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Set up Cats & Dogs for Success

by Anne-Marie Mayes

In addition to my 5 dogs I also have a cat named Henry.  Some of you may have met him as he enjoys meeting the dogs and visiting the training space. Henry was a part of the household before my current dogs were adopted. To this day it is entertainment living with the mix of species.  I have also coached many clients on how to have cats and dogs cohabitate efficiently within their household. 

In my experience, it seems that the majority of owners are adding a dog to a home with a cat. When you are choosing a puppy or dog to bring into your household, I suggest taking into account the size that the dog will be (or is) as well as the breed tendencies.  Even if your cat has lived with dogs before do not assume that your cat will enjoy the company of another dog, as personalities matter.    What is the personality of your cat? Are they skittish or more outgoing and curious? Do they spend their time indoors or do they have an outdoor area?  If your cat is shy or reserved, a smaller or laid back, quiet dog would be a better match.  I usually recommend adopting a puppy as they are more adaptable and start off small allowing your cat to adjust to them as they grow and mature. If you are adding an adult dog, ask the breeder/guardian if the dog you are considering has been socialized with cats or lived with them. Choosing a dog with minimal prey drive/herding instincts and a high willingness to work with you and learn will make the transition smoother.

Make a plan instead of leaving the first greeting up to chance. You will have much more success if the first interaction you have is positive for both dog and cat.

Before the dog arrives, prepare your house and give the cat areas where they can get away from the dog. Use a baby gate – put it low so the cat can jump over or higher so the cat can go underneath. Allow the cat places to get up higher where the dog can't bother them. Pay attention to where the cat likes to sleep and train the dog to sleep in a different area.

I have also noticed that every year when our seasons change, new challenges occur with the relationship between dogs and cats.  When it is summer time the dogs spend more time outside so the time spent together is more manageable. Once it starts to get colder they are forced to spend more time together in the house.  Some issues that have occurred in my household are that the dogs do not like me to give attention to the cat, or when Henry moves around the house the dogs enjoy chasing him.  I have mentioned in other articles that dogs need more mental stimulation in the house when it is colder as they are not spending as much time outside.  Cats also need more mental stimulation in the winter months as they are spending more time with the dogs inside.

If you are adding a dog to your cat's household, create a plan ahead of time to set them up for success. If issues arise, deal with them through training and management instead of ignoring them or hoping they will resolve on their own.

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