Getting dogs and cats to get along can be a daunting task that many pet lovers face. Here are some tips.
By Guest Blogger, Howie Robleza,
The saying “fighting like cats and dogs” leaps to mind. But as many cute videos show us, dogs and cats can get along and become the best of playmates — it just takes a bit of understanding and patience.
In this post, we will explore why pets clash and give some tips on how to help your pets get along better.
Why pets often clash: the case for dogs and cats
First, cats and dogs are both predatory in nature. They are hereditarily hardwired to chase and hunt small creatures. Particularly in dogs, the breed has a huge impact on prey drive. For instance, terriers were originally bred to pursue, hunt, and kill vermin. This does not mean that terriers cannot get by with cats; however, they start with some difficulty.
The reverse is that cats are less likely to view dogs as prey largely because of size-related differences. But at times, a puppy or very small breeds of dogs can trigger a cat’s predatory instinct.
Secondly, both dogs and cats generally exhibit territorial behavior. The current resident pet of the household might feel uncomfortable with the presence of a new pet and turn out to be defensive. To show displeasure, dogs may growl and bark at a new cat. Likewise, cats may hiss and growl at a new dog. Both species may defecate or urinate inappropriately to vie for attention or to mark their territory.
What’s more, cats and dogs who are nervous or skittish, old or infirm, usually become anxious by the arrival of a new pet; therefore, think carefully about them before unsettling the household balance.
Training your pets to get along: Preventing cat and dog battles
It is advisable to ease a cat or dog into a new environment. Do not just bring a new pet into a new setting and expect things to work out flawlessly. You will be shocked; in no time, fur will be flying all over, and one of your pets could get hurt.
Well, consider the tips below if you want your pets to get along.
Make proper introductions
Your pets’ initial interaction could be on either side of a screen door or baby gate. If they are composed in that situation, go ahead and let them share the same room. This allows them to catch sight of each other but with a reduced risk of injury.
Pick a neutral space instead of one of the animal’s safe spots and let the cat roam free, so they can run away if they feel the need. Also, keep the dog close so that you can control their movement. Use a leash to do this.
Lastly, keep these meetings and introductions short and sweet. Try a number of these meetings each day for a week or two. Provide treats to both pets to build positive associations with their new friend. Consider setting aside a particular yummy treat for just these meetings, so your pets will be longing to see each other.
Another way to curb pet clashes is via obedience training. It would be best if you taught your dog that chasing other pets is intolerable. Teach your dog commands such as “stay,” “sit,” and “lie down.”
When an aggressive pet can respond to your commands, controlling them even in hostile situations becomes a lot easier. For instance, when another pet approaches, have your dog lie down and talk him out until the other pet has gone.
Of course, if the other pet comes up and starts a fight, your dog will lose trust in you and may not want to lie down again in such situations. Therefore, it is also advisable to ensure the other pet can cause no harm.
Create a “safe spot” for your pet
Create “safe spots” where your pet can escape and hide from your other pet whenever it feels threatened. Keep in mind that an aggressive pet, let’s say the dog, must not have access to “safe spots.” Usually, these “safe spots” are in higher places like bookshelves, the top of the refrigerator, or window perch. Consider a calming dog bed if it’s for your dog, particularly if you have an older dog.
Keep their toys and food separate.
Besides having a “safe spot,” you also need to create a different eating spot for each of your pets. Most importantly, keep their food bowls separate. At times, your cat may be tempted to grab something from the dog’s bowl. Never assume that your dog isn’t resource-protective or food-protective.
In addition, keep a close watch on the cat’s toys and playing items. Competition over toys might also trigger a fight.
While humans depend mostly on vision, animals like dogs and cats use sight and smell to assess their environs. So letting your dog and cat identify and accept each other’s scent is a vital process you should never disregard if you want them to get along.
There are various tricks to get them to recognize and accept each other’s scent quickly. For example, you can swap their bedding or rub a towel on your dog and place it next to your cat, and vice versa.
Always keep the situation positive.
Avoid scolding your pet in all circumstances. What image do you think it would create if you scold your dog each time they interact with the cat? Apparently, your dog will hate the cat more. The tension between them will, without doubt, increase in the long run.
Always capitalize on the positives. For example, if your dog is being cordial to the cat, praise and reward him. This will encourage him to continue to exhibit a more positive and friendly behavior towards the cat.
Exercise your pets’ body and mind
Like humans, pets need exercise — both mentally and physically — to stay healthy and happy. A bored dog might find an outlet in bothering the cat — or vice versa! Similarly, an idle cat might upset a dog that is simply minding his business or resting.
Ensure you provide your pets with lots of stimulation and exercise, making them less likely to get fulfillment from wrestling their fellow pets. Try taking twenty minutes to play with your pet, working with various toys to see what they love most.
Ask for help
If you have difficulties getting your cat and dog to become friends, there is no shame in asking for help. Sometimes, it is tough for pet owners to handle aggressive pets. Thus, contacting a certified cat and dog trainer or behaviorist would be best to diagnose and treat aggression, phobias, stress, anxiety, and reactivity towards one another.
All the best as you get started on this important journey! Hopefully, these tips and tricks can help establish a truce or keep peace in your multi-pet home. And again, keep in mind; with pets, as with human beings, it takes some time to make a friend.