Can Cats and Dogs Get Along?
For dogs and cats, hunting and chasing small creatures is genetically hard-wired.
Originally, a few dog breeds were bred to hunt or kill other animals. Cats can trigger this predatory instinct and lead to a chase or attack if they see one.
Because of their smaller size, dogs are less likely to be seen as prey by cats.
A puppy or tiny “teacup” type dog might cause a cat to act aggressively. Cats may misunderstand a dog’s body language and become defensive or fearful.
Dogs and cats both display territorial behavior. When another animal enters the household, the current four-legged resident may feel threatened and become defensive.
It’s not uncommon for a resident cat to display aggressive or territorial behavior toward a new dog.
Dogs are more likely to chase cats they see as prey if they see those cats as prey.
Fortunately, proper introductions and training can change the way dogs and cats perceive each other and can create a positive experience.
Adopting a Dog or Cat Together or Separately?
Before mixing these two very different creatures, it is crucial to consider some factors to make sure cats and dogs get along.
To begin with, you must be confident that they will get along.
Do you think your current pet will handle the transition?
- Is he or she usually friendly and outgoing?
- How do they react to visitors?
- Have you ever had a dog chase a cat, or is it bred to hunt smaller animals?
Before adopting a kitten or dog from a shelter, ask if they get along with other animals and if they have a calm demeanor.
When adopting a kitten, it’s especially important to ensure that they don’t have a high prey drive, as they will be vulnerable.
Why Do Dogs and Cats Not Get Along?
Even though cats and dogs not get along, many pets can live together in harmony with proper training.
Dogs are natural predators, and cats are prey animals, so they each have their own defensive behavior. Many wild cat species, like domestic cats, live in areas where free-roaming wolves pose a threat, so it’s natural for cats to be terrified of dogs.
Dogs and cats also compete. Both want your attention. They both see you as a source of food and companionship, so it is likely that there will be some competition between them.
In addition, although dogs and cats both communicate using scents and body language, they speak two different languages. Cats and dogs cannot read each other’s signals, making it difficult for each species to ‘understand’ the other.
Dogs and Cats Living Together Does Size Matter?
Puppies of large breeds with high energy levels may overpower cats.
There are success stories of families with a larger or giant breed dog loving and cat.
When adopting dogs and cats, consider adopting them when they are young, say under one year of age, if you have your heart set on a family with a dog and a cat.
Even though it can be a lot of work, experts and pet owners agree that taking in both a cat and a dog within a short time of each other produces the best chance for successful bonding between the species.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links (Amazon Associate or other programs we take part in). As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
How To Keep Your Dog and Cat Apart?
Once you feel comfortable that both your cats and dogs get along, these extra precautions may not be necessary.
Dogs are much easier to confine than cats. You can opt to crate your dog as long as someone is available to come and let them out to use the restroom and play for a bit at lunch time.
Infant gates can work great for keeping a puppy confined, but your cat will see the gate as a minor inconvenience.
If crating is not an option, you may need to separate them by placing them into different rooms.
How to Introduce a Dog to a Cat?
Adopting a new dog - If you’re planning to adopt a dog, don’t bring your cat to meet him in a shelter or other place where there are lots of dogs. Instead, the introduction takes place at home.
Adopting a new cat - If you’re adopting a cat, don’t bring your dog into a shelter with you and expose him to the other cats. It could be highly stressful or traumatic for them. It is not necessarily a good sign of how the dog will behave at home.
If adopting at an animal shelter, ask whether they have any dogs who are good with cats and would meet your dog under control conditions.
An alternative would be to have a dog meet a cat who belongs to a family member or friend. If all else fails, you can always take your new kitten home and introduce them at home.
Plan to Prevent Unwanted Behavior
Preventing unwanted behavior is the best way to teach dogs and cats to accept each other.
It’s important to understand that even reprimanding a dog after he has already begun chasing may not be effective in stopping him from giving chase at the next opportunity. Why?
Because the thrill of chasing outweighs the reprimand of being caught. Positive reinforcement training aims to help dogs learn without punishing them for their mistakes.
We don’t want to force our dogs to choose one option over another; instead, we want to encourage them to make the choices we prefer. Behaviors that get rewarded are more likely to repeat. Make sure you reward positive behavior and punish negative behavior.
It will take both management and supervision to prevent unwanted behavior. If your dog gets more excited by chasing the cat, and if he has a stronger natural tendency to chase, you will move slower. Be patient.
Expect that the dogs and cats won’t be able to have unsupervised or uncontrolled access to each other for several months at least. If things improve faster, great – but don‘t rush it!
How to Introduce a New Dog to a Cat
How to get a cat and dog to bond? It is important to give a dog and cat time to adjust to a new situation. Don’t just throw the new pet in the mix and hope for excellent results.
Start slowly. The most important thing about the process is that you need to directly supervise both pets at every stage of the process.
You should not allow any unsupervised direct contact between the two animals until you are sure they will behave appropriately.
Be careful when supervising your pets. You don’t want them to get hurt. A nervous cat or dog may mistake you for an intruder and bite or scratch you.
Introductions should be carried out in steps, and each one should be performed when all pets are as relaxed as possible, like right after a meal.
Stay in control of the situation at all times. If you’re not sure, it’s okay to take a step back. This process can take several days, weeks, or months.
Creating a Cat Safe space
There’s no reason to rush introductions. Remember that it’s stressful for any animal to transition into another home, and each dog and cat has their own unique individual personalities.
Creating an “off-limit” zone for the cat allows the cat to decompress from the stress of the change while giving both animals time to get used to each other’s scents.
If you want your cat to stay in the kitty room, fill it with things she likes (food bowls, water bowls, cat bed and litter box). Close the door to avoid accidental encounters that could trigger a chase.
While giving the cat time to adjust to her new surroundings, you can begin helping her associate the smell and, sometimes, the sound of the cat and the new routines surrounding the cat with positive experiences.
When your dog looks at the cat showing no signs of aggression, that’s a wonderful moment to pet them both. If he’s lying next to you and suddenly hears the cat call out from the other room, instantly offer him a treat.
Ideally, you’ll be able to feed before the sound peaks his interest so much that he gets up and goes searching.
Final Thoughts on Dogs and Cats Living Together
It’s important to know your dog’s or cat’s personality and preferences before introducing another family member.
If you must combine them, or if you already have cats and/or dogs that don’t get along, speak to your vet, who may help you find a behaviorist for advice on how to manage the situation.
Read our blog post on Are you a Dog or a Cat Person?