Can You Have Cats and Dogs Living Together?
Assess Your Pet’s Behaviour
Some cats have an inherently skittish nature or anxious disposition, in which case, consider whether or not an introduction to a dog could compromise its welfare.
Alternatively, if your dog demonstrates a significantly predatory drive, then you are advised against socialising them with cats at all. Please contact a qualified animal behaviourist if your dog is showing signs of aggression towards cats.
How to Safely Introduce Your Cat to Your Dog
Once confident about the level of risk, you can gradually make your way through the process of introduction.
Remember, outright aggression isn’t your only concern – a playful dog poses just as much danger to your cat as an aggressive dog. Prevent chasing by keeping your pets physically separate unless supervised and provide places for your cat to retreat to and hide.
Dogs Trust have shared their tips for a safe introduction between cats and dog:
- Introduce your pets to each other’s scents prior to their first meeting by exchanging items, such as toys or bedding, until there is nothing to suggest that your pets are distressed
- Establish a designated space for each pet, where they can feel safe to eat, drink, rest and go to the toilet
- Ensure your cat has access to every resource they need without being pursued by your dog
- Provide access to shelves and other escape routes – baby gates work well to allow your cat to slip through without your dog being able to follow
Being the smaller, more vulnerable animal, it is necessary to ensure introductions are kept at your cat’s pace. Don’t restrain your cat, they should be allowed to move freely towards or away from your dog as they please. In the event that your cat shows threatening behaviour towards your dog, please seek the advice of a qualified animal behaviourist.
If your dog is over-excited in the presence of your cat, or attempting to chase, move them further away and try again. Maintain a physical barrier and/or keep your dog on its leash until you are confident they are calm in the presence of one another.
Maintaining Peaceful Co-Existence
Once introduced, there are a number of things you can do to make living under the same roof as peaceful as possible for your pets:
- Provide vertical space, such as shelves, for your cat to travel around without having to encounter your dog on the ground
- Always reward your dog for calm behaviour in the presence of your cat
- Never punish your dog for bad behaviour in the presence of your cat – this could result in negative association and worsen their behaviour
- Ensure your dog is mentally and physical stimulated because a tired dog is likely to be calm
With time, your dog should learn to remain calm and focus on you in the presence of your cat, and your cat should grow confident in the presence of your dog.