VCA Animal Hospitals

Living with a cat and a dog

Published: Aug 06, 2012

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Having a multi-pet household can be a wonderful thing. Two dogs can often become very close friends, keeping each other entertained and staving off loneliness when their owners are out of the house. However, not all pets get along instantly, and sometimes the old stereotype proves true – cats and dogs just don’t get along.

You’ll find plenty of households that have a cat and dog living peacefully under the same roof. In fact, in many cases, these two animals can become close companions, and dogs will often take on a sense of protection around the feline of the house. In other cases, you’ll have to work hard to help your dog and cat adjust to one another.

The key to creating a successful relationship between dog and cat is supervision. Particularly if you are introducing a new canine or feline into the home, it is essential that you supervise all initial interactions to make sure both pets stay safe and uninjured. It’s important to remember that you should be wary of both the cat and the dog during this time. While it may seem that your canine is more likely to do damage to your feline, cats do have their own defense mechanisms. A scratch or bite from your cat could mean you’ll need to take your dog to the vet for dog wound treatment.

When introducing the two animals, it may be best if you and a friend or family member work together. One person should be in charge of monitoring the dog, while the other can supervise the cat. The goal here is to let the two animals explore each other without lashing out or attacking. In a safe, enclosed space, allow the cat to roam freely, and keep the dog restrained. Bring the dog a couple steps closer to the animal. As you approach, if your dog is behaving appropriately, reward him with praise. If he snarls, growls or otherwise acts aggressively, using a stern voice tell him to “leave it,” “drop it,” or “stop it,” – whatever command works best for your dog.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on the cat’s response. If she is arching her back, hissing, growling or seems frightened, then it may be time to end the session. These aren’t necessarily signs of cat behavior problems, but rather a demonstration of the cat’s natural anxiety.

You may find that it takes several sessions like these before your dog and cat become acquainted and are able to tolerate each other. In the mean time, you will need to keep them separate so that they don’t attack or injure each other when you’re not around.

If you have other questions about how to best introduce your canine and feline companions, you can speak to your veterinarian. He or she may be able to give you advice on ways to train either animal to be more tolerant and accepting of the other pets in your household.

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