Can Cats and Dogs Happily Coexist?
Did you know that Nala has a dog brother named Spencer? They have been peacefully cohabitating for years, but it didn’t happen overnight.
Getting cats and dogs to coexist requires some time and effort from their owner. Dogs are pack animals who enjoy the company of other animals, while cats are independent. Because of these innate differences, dogs might try to interact with cats in ways that cats consider overwhelming. This can lead to negative interactions. If you understand cat and dog behavior and allow them to go at their own pace, watching their friendship blossom will be a very beautiful and rewarding experience.
Here are some tips to help your cat and dog become friends:
Start by keeping them in separate rooms and allowing them to get used to each other's scent by exchanging blankets or toys. Once both animals are comfortable with the scent of the other, you can then gradually introduce them while supervised, using leashes or baby gates to separate them if necessary. This will allow them to see each other and interact, while still maintaining their own space.
You don’t want to introduce the animals too soon. They - especially the cat - need time to get accustomed to the smell and sounds of the other. It’s better to wait a while for the animals to meet rather than introduce them too soon. If the first meeting doesn’t go well, it will be more challenging to encourage a friendship.
Make sure that each animal has their own safe space to hide out if they feel stressed. This can be a separate room, a dog crate, or a high shelf or cat tree for the cat where the dog cannot get to them. Cats like to be high up where they can monitor a room while being out of reach. They feel safest when they can see without being seen.
The animals should be fed separately so they aren’t competing for resources. Try feeding the cat on a high shelf where the dog can’t disturb them. Make sure the cat has their own water bowl too. Cats are very particular about their water - and their cleanliness - and likely won’t tolerate sharing their bowl with a dog.
When they don’t consider each other competition, cats and dogs will be more inclined to get along. Be sure to spend ample time with each pet one on one, too, as this will help them to alleviate any potential jealousy about the other.
Dogs should be trained to respond to commands and to respect the cat's boundaries and cats should be socialized to be comfortable around dogs. Reward both pets for calm behavior and positive interactions.
It’s normal if the cat hisses or growls at first - maybe they have never seen a dog! Once they get used to each other, which can take weeks or even months, they should be able to cohabitate at the very least. Ideally, they will enjoy each other’s company and become friends.
With patience, training, and plenty of encouragement, cuddles, and rewards, cats and dogs can develop close friendships not only with you but with each other, too!