We’ve all heard the expression “fighting like cats and dogs.” However, many of us have also seen adorable photos and videos of giant dogs playing and cuddling with tiny kittens. Obviously, not all dogs and cats fight, but the expression had to come from somewhere, right?
If you already have a dog and are considering getting a cat or vice versa, you might be wondering what you are getting into. Are your cat and dog destined to end up as enemies or are there things you can do to help them learn to be friends? The good news is that while not every dog and cat relationship will turn into a mushy lovefest, there are some steps you can take to help keep the peace. Here are 10 tips to try out that can help make cats and dogs get along better.
Top 10 Tips to Make Cats & Dogs Get Along
1. Play Matchmaker
The key to a successful multi-pet relationship could start with your ability to play matchmaker. Some might say that certain dog breeds get along better or worse with cats, but the truth is, the personality of both animals is more important than the breed. If your dog is active and playful, don’t bring home a shy or fearful cat. If your cat is a couch potato, they probably won’t appreciate a high-energy dog. Try to pair dogs and cats with similar personalities and activity levels to give them a better chance of getting along.
2. Focus on Obedience Training
In many cases, dogs and cats don’t get along because the dog just won’t stop trying to chase or harass the cat. Rarely is the cat the one stirring up the most trouble, although there are exceptions to this! Sometimes the best thing you can do to help your dog and cat get along is to focus on training your dog. Training a dog to obey even basic commands gives you a good way to keep them under control or redirect unwanted behaviors, like chasing a cat.
3. Start Interactions as Young as Possible
It’s generally the case that the younger you start teaching a pet how to behave and act, the easier it will be. Helping dogs and cats learn to get along is no exception. Puppies and kittens raised together often have the easiest time building a true friendship. If you already have an adult dog or cat, consider getting a puppy or kitten. Both adult dogs and cats are typically more accepting of younger versions of the opposite species. Be cautious if there is a big size difference between, say, a kitten and an adult dog. Kittens are fearless, and a big dog might accidentally hurt the tiny feline.
4. Take Your Time
When it comes to introducing a dog and cat, time is not of the essence. Especially if neither pet has ever been around one of the opposite species, you will want to take as much time as possible for them to get used to each other. If either pet seems scared or uncertain, back off and give them more time.
Always make sure your dog is under control during any face-to-face meetings until you are certain how the pets will react to each other. Because they are usually bigger, dogs are more likely to harm a cat if the first meeting is less than smooth. However, if the cat is of the fight rather than flight mentality, your dog could find their friendly but unwelcome greeting results in some angry claws to the face. Play it safe and keep your dog on a leash during early introductions.
5. Swap Scents
If you aren’t sure how your dog and cat will react when meeting face to face, one trick to help them get along is to allow them to get used to each other’s scent without seeing each other first. This might mean letting them hang out on opposite sides of a closed door for a while, smelling but not seeing. You could also put a bed or blanket with your dog’s scent in a room with your cat and do the same with a scent article from the cat in your dog’s crate or bed.
6. Arrange Dinner Dates
Another good tip to help your dog and cat learn to get along is to feed them meals on opposite sides of a door or baby gate. Giving both animals a distraction in the form of food can make it easier to ignore the strange new creature on the other side of the door. In addition, the dog and cat may come to associate each other with food. Creating this positive association can make it easier for them to get along.
7. Stay Positive
In fact, positivity is a key part of helping any dog and cat learn to get along. Your goal should be to make sure all their interactions are positive as they get to know each other. Rather than scolding or disciplining negative behaviors, try distracting or redirecting your dog or cat instead. When they are interacting calmly, praise and reward them often. This will help them learn that getting along makes you happy and often means they get treats!
8. Create Safe Spaces for Cats
Your cat will feel more relaxed and be more likely to get along with your dog if you make sure they have a safe space to escape if they feel they need it. Often, this will be a tall cat tree, cat shelf, or the top of the refrigerator. You can also use a baby gate between rooms or a cat door to create a dog-free zone for your cat. Even if your dog and cat are getting along wonderfully, your cat will appreciate having a spot to themselves if they just need a break from the doggy love.
9. Try Some Calming Products
There are several species-specific calming sprays and diffusers that may help your dog and cat relax and get along better. Usually, these are made with dog and cat pheromones that humans can’t smell but cue the pets to calm down. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a good product if you think this might be useful in keeping your dog and cat friendly toward each other.
10. Ask for Professional Help!
If you’ve tried all these tips and your dog and cat are still refusing to get along, don’t despair! It’s time to get the professionals involved. Professional trainers or animal behaviorists can be a huge help in resolving the dog and cat conflicts in your house. Your veterinarian can also guide you or even prescribe medications that can help improve your pets’ behaviors toward each other. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are committed to helping your dog and cat get along but you find you just don’t know what else to do yourself.
How Long Is All of This Going to Take?
Helping a dog and cat learn to get along can be a slow, time-consuming process as you might have guessed from reading these tips. The answer to how long it will take for your dog and cat to get along depends a lot on the individual animals involved. It could happen quickly or be a much slower burning friendship.
Generally, you should expect it to take at least 2 to 3 weeks for the dog and cat to get to know each other. However, don’t be surprised or dismayed if it takes longer, even up to a few months.
Even if your dog and cat reach a point where they seem to be tolerating each other, you should still carefully supervise their early interactions. Sometimes dogs and cats might seem to be getting along but the dog’s behavior might be a bit too predatory and turn into a chase or worse. A cat might ignore a pushy or playful dog all day and then suddenly lose their temper.
The safest thing to do is make sure you keep an eye on your cat and dog until you feel confident that they are consistently getting along.
Cats and dogs might be two very different creatures, but that doesn’t mean they have to be enemies, no matter how the saying goes. Following these 10 tips can help you set your dog and cat up to become the best of friends or at least keep your house from becoming a daily battleground. Those of us who have witnessed the joy of a strong, loving bond between a dog and a cat know that the effort is worth it in the end.
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