While a 2018 survey found that 61% of American households had a dog OR a cat, the researchers also found that 14% of those households had both cats AND dogs, which brings up an important question. Can dogs and cats truly live together harmoniously in a home? This seems to be the question on several pet owners' minds this week, so I think it's time we looked more closely at the topic of living with dogs and cats under the same roof.
I believe the key to successfully living with dogs and cats in the same household is to do sufficient pre-planning to optimize your chances for four-legged harmony. While many pet owners seem to feel that peaceful coexistence is the best that they can hope for, I like to think that if you've done your homework, you may even be able to have dogs and cats who don't just coexist, but get along well together and perhaps even play, groom, etc.
Here are some pointers to keep in mind:
- The ideal situation involves adding a puppy and a kitten to your home at the same time. While this may seem like a lot of work, raising them together right from the start increases the likelihood that they will learn to get along and appreciate one another.
- Take a good look at the breed of dog you are choosing. Some dogs are simply more predatory than others and would thus be more risky around a cat or kitten. And while many feel that you can't have cats in a house with herding dogs, I have several clients who share their homes with felines and herders and the arrangement is blissful. Keep in mind too that for brachycephalic dogs like Pugs, Frenchies, etc. you must be cautious adding an inexperienced cat to your home as one swat with a claw could cause permanent damage to your dog's protruding eyes.
- If you already have an adult cat and you are looking to add a dog, look for a dog who is calm and maybe a bit submissive. And they will ultimately do better together if the experiences your cat has had with dogs previously were positive.
- The opposite is true as well. If you already have an adult dog who seems fairly calm and interested in cats in a non-predatory way, then adding a kitten could work as that kitten would be raised with a tolerant, adult dog companion.
- If you are looking to adopt a cat from a shelter, talk to the staff there. They can tell you which cats are more bold and inquisitive with the dogs in the shelter and which seem the most frightened and overwhelmed by the canids around them.
- When introducing cats to dogs and vice versa, keep your sessions short and safe. This means using really yummy treats (canned chicken, canned salmon, etc. for your feline friends and perhaps steak, hamburger, or cheese for your dog buddies) and ensuring that dogs are leashed, crated, or confined behind a gate or in a pen and the cat can escape by climbing up on something out of the way, or simply moving away from the controlled dog if they become overwhelmed.
- Persevere! Even if the first meeting doesn't go well (the dog barks and tries to chase the cat and/or the cat hisses and runs away from the dog), you'll definitely want to try again. Try adding in extra humans for support, even better treats, and making sure you time the introductions for when both the cat and dog are well-rested and calm to begin with.