Although we are all about our feline companions, we appreciate that many cat parents also have dogs in their homes. Dogs and cats are not the best of friends. The fights could get you down.
Experts say that pet dogs and cats can be friends. Looking at them as natural enemies is just a stereotype. You can teach your pets to tolerate each other and take it a level higher – make your cat and dog get along. Here are steps to help you make it happen.
Ever heard the adage bend a tree while it is young? The same is true about dog-cat relationships. The best way to get the two to get along is by socialising them while still young. Let the pup and the kitty hang out and learn to love each other. They can grow up to be BFFs!
If your cat and dog are past their formative stages, and they don’t get along, there is no need to struggle all by yourself. As a pet parent, you may not know the signs of stress, anxiety, or aggression the two animals express. Or perhaps you have a busy schedule and cannot commit to the process. You may not be the best person to teach the two pets how to get along. Reach out to a certified trainer or animal behaviorist for help.
For pet parents who want to DIY, here are steps to make your cat and dog get along.
Step #1: Let them master the scents and sounds
Adult humans rely on the sense of sight to familiarize themselves with a person or environment. However, most animals have sophisticated sensory abilities. They can use other kinds of sensory information to identify and familiarise themselves with individuals and surroundings. Dogs and cats often use their superior sense of smell and hearing.
Use this to build the dog-cat friendship.
Swap items like towels or give your cat your dog’s bed or vice versa so that they become familiar with each others’ scents. As you do this, introduce them to the way the other sounds, but from a safe distance. As they get used to each others’ scents and sounds, a hiss or bark is less likely to set the other off.
Step #2: Train them to be comfortable around each other
When the two are familiar with each others’ scent and sound, teach them how to be comfortable around each other.
Studies show that cat behaviour is a better predictor of how amicable the relationship is. If the cat is nervous or anxious, chances are, the two would not get along.
Follow these pointers to help the cat be comfortable around the dog:
- Hold the cat in your arms until she is relaxed.
- Have someone bring in the dog slowly and instruct him to sit at his spot. If you can set it up such that the dog lies on his favourite bed during this meeting, the better it could turn out.
- Gradually approach the dog while observing the cat. Do not force the animals or push for physical contact. Instead, regularly arrange for the meetings until the two learn how to be relaxed around each other.
For your safety, put on a long sleeve shirt while holding the cat. It will protect you from cat scratches.
Step #3. Stay calm and show love equally
When you hang out, be calm, relaxed, and composed. How you respond can affect the animals’ well-being. Animals can sense it when you are nervous. Dogs, in particular, could become protective and develop behavior problems, so make sure they have a calming bed to retreat to.
Do not forget to show love and affection equally. Animals are much like people. They get jealous when they see the other gets more attention than them. So, pour plenty of love on both your pets when they are together.
Step #4. Continue the interaction until they are relaxed
Remember to observe the cat’s behaviour keenly. When she is comfortable enough, keep the dog restrained but let the cat wander in the same room. Instruct the dog to stay at his spot. He should not go after the cat to play or say hi. The dog should not have trouble obeying instructions. You may have to take him through refresher obedience training before taking this step.
The first couple of attempts could be difficult. So it might help to use different strategies to help keep the dog calm. But after several weeks, the animals will get the hang of it. They will begin to learn to hang out.
Step #5. Redirect bad behaviour and reward good behaviour
As you go through the steps above, be keen on how both pets behave towards each other. Observe how the dog behaves towards the cat. Redirect any negative behavior like rough play or barking. Give him something else to do, or switch to a few drills of obedience training. Get his focus away from the cat.
Restrain yourself from scolding the dog. Try to keep the meetings as positive as possible.
On the other hand, when the dog displays exemplary behavior around the cat, like ignoring the cat or showing gentle friendliness, reward him with a treat. Pawstruck treats for dogs are one healthy example. Let the dog learn that it is enjoyable to treat the cat well. He will associate positive feelings with the cat.
Step #6. Seal the bond by playing together
Nothing builds a relationship better than having a good time together. To move your pets’ relationship from mutual tolerance to getting along, play with them. At first, you can do it one at a time while nearby. But as the days go by, do it together.
Try games like a scavenger hunt or play with your cat’s favorite toy. But make sure you don’t get either of them too excited. As you spend more positive time together, redirect negative behavior, and reward good behaviour, your cat and dog will learn to get along.
A final word on how to make your cat and dog get along
Although you want your furry babies to be BFFs, do not push them or force them. There could be instances when they would get into fights and need a cool-off period. Let them have it and recoup. Also, have realistic expectations, especially if it is a rescue cat or dog. They may never see eye to eye. Just be ready for alternative methods to keep the peace.