Sabtu, 30 April 2011

Can Dogs and Cats Live Together?

We make a lot of jokes about the war between the species, but the reality is that hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats live together successfully. While it is no big deal after awhile, the introductions and the first few days of dog and cat cohabitation are critical. You do not want to just let them work it out on their own.

If You Have a Dog and Are Getting a Cat
When you bring it home, the cat really needs to have its own room. Even a bathroom will work. Let the cat get settled for a day, and make sure you and other housemates spend time with it in the room. After its settled a bit, bring the dog into the room, leashed, and let it watch the cat for a bit. If you are working with just a small bathroom, put the dog on a leash and bring the cat into the main room.

Let the cat explore with the dog on the leash. When it seems like the right time, let the dog off the lease and stay right next to it as it goes to check out the cat. Give the dog treats and pet the cat, if you can. The cat may run off, and this will make the dog run after the cat. Firmly, but clearly say no and have the dog come back and sit with you. Play with the dog, and keep watching the two. You want the dog to understand that cat-chasing is not acceptable.

If You Have a Cat and Are Getting a Dog
Puppies are easiest to introduce to cats. They certainly won't hurt the cat, but then you have to be very careful that a dominant cat won't scratch the puppy. Even a goofy puppy will figure out that it should stay away from the cat pretty quickly, though, and if you can give the cat some retreat spaces like the tops of bookshelves, the cat is much more likely to jump on the bookshelf than swat the puppy.

Almost all shelters will have information about whether or not the dogs they want to find homes for have lived with cats. Even if they know nothing about the dog, there's still "the cat test". The shelter will have a small room and bring an assistant holding a cat into it. They will settle in, and then you and your prospective dog will come into the room. At first you just sit and see how the dog reacts to the cat sitting in the person's lap. Then, sometimes, the person will put the cat on a countertop or on the chair and see how the dog does. If you really want to be sure, the assistant may then put the cat on the floor, but not so close the dog will be able to reach it. You can get a pretty good read by watching how the dog reacts, and the people at the shelter will know enough dog body language to tell you if your prospective dog is cat-friendly or not.

When you bring the dog home, keep him on a leash until the cats have come out. Let him see them, but make him stay put. Let the cats come to the dog, at least close enough to smell him. Then take the leash off and watch the pair very, very closely for the first few hours. If the dog lunges or chases the cat, scold him quickly and assertively. If the dog and the cat manage to peacefully sniff each other, give the dog a treat.

The No-Dog Zone
If you have enough room in your house, assign one room to be cat-only. Put up a baby gate, or a dog gate to keep the dog out. This gives the cat or cats a place where they can snooze without getting a wet dog nose in their ear. It also gives them a place to go in case of a spat between them and the dog.

If your two pets just started living together, or if one of them is especially young, old, aggressive or shy, the cat-only room becomes even more important. Even if its a puppy that is at the disadvantage, the cats will behave better if they can get their own space. It is also okay to put food and water and a litter box in this room if there is a lot of concern about keeping the peace. Interestingly enough, this technique also works if you are having a party or a lot of house guests. Just don't close the door -- then you are turning a safety zone into confinement.

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