Choosing between getting a cat or a dog can be difficult if you love both animals. But despite popular belief, you may not have to choose one or the other.
And if you do look after more than one pet you can take advantage of our 15% multi-pet insurance discount if you put your cats and dogs on the same policy. Check our pet insurance here.
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Can cats and dogs coexist?
Cats and dogs get along just fine when sharing a home, according to a study published by Live Science in 2008.
Take, for example, Henry the dog and Baloo the cat who have become an online sensation. Henry’s owners adopted him in 2014 and took him on their travels. They recently added rescue cat Baloo to their nomadic group and he and Henry quickly hit it off.
These two make the ‘fighting like cats and dogs’ metaphor seem kind of inaccurate. And they are not the only ones.
A few years back a rescue dog in Iowa called Lily, was nominated for an award for raising five orphaned kittens like her own.
Even unlikely breeds like German Shepherds and Huskies have been spotted raising kittens.
A video published by the Daily Mail shows a German Shepherd looking after five kittens.
And Lilo the Husky, who’s never had puppies and was spayed the day before she met Rosie the kitten, has maternal instincts and nurtured Rosie back to health. Rosie is now part of a pack of three huskies. They play together and even go out for walks as a group.
Similar behaviour has been observed in cats too. Does anyone remember the video of the Carolina cat who adopted a litter of puppies after their mum rejected them? In the video, Miss Kitty is seen to move every single kitten all the way across a garden to her spot, one by one.
Some believe these cases are rare. As Dr John Bradshaw, an honorary research fellow at the University of Bristol’s vet school, explains in a 2015 piece for The Guardian, dogs were domesticated around 5,000 years before cats and were more respected until the Egyptians came around.
Cats would have often had to fight for scraps of food on the streets of impoverished regions and hunt at night to avoid fighting with dogs over food. And to make matters worse, kittens would have become prey to starving dogs, according to Dr Bradshaw.
So, it could be argued that cats and dogs are historically wired as enemies.
But if you want both a cat and a dog we've found some tips to build a harmonious relationship between them.
How to get a cat and a dog to bond
Keep these things in mind when making initial introductions:
- Keep the pets in separate rooms for some time
- Introduce them to each other’s smells first
- Help them associate each other’s scents with pleasant things, such as praise, treats and food
- Use some kind of transparent separation device when you make the first face-to-face introduction, such as a baby gate
- Make further meetings safe by putting your dog on a lead and keeping them a safe distance apart
- Make sure your cat has somewhere the dog can’t follow it
Begin by introducing their smells to each other. You might want to let your cat roam the flat while your dog is away or confined to one room, so it can get used to the dog's smell and then the other way around.
If both pets are new, keep them in separate rooms and if they show they’re ready to explore, allow them to become familiar with the house in turns. This will also help them get used to each other’s smells naturally.
If a pet is not ready to leave the safety of one room, you can use a piece of clothing, a towel or any soft fabric to stroke one pet with and then introduce it to the other, and vice versa. Putting the item somewhere near, or even under, their food bowl might be a good way to help them associate the new smell with pleasant sensations.
Most importantly, let each pet smell the other pet on you. Have contact with both, don’t wash your hands or do anything that will mask the smell of the other pet, and alternate between the two rooms.
When your new pet has finally become comfortable with the sounds, smells and environment of its new home, it's time to make face-to-face introductions.
It’s good to prepare them by keeping the pets separated using a screen door or a gate that the dog can’t climb over. This will give you a good indication of whether they’re ready to be in the same room together.
When it’s time for a barrier-free introduction, have someone assist you. Keep the dog on a lead and a safe distance away from your cat. Let them observe each other. Show equal amounts of affection to both pets because you don’t want to give them reasons to be jealous.
Dogs are loyal animals, so they are likely to follow your cues. If you show you like the cat and make it clear it’s your cat, they are less likely to try to hurt it, even if they’re not enamoured of it.
Be alert in case either pet becomes over-excited the first few times you make face-to-face introductions as this can make the dynamics intense and make the cat (or dog) retreat and hide.
Praise good behaviour verbally, with treats and lots of positive body language. Dogs love that. Help your pets create a positive association with being in each other’s presence.
Dogs are often seen as the most likely aggressors but we’ve all seen plenty of YouTube videos of cats chasing dogs so keep prejudice at bay and tune into your pets’ moods. You want to avoid a rough first encounter as it would mean getting off on the wrong paw.
And be patient. Some cats and dogs might take longer to become friends, others might be instant buds. It is believed that some breeds are friendlier towards the other species than others.
Dog-friendly cat breeds
These felines have been suggested as the breeds that best get along with dogs:
- Abyssinian Cat
- American Short-Haired Cat
- Japanese Bobtail Cat
- Birman Cat
- Maine Coon Cat
- Norwegian Forest Cat
- European Burmese
Cat-friendly dog breeds
The following breeds are the often cited as dogs that get along with cats:
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Golden Retriever
- Labrador Retriever
- Bichon Frise
Keep in mind that like humans, cats and dogs have individual personalities. So, you might want to refrain from assuming they’ll get along just because you’ve got a King Charles Spaniel and a Ragdoll.
Their ages and backgrounds can also influence the dynamics of their relationship and may call for a more specific approach. You might have to adjust the bonding process, turn the volume up on some elements, take away others and delay certain stages.
For example, young pets are likely to want to play, but if you’ve got an excited puppy that chases anything that scurries along and a timid kitten, you might want to avoid face-to-face encounters until your puppy’s got enough obedience training to heed your ‘stay (don’t chase the cat)’ commands.
And an older cat that wants to nap and observe in peace might not appreciate a puppy’s energetic attempts at play.
According to Vetstreet.com, the best combination is an adult dog and a kitten.
Traditionally, it is considered best for a cat and a dog sharing a household to be raised together from a young age. Another near-perfect scenario is adopting a cat and a dog that lived together in the past.
However you find yourself owning a cat and dog, the way you look after them can make a big difference to how quickly they become friends.