There are few things more heartwarming than affection across species. Every person who lives with a cat or dog knows how magical these relationships can be.
The explosive virality of videos that show mother hens “nursing” orphaned kittens or a chimpanzee befriending leopard cubs shows how much we admire this kind of unlikely friendship.
We who have both a dog and a cat in our home are able to witness this interaction every day. But not all dogs and not all cats are destined for friendship. However, taking a few precautions to introduce a new animal to your home can go a long way to ensure that everyone in your house gets along at least civilly.
Let’s look at this from the perspective of introducing a cat into a home with an existing dog resident.
Before the first introduction, the animals should be separated within the home but moved from place to place, so that each animal is able to become accustomed to the scent of the other.
Ideally, the dog will eventually become less obsessed with the fact that there is a feline in its home. Likewise, after a couple of days of being around the dog’s scent, the cat may be feeling safe and confident enough to meet the new roommate.
Once the cat seems relatively confident in the home, and the dog is not demonstrating obsessive behaviours toward the location where the cat is segregated, they may be introduced.
The first meeting should be brief and the dog should be tightly controlled with a leash. Signs of danger include obsessive staring at the cat and any signs of aggression.
While the dog will be controlled by the leash, be very aware and cautious, because a cat is not defenceless and can do significant damage to a dog if feeling threatened.
Ideally, you might find a cat that has already had experience living with the dog, or vice versa. Success can also depend on the individual personality of each animal.
A confident cat is most likely to welcome a dog as a cohabitant. A timid cat is likely to run away, sparking a dog’s natural instinct to chase.
After several tightly controlled visits, the animals will be come accustomed to being in the same room together and become relaxed in each other’s company.
On the other hand, there are obvious signs that efforts to integrate a new pet will fail, such as if a dog, while leashed, attempts to attack the cat aggressively. Barking, growling and lunging are other signs that either the matchmaking is unlikely to be successful or could take a significant length of time.
Professional training may help the integration of a new pet, but keep in mind it may be unrealistic and the match may not be work in the end.
If the introductions do go well and the animals appear destined for friendship, or at least, mutual respect, they should nevertheless under no circumstances be left unsupervised in the home until you are absolutely certain that they will not harm each other – typically a month or so, but cases vary.
Ultimately, a vast number of households consist of dogs and cats who have made accommodations for one another. Be patient, be cautious and seek the help of an animal behaviour expert if things get challenging.
Photo: Recently adopted – Voodoo.