By Dogs’ Homes of Tasmania
First impressions count
Dogs and cats can live together peacefully and become great companions. Many cats come to realise that dogs are warm and make good cushions! Many dogs enjoy the curious and playful behaviour of cats.
The younger dogs and cats are when first introduced the better however, older animals can also make the adjustment. There are steps you can take which make this process easier for your animals and for you.
The key to a happy and lasting friendship is to make the introductions slowly and gradually.
The first encounters should be totally supervised.
Separate areas of the house for the first few days allow cats and dogs to get to know each others sounds and smells without an actual confrontation.
Keep your dog on a lead for the first few face-to-face meetings just in case the dog gets that urge to chase!
The power of praise
A few short sessions together (with your dog on lead) can be enhanced by providing special food treats.
For example, a little roast chicken for both will help each animal make positive associations with each other’s company.
When you do let your dog off the lead, ensure that the cat has a get-away route and somewhere to go that is out of reach, just in case.
Praise your dog when he ignores the cat. If your dog can learn that he gets lots of your attention by ignoring the cat, he is more likely to do so.
Supervise closely for the first few weeks and provide periods of time-out where the cat and dog have separate space.
Cats like things to stay the same and the introduction of anything new, be it another animal, human guest or even a new piece of furniture, can be a source of anxiety to cats.
Just as some young children are jealous of a new baby coming into the household, a resident cat can also feel most put-out at the arrival of a puppy or adult dog.
Each of your companion animals needs your time and attention; try not to favour the new animal by fussing over it and giving it more affection during this settling in phase.
Conflict is less likely when each animal has their own bed, food bowl and toys. Cats appreciate some personal space on higher ground, out of reach of an exuberant puppy or adult dog.
Tips for happier relationships
If you are thinking of adopting a dog and you already have a cat, consider steering clear of hunting and herding breeds. The chase instinct is hard-wired in many of these breeds.
If you have more than one dog, don’t let them gang up on the cat. Introduce the cat to one dog at a time so that each dog learns that it is a family member not a prey object.
Make sure the cat gets plenty of opportunities to stalk and play with other things besides the dog’s tail.
Never use punishment when trying to train your dog to leave the cat alone. Yelling at your dog for chasing the cat could make your dog anxious and result in the dog disliking the cat even more.
Alternatively, your dog might enjoy the attention it gets from you when it chases the cat so yelling or growling at the dog could reinforce the behaviour. For many dogs, any attention is good attention!
Ensure your dog does not have access to cat litter trays. Dogs can and do eat cat droppings.
For more helpful tips on how to care for your dog, visit the Dogs’ Homes of Tasmania website http://dhot.com.au/