important that the gate is tall enough that cats can’t jump over it or squeeze between it. Sometimes two tension gates will need to be used on top of each other.
Always supervise your dog and your cat as they interact through the gate. Look for warning signs of aggression like a stiff posture, growling, or hissing.
After you have observed your cat and dog interacting with each other positively through the baby gate for some time, it is time to begin slowly introducing them. Your cat should have plenty of opportunities to get to places your dog can’t, especially high places on a cat tower. Keep your dog in a secure harness and leash so that you will have physical control of him at all times.
If all is going well, you can progress to allowing your cat and dog to be in a space together. However, strict supervision is essential. If you are going to leave the room for any reason, it’s a good idea to take your dog with you.
Problems can come up very quickly and you need to be there to interfere. Make sure that there’s nothing in the environment that dogs and cats may compete over, especially food.
Even after you have done slow introductions and your dog and cat seem to be getting along very well, it is very important that you not have too much trust in how well they’re getting along too soon. Problems can come up unexpectedly.
Animals may behave differently when you are home and when you are not. You can never be sure when your dog or cat may behave in some way that causes a negative reaction.
It may be best not to leave dogs and cats together unsupervised as they’re first getting used to one another. If you are considering leaving them alone supervised, consider a video camera so you can check in every now and then, or simply isolating them in separate parts of the house.
Best Breeds of Dog for Cats
If you are trying to build the best multi-pet household you can, you may be trying to decide what breed of dog to consider. Some breeds of dogs generally get along better with other pets in the household, including cats. Here are some of the best breeds to consider and some groups you might want to avoid:
Good Options for Cats
- Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and Poodles. These dogs may have the impulse to chase, but they tend to learn to have the self-control to resist that urge. Even if they do give chase, they’re unlikely to behave aggressively when they catch up to a cat.
- King Charles Spaniel, Cocker Spaniels, and Papillons. These dogs also tend to have good impulse control and while they may want to chase they’re unlikely to do harm.
- Small Dogs. In general, the very smallest dogs will get along well with cats because they are more evenly matched, if for no other reason. Some small breeds like Maltese and Bichons may get along better with cats than others, like terriers or chihuahuas.
Less Ideal Breed Options for Cats
Hounds, especially sighthounds, like Greyhounds, Afghans, and Fox Hounds, as well as English Springer Spaniels (the cousin of the spaniels mentioned above). Dogs that are bred to hunt, especially by sight, may have a much harder time resisting the urge to chase a cat and may be more likely to be violently playful if they do catch up.
Choose a Veterinarian to Help You Help Your Pets Get Along
The best network of veterinarians can help you provide a safe and pleasant home environment for all of your pets. Having a veterinarian on hand is also extremely important in case anything goes wrong. If you are worried about how the introduction will go or you are struggling to introduce your pets successfully, a veterinary-recommended animal behaviorist may be able to help you in your decision.