Cats and Dogs Can Live Together in Peace

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Guest Post by Becky Wilcox

Sometimes merging two households becomes a great deal more complicated when one of the parties has a dog and the other has a cat. This is just one of many challenges and adjustments that people make when they move in together, and their beloved pets have to make adjustments as well.

Sometimes two dogs will not like each when introduced to the concept of sharing their living quarters and sometimes two cats will never seem to get along. In the best circumstances, the pets will quickly adapt and learn to like each other, playing together and not displaying any jealousy or aggressiveness when food is presented. Sometimes two pets will tolerate each other, they negotiate a truce over some issues and establish boundaries over the first few weeks that they are together. And, sadly, sometimes pets have such strong personalities or quirks that they never accept another pet in the home and the pet parents are faced with finding a different home for one of them.
It can be more complicated when introducing a new pet of a different species to a home that has been dominated by another, especially if both pets are mature and have developed their own expectations of what is “normal” to them. We wrote about tips for bringing home a new kitten in our post, “What to Expect When You Bring a New Kitten Home,” with good information for bringing home a kitten and helping them adapt to their new surroundings. It also has tips for helping two cats get acquainted. But that post assumes you are a cat person and that there is no dog present.

If you are bringing a cat or new kitten to a home that has been dominated by a dog, or introducing a new dog to a home that has been ruled by one or more cats, there are other adjustments and methods that may help. Steps to introduce a dog to a cat that worked for us:

  • Create a safe room for the cat, with litter box, water and food bowl easily accessible and keep the cat in the room at least one night.
  • Take bedding from the cat and place it next to the dog’s sleeping area, and take bedding from the dog and place it next to the cat’s sleeping area.
  • While the dog is safely inside a crate, allow the cat to enter the room and walk about freely for about an hour.
  • Take the door for a long walk and place the cat in a crate so when the dog returns it can investigate safely.
  • With the dog on the leash, have him sit in the same room as the cat in the crate and open the crate door to allow the cat to walk about. Praise the dog for remaining calm.

In my personal experience, we had a cat that ruled the home and was “imposed upon” by introducing a small dog when I took in a roommate. My cat was not very friendly toward the dog and it took about two months for them to build a truce and accept each other. They began to play together and became friends. But the first couple of days were stressful for everyone and I was not sure that co-habitation was going to work – thankfully no one was attacked or hurt, just wary of each other. What we discovered is that the dog needed to have a safe place for retreat, so we installed a dog door to allow the dog outside in our backyard. We turned to the internet to find the best dog door, and now that the dog can come and go as he needs, each pet can enjoy some privacy during the day.

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