We all know the phrase ‘to fight like cats and dogs’, but we’ve also seen countless adorable YouTube videos of cats and dogs cuddling like besties. So which is it - are they enemies, frenemies, or best friends for life?
It’s true that in nature, you wouldn’t necessarily find cat and dog species socialising and becoming friends - quite the opposite, often. But in a domestic setting, where so many people have a mix of pets, these fabled foes can actually get along like a house on fire. It all comes down to how they’re raised and socialised with each other.
If you’re adding a new pet to your family or just curious about how to achieve harmony between moggies and mutts, the tips below can help.
5 Ways to help create a happy cat-and-dog home
- Train your dog. If your dog doesn’t learn to manage her impulses, the chances are she’ll lunge at a cat the first chance she gets. Think about it: a dog who leaps at a dropped crumb or zooms towards neighbourhood squirrels is likely to display the same behaviour towards a cat. Teach your dog self-control from an early age.
- Try to introduce them at a young age. If at all possible, bring the two species together as babies or youngsters. Young animals are still developing and haven’t yet grown intolerances towards other animals. They also aren’t fighting for dominance or territory. They’ll get to know and love each other, and bond as siblings.
- Bring them together in a controlled way. As soon as you bring your new pet home, start introducing them to the other furry members of the household, but through a barrier. For example, set up a baby gate, use a crate, or let them sniff at each other underneath a closed door. This helps them to get used to each other’s presence and smell. You’ll know when it’s ‘safe’ to take away the barrier when they stop getting agitated or nervous at the sight or smell of each other. At this stage you can let them socialise together, but only under supervision. Watch for signs of aggression, and never leave your animals together unsupervised.
- Try positive reinforcement. Start by feeding them close to each other (not right next to each other - just close enough to see each other). This helps your pets associate the positive feelings around eating with each other. When they interact or play well together, give each animal a treat. Encourage good behaviour by making a fuss of them, but make sure never to favour one over the other. Negative reinforcement may also be necessary when it comes to undesirable behaviours. You can use a spritzer bottle of water on your cat as a deterrent, while for dogs, try time-outs in their kennel.
- Give each animal their own space. Make sure each of your pets has a space that is exclusively theirs. This is a bit easier with cats - they can jump onto high cupboards or perches, or they may have cat castles with several tiers they can climb up. For dogs, a kennel works well. Usually it’s more important for cats to have this space than dogs, as dogs are more often the aggressor, and cats must have a safe, out-of-reach space to escape to. Always look out for aggressive behaviour from your dog.
A harmonious pet household starts with you
Cats are often calm, aloof and averse to chaos; dogs are generally a lot more exuberant and prone to big, noisy, boisterous behaviour. This is why the two sometimes don’t get along - but if they’re raised together in a loving, positive and nurturing environment, they can come to tolerate each other - or even become friends.
It’s up to you to take the lead! Good luck - it’s more achievable than you may think.
Disclaimer: Always consult your vet for professional advice. The Zuki.co.za blog is provided as an educational tool and should not be used to diagnose illness or treat an animal.