Traditionally we think of dogs and cats as enemies. However, while they may be wary of each other initially as unknown entities, they can and often get on very well.
There is no direct competition and so cat and dog may get on a great deal better than cat and cat. Success in introductions will need consideration of several aspects – the dog’s breed, age and your control of it. Very close relationships between dogs and cats are usually a result of good early experience and socialisation for both species, but it can be achieved with careful and patient introductions.
If the dog or cat has lived with the other species before this will help the process as they will probably be much less stressed simply by the presence of another creature. If the dog has lived with a cat before it may initially show interest in a new individual but will probably soon settle back into doing what the cat tells it as it did before!
If you are unsure how your dog will react, then you need to take care. If you have a terrier or chasing breed such as a greyhound then it may be much more driven by its instincts to chase than some other breeds.
- Introduce the dog with the cat in a kittening pen or dog pen then this will make sure that no chase ensues no matter what
- Place a box or make a covered crate within the cage so the cat can hide if necessary. Position the cage in an area away from the dog’s bed and feeding place
- Tire the dog out by giving it a long walk so that it is not so excitable when it comes to meeting the cat
- Stroke both animals and exchange scents so that they are at least familiar with each other’s smell and it also becomes a component of the household smell – that of their den
- Let the dog sniff the cat through the cage. The cat may hiss and growl but it is safe. The dog may also be wary of this display and feel happy that the cat is inside!
- Reward the dog for quiet interaction and the behaviour you want
- Bring the cage into the sitting room in the evening and all sit quietly watching the television so that no great interest is taken in either animal and it all feels very relaxed and normal
- The first time they meet outside the cage make sure the dog is on a lead and cannot follow if the cat runs away
- Make sure the cat has lots of high places to escape to – shelves, window sills etc
- Ensure that the cat can access litter facilities, outdoors, food, water and resting places without having to pass the dog directly, until such time as they are relaxed in each other’s company
- Never leave the dog and cat alone together until you are happy that they are safe together