Dogs and Cats: Learning to Get Along

People often describe themselves as a “dog person” or “cat person,” but what about both? If you’re an equal-opportunity pet lover, then having both a dog and cat in your home is a dream! Unfortunately, introducing a dog to a cat or vice versa can be a challenge, and they might not hit it off “Milo & Otis” style the first time around.

The good news is that although your cat and dog don’t get along right now, it is possible to find common ground and help them become friends.

Before You Adopt

If you haven’t bought a cat or dog yet and are considering adding a new species to your family, then consider your pet’s personality. Most shelters will arrange a meeting with a dog or cat before you adopt one, so you can introduce them ahead of time and learn whether or not they’re a good match.

Remember that cats and dogs have personalities and preferences just like we do. If your cat or dog responds aggressively by chasing, growing, biting or attacking, then it’s best to keep them separate and avoid having them under the same roof.

Lining Up Personalities

If you know your dog or cat are okay with the other, then it’s time to consider their personalities so you can ensure a good friendship. Playful dogs will likewise go well with a good-natured, sociable cat. Subdued, reserved cats will be better housemates with a laidback dog.

If you’re getting a new puppy or kitten and introducing it to an adult pet, then expect the younger one to want to play. Early socialization with other animals can help prepare your cat or dog for their new friend, but you can also start by allowing them to meet and play with a friend or relative’s animals.

Start Slow

You should confine your pets to separate rooms initially, only allowing them to interact when you’re supervising. Give lots of treats and praise when they approach one another, but do not encourage any forceful or aggressive behavior such as chasing or biting. Dogs may even try to pick up small kittens and carry them in their mouths, but this can be traumatizing and stressful for the cat.

You can separate your pets by putting one in a kennel when they first meet and allowing the other to sniff and familiarize themselves with the new member of the family.

Recognize Warning Signs

Predatory behaviors and playfulness can sometimes look the same to humans, so it’s important to pay close attention to your pets and study up on some animal behavior. Canine and feline body language clearly indicate how a pet is feeling. When it doubt, look at their ears and tails.

  • A cat wagging its tail is a sign of irritation, which can lead to “swatting” or scratching if you get too close.
  • Heavy panting or lips pulled back into a long smile can indicate a dog is nervous or threatened.
  • If a dog or cat’s ears are laying flat on their head, it means they are upset, scared or angry.

Never force your pets to stay together when one is clearly distressed. Getting acquainted can take several weeks, and you should never leave your pets together without supervision until they’ve comfortably been living together and interacting well while you’re home.

If you find that your cat or dog still won’t adjust to your new pet, speak to your veterinarian and seek out the help of a professional trainer.

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