We all know or have seen examples of cats and dogs living together in harmony—or, in some cases, observing an extended cease-fire. Still, many dogs and cats are not good candidates for living with the other species. And even if they are, peaceful coexistence often requires careful planning, introductions, and ongoing management. Here are some tips to keep in mind.
Good canine candidates for living with cats:
Puppies or adult dogs that have successfully lived with a cat before. Laid-back, relaxed, friendly dogs. Dogs that are not very predatory (i.e., don’t chase cats or squirrels when outdoors).
Good feline candidates for living with dogs:
Relaxed, laid-back cats and kittens. Cats with dog experience. (Not-so-good candidates? Shy, skittish—particularly given to running—and de-clawed cats. De-clawed cats are more vulnerable and are likely to behave aggressively when cornered.)
Introducing the two:
-Have the dog on leash, ask her to sit, and treat her near the cat. Also treat the cat. If the dog can sit and take treats, allow her to meet the cat. Good signs are gentle investigation and respect for the cat’s defensive signals. Bad signs are instant attempts to chase, straining at the leash, whining, and barking. If this goes well, drop the leash and supervise closely. If the dog is friendly or cautious, don’t get involved except to praise and reward the dog for good manners. Interrupt chasing and give a time-out by removing the dog from the room. Watch closely for the first few weeks. Supervise all interactions until you see a positive pattern in their relationship.
-Have a dog-free room (use baby-gates, cat doors) as well as high places the cat can access but the dog can’t. The cat needs places where she can regroup in peace and then venture forward into ‘dog territory’ at her own pace. Make sure food, water, and litter are accessible in this area. Never force the cat to be close to the dog by holding her, caging her, or otherwise restricting her.