There are a lot of myths out there about cats and dogs… like did anyone get told that dogs are always male and cats are always female? Well, that’s obviously not true. So, I thought I would discuss whether or not it’s true that Dogs and Cats instinctually don’t get along.
Dictionary.com: an innate, typically fixed pattern of behaviour in animals in response to certain stimuli.
Although dogs and cats have been domesticated for years, there are still a number of natural instincts that both animals are born with. One of these instincts is the need to hunt for survival. You may notice your cat trying to hunt bugs or even birds from the window, or you may have a dog who likes to chase squirrels. Instincts like this are the reason why you want to make sure you feel ready to introduce your pets to different species.
Just because Beau had never been exposed to a Chinchilla, Hamster or Fish in the wild… doesn’t mean he hasn’t tried to eat them when we first introduced them. (Or in the case of Kalista who still tries to eat Gary to this day… what a true Calico she is.)
We often don’t think about how territorial animals are. I know I didn’t think about territories much, especially when I had both Beau and Walker in the same house. My thought process was “well if they’re both getting fed and getting cuddles, they will never fight because I’m giving them the same thing.” This is not true.
Commonly animals will still be territorial, even if the human thinks that they are giving them the same amount of attention or resources. Although this is true, it doesn’t mean that the animals can’t learn to get along over time. There are plenty of households where dogs and cats live harmoniously, however, it’s important to note that steps had to be taken to get that to that comfort level. For this reason make sure you feed your animals separately, especially at first. Over time you’re going to be able to tell whether or not they are going to fight over food, and it might be a day-to-day decision based on their moods.
“We’re Playing!” But We’re Really Not.
Dogs are notorious for running after animals that are smaller than them. Dogs don’t always understand that when a cat flees they are not trying to play, but are scared. This tends to end with the cat hissing at the dog or choosing to become aggressive. Oftentimes if dogs are attacked by a cat they become fearful of all cats, so make sure you’re keeping a close eye on your cat. You want to make sure that if your animals are going to play together that there is no swatting, scratching or biting going on.
Age is a very important factor when it comes to introducing your animals. It’s is highly suggested that you introduce your animals when they are younger. If they are young they have fewer chances of being overly territorial. (This is true of any animal.)
When we were thinking of adding another cat into our family (Kalista) we had to make sure that Beau was ready for her. He was about 3, so he was still fairly young. We started introducing him to the sound of kittens fairly early on to see what he would do. Beau would search around the house looking for the kittens and never showed any signs of stress or anger.
When we found Kalista we made sure that we visited her and got her scent on our clothes (in particular my jacket.) I then made sure to lay my jacket out for Beau to sit on to see what his reaction was. Luckily, Beau didn’t have a negative reaction, even though he often gets mad at us when he smells Walker on our clothes. (Due to the amount of aggression Walker showed to him when they were living together.)
The greatest piece of advice I have been given as a multi-pet owner is to introduce your pets in a place that isn’t home. For example: take your dog to the pet store where you adopt your kitten or have your two dogs meet in public. This can prove to be extremely helpful as they will not relate this location as a territory they own. This proves to be much more difficult when it comes to introducing a cat to another animal as cats tend to be more scared of new surroundings than dogs do. In cases like this, it may be of interest to introduce your cat to the new dog outside on a harness or even in a room they don’t commonly use or visit.
Making Sure You Provide Your Animals With Hiding Spots
It’s important that you provide your animals with escape routes, especially if there is a chance that they are going to get heated. Hiding spots for cats should be placed high up as this will make your cat feel the safest. Think about grabbing your cat something like a cat tree! Dogs don’t usually need hiding places as they tend to be bigger than cats, however, it might be wise to grab a bed for so your dog has somewhere to go to be alone.
Introduce Your Animals Behind Closed Doors
This is a trick that works fairly well, however, it also depends on your animals. I’ve had animals growl and hiss at each other from under the door, and I’ve also had the opposite where I’ve had animals try to talk to each other from under the door. As long as there’s no way to physically get at each other, you’re in the clear. Keep the door completely shut for a few days (making sure you spend a fairly equal amount of time with both animals), and once you feel like the animals are calm on both sides open the door and supervise their reactions. Commonly the first reaction animals have is to walk into the opposite room and completely ignore each other, however, if your animals choose to fight, make sure to throw a blanket on top of them and separate them.
Feed them In Separate Rooms
We found this to be the most effective method of keeping tensions low between animals. A number of blogs also recommend feeding your cat inside the same room as your dog as long as the dog is in their kennel/crate.
While I also believe this is a great method to introduce your animals to one another and reduce the risk of them getting territorial, I can say that cats tend to be a bit too flighty for this. We choose to feed the animals in separate rooms, and once they seem ready we open the door to allow them to see each other.
Over time we then feed them together at all times, however in the case of Beau and Kalista we’ve had to continue to feed them separately since Beau is known to try to steal Kalista’s food. The sad/cute part of feeding our current cats separately is the fact that they miss each other during feeding time.
While yes, historically it can be assumed that dogs and cats never got along in the wild, it doesn’t mean that they cannot get along in the household. Most of the issues are because they don’t understand each other and can potentially bully one another. It’s the same as having a sibling in your family. There is no guarantee they will get along, but over time they will get used to each other and bond!