Dogs & Cats Living Together

| November 23, 2011

Most people who have pets generally consider themselves to be either dog people or cat people, but if you’re like me, an animal person, you may want to have both dogs and cats as part of your family.

Even if you’re a “dog person” who only plans on having dogs, it’s a great idea to teach your dog to be cat-friendly in order to avoid an unfortunate accident should your dog ever encounter the feline species.

Regardless of whether you’re just training or plan to create a “mixed household,” the most important thing to remember is patience.

You don’t need your dog to cuddle up with your cat on the first day to be successful.

The first meeting is very important, though. What’s critical is to ensure nothing bad happens, and that it’s not a negative experience for either animal.

This means the first encounter should be about seeing each other, either using a crate or some sort of separation device that doesn’t include tough physical restraint.

It’s also a good idea to make sure your dog is fed and exercised to help ensure he or she is relaxed during the meeting.

As a proponent of positive reinforcement training, I also recommend offering treats to your dog during the encounter. This will help ensure that meeting a cat is associated with a “good” experience and that your dog is rewarded for remaining calm.

If the initial reaction is aggression or agitation, stay calm, end the visit and try again later. Don’t scold your dog for getting excited or you’ll just reinforce the negative part of the experience.

You haven’t had a successful first step until both sides remain calm and relaxed.

If the first visit goes well, repeat it. Do this several times a day if possible until you get the same calm reaction from both animals.

Once you get to that point, move them closer. If you’ve been using crates, try a gate. If you’ve been using a gate try a leash, essentially getting them closer to physical contact for each progressive encounter.

It’s also important that you’re comfortable with each new step. If you’re not at ease, they will sense that and act accordingly.

Eventually, if you continue with successful steps, you’ll reach the desired goal of a mixed canine-feline household.

It’s important, however, to continue monitoring their interaction for a while after they’ve had free access to each other to ensure there are no signs of potential aggression or agitation.

It’s a good idea to have physical separation between your pets when you’re not around to monitor them until you’re completely comfortable with their relationship.

It’s also crucial to be realistic and to recognize if your dog is not going to remain calm around cats.

Some of the sweetest dogs just can’t fight their natural instincts around small, furry creatures that dart around quickly.

It’s better to recognize a situation that isn’t going to work than to force one and end up with an injury or worse to the cat.

For the record, cats with claws make much better mates for dogs. Sometimes it’s best for a dog to learn a healthy respect for the limits of play, even when their intentions are completely friendly.

A great training exercise for any new puppy coming into your house is to learn about cats and their boundaries, whether they’re in your home or not.

Ask a friend or neighbor who has a cat to help if that’s an option.

David Loignon is the owner of Home Buddies Premier In-home Pet Care. You can reach him via email: louisvilleeast@myhomebuddies.com or Online: www.myhomebuddies.com/louisvilleeast.

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Category: The Pet Buddy

About the Author (Author Profile)

David Loignon
After 25 years as a journalist and television production executive I turned
my career 180 degrees and opened a pet care business; Home Buddies
Louisville. I couldn’t abandon journalism altogether though, so now I write
The Pet Buddy, a weekly column to help you improve the lives of your
four-legged family members. When I’m not hanging out with my wife Julie and
our rescued fur-kids you will find me on a bicycle racing for The
TwinSpires.com Cycling Team.

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