Cats and dogs don’t exactly get along like peas and carrots. But, according to a study by Tel Aviv University, two-thirds of 200 dog-and-cat owners surveyed said their pets lived together with no problem and only 10 percent of those pets fought during observation. Coexistence is not impossible, but finding harmony in the house with both cats and dogs requires time and patience.
Dogs and cats speak very different languages, which can cause confusion. A dog wagging its tail is a sign of happiness, but a cat swishes its tail when angry. A dog growls deep in its throat as a warning, but a cat may mistake that as purring, a happy sound. Some dogs have a high prey-drive, which can cause them to act out toward cats. This instinct is noticed mostly outdoors, as often times dogs associate prey with being outdoors. This makes a strong case for keeping your cats indoors. If you have a dog door for your dog to go through, you may want to consider an electronic door that only opens for the dog.
Bringing a new pet into the home should be done gradually and with respect to the animals. New pets should never be set loose together and allowed to work it out themselves. Introductions should be supervised and planned out to ensure success. Allow the pets to meet through a door or gate, then gradually bring them together to meet. The dog should always be kept on a leash for safety. Do not let the dog chase the cat, as it will set up a pattern that could be stressful for both pets. If the first few introductions have gone relatively smoothly, allow more supervised interaction. But always leave the collar and leash attached to your dog to allow you to separate the pets quickly if an issue arises.
Keeping the Peace
As long as everything goes well during the first few introductions, you should be on the path to a happy, peaceful home. However, there are some factors that should be remembered. Always offer your cat a safe place to get away from the dog. Consider installing a cat tree, cat wall shelves, or another option for your cat to get above it all, literally and figuratively. Cats like to climb when stressed. Also be sure to allow each pet some personal time — whether play time, petting time, grooming time, bath time, or even bed time. You may find that your dog and cat reach a point where they will both join you on the couch for a cuddle, or both curl up on the bed with you (if you allow it). But don’t try to force them to sit together if they don’t want to. Once they learn each other’s signals, habits, and feel safe together, they will set their own boundaries.