So, you want your dog and cat to happily live together but don’t know how to do it?
Let’s take a look at all the different tips and tricks to manage to achieve this goal.
First of all, the methods may change a little bit depending on if it was the dog or the cat that arrived at the house first. Don’t be afraid to get the help of a professional in dog (or cat) behaviour as they will help you adapt your methods.
Get your dog used to your cat as early as possible
For every species (canine or feline), habituation from a young age is key to a healthy and respectful life together.
I’m not a cat specialist, however, for dogs, know that it is very important to get it accustomed to new things as early as 3 weeks old. During the time up to 3 months, it must be continuously stimulated. In fact, during this period, the puppy will gather a lot of information for its memory to use later in life. All these experiences must therefore be positive ones.
If a puppy grows up around cats, they will be considered a familiar species. None the less, it is not impossible for a dog, even if it has been used to cats from a young age, to chase them when outside (dogs will be dogs).
It is therefore a must that meets between the two species be as often and positive as possible. That being said, one factor making the meets positive is always very variable: the attitude of the cat. Unfortunately, it is very complicated to anticipate how a cat will react… This, therefore, remains a variable that no-one can predict.
Keep encounters safe: the muzzle
We will go over all the safety rules in the next point, but it seems important to do a part on the almost obligatory muzzle during the first encounters.
In fact, the muzzle will make it more relaxing for you and it will obviously be safer for your cat!
It isn’t very possible to 100% anticipate and predict the reaction of a dog faced with a cat. It would be a real shame to risk something happening that could be avoided thanks to a simple muzzle. However, you must make sure to associate the muzzle as something positive to the dog before even starting to get it used to the cat. In order to do so, here are my tips :
- Buy a Bakerville muzzle allowing you to give our dog treat even whilst the muzzle is on.
- Begin the habituation in a calm area that your dog knows well and feels safe: your living room would be perfect.
- Present the muzzle to the dog and every time it tries to sniff it and gets closer, give it a treat.
- Next, take a treat and keep it in your hand as you put the muzzle on your dog. As soon as the muzzle is on, give the treat to your dog.
- At first, you don’t have to attach it, the most important thing is that it is associated to something positive.
- These sessions mustn’t be too long but they do have to be regular.
- Once your dog accepts the muzzle, associate it with something very positive like a walk or a play.
Never look at the muzzle as a punishment. The muzzle has many advantages as long as it is seen positively by the dog, here are the two main ones:
- Getting your dog to wear a muzzle allows you to take it to more exciting encounters without risking wounds.
- Muzzles can also keep your vet (or yourself) safe during different manoeuvres, like checking where the dog is hurt.
Respect the safety of both cat and dog
Never mind the order of arrival, never mind their age or their character, it is essential to put in place rules to keep everyone safe:
Rule n°1: During the first day and weeks, leave them in separate rooms so they can get used to each other’s sent and the general space.
Rule n°2: During the first encounters, always give the cat the option to run away or climb out of reach.
Rule n°3: Never leave them alone together, always be with them to control anything that happens (we will later see the orders your dog should know).
Rule n°4: Always put your cats’ food and water bowls up high to avoid any conflict and allow your cat to feed itself in peace.
Rule n°5: Never force the two to meet! Be patient and don’t expect them to be the best of friends. Of course, that can happen but it’s not a certainty.
Reinforce your dog’s obedience
Although, encounters between a dog and a cat must be done with the smallest amount of intervention, reinforcing the dog’s obedience will help you avoid any excitements. Notably, when your dog starts to stare at your cat, this will help a lot.
The signs your dog has to know in order for you to keep control of the situation are the following: “don’t move”, “leave it”, and “stop”. Basically, orders getting your dog to stop doing something are essential.
“Don’t move” is to help you keep control of the situation whilst keeping your dog away from a fleeing cat for example.
To teach your dog to stop, you must first start by teaching it on the lead. Walk with your dog and as soon as you stop, say “stop”.
This order is useful when the situation gets out of hand if your dog tries to attack the cat for example.
To teach you dog “leave it”, you must associate the word with a treat or something positive. Firstly, in a calm area that your dog knows well, create the following: “leave it” = treat. Then, progressively increase the difficulty of the exercise. Start by asking your dog to leave a piece of cheese, a treat, a toy, then your cat.
With this order, the aim is to stop your dog from staring at your cat for too long for example.
Finally, as a general rule of thumb, for each indication, you have to respect the 3D rule in order to teach your dog each order. In order to do so, you have to increase the difficulty of the exercises by firstly increasing the Duration, then the Distance, then the Distraction. In clear terms, if your dog can’t do these exercises without distractions, it won’t be able to do it with them (your cat).