Cats and dogs can live harmoniously together, but if yours don’t get along, it can be stressful. Behaviourist Toni Shelbourne advises on the best ways to introduce them.
Whether your cat and dog can intermingle freely in your house depends on a variety of factors. Cats and dogs brought up together, or where a puppy has come into an existing, confident cat’s home, might become best buddies but each animal is different, so don’t make any assumptions.
A time and a place
It is important to think of the comfort and safety of both animals. The first day of bringing a new cat or dog into an existing animal’s home is not the time to introduce them. You want to get to know your new pet, especially a dog, before the integration process begins.
All dogs chase, it’s part of the instinctive predatory sequence; however, only some will follow through by grabbing hold of, shaking, and killing a smaller animal. If your dog chases, catches, and injures wildlife, it’s probably going to be unrealistic to expect him to live side-by-side with your cat. Observe his nature over a few weeks: how does he react to wildlife? Does he bark at cats on a walk or chase them out of the garden? What does your cat do when threatened? Does she run, hide, or fight?
The answer to these questions will help you decide whether they can live together without segregation. However, if your dog is a playful softie who just wants to make friends, then the chances are, with the right help and patience, they might get along.
Gates and escapes
While you are working on integrating them, it is important that your cat has free access to safe indoor and outdoor spaces. Look at your home and devise a way to divide it so your cat has a dog-free corridor to the cat flap or exit, an undisturbed area for a litter tray, food, and water, and a safe, quiet place to rest. You can do this with dog-friendly baby gates or free-standing partitions.
Also provide your cat with lots of high spaces to either navigate the living area or retreat to if cornered. Tall cat trees are ideal, or high shelving that runs the length of the room works well. Make sure the outside space is safe too by adding fencing to prevent your dog suddenly coming across your cat if you accidently let him out when she is in the garden. She will also need to have safe access to and from, escape routes out of the garden, and high places to shelter if they do end up in the garden together.
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