Cat and dog at the same household: how to establish pack order and communication correctly
There are people who prefer dogs, and others who love cats more. In this situation when it comes to adopting a pet there is no question when a person chooses between cat and dog. But what should a person do if cats and dogs seem an equally good choice and moreover if this person would like to adopt both but wants them to coexist peacefully? In this situation proper pets’ upbringing and owners’ positioning would help to avoid conflicts between pets.
Of course, there are cats and dogs that will become friends instantly and without any help from the owners’ part. For example, your pet might find a friend in the courtside or accept other species of animals problem-free. If this is your situation we can only congratulate you, but unfortunately, this happens not so often and many owners have to work hard to achieve peace and friendship in their multi-pet home.
The first meeting of two animals is a very important thing. If on this stage a mistake occurred it will be very hard to correct it in future. If you want to eliminate excessive negative feelings of pets towards each other during their first contact you need to calm down them at first. A dog must see a cat in the owner’s hands, and a cat needs to see a dog when the owner pats it. If a cat enters the household with preexisting dog you better do the following: enter your home holding a cat, pat it to calm down and next pat your dog – repeat these actions several times. It would be optimal if one of the owners will keep the dog leashed and the person with the cat will wear clothes with long sleeves in case the cat scares and puts out its claws. If a dog enters the home with preexisting cat you should do all the above mentioned procedures, only this time a cat will be at home in owners hands and a dog will be entering on a leash.
Such positioning – a cat in hands – helps pets to understand that a cat is placed higher than a dog in pack hierarchy. However, a dog won’t be happy to accept it and this process will take some time.
You might wonder why a cat has to be “the boss”. If your dog sees your cat on a lower place in the pack order, than your dog will start bothering your cat taking away its food and trying to “train” the cat. This might not be so critical when you have a toy dog, when positions change and cat might start “training” a toy dog. Another important moment concerns psychological differences of these species of animals. A dog is not prone to offend members of its pack that are placed upper than it, and will defend them instead. However, a cat can show aggression if another pet will try to dictate its rules. But when a cat sees itself as a pack leader it will be able to cooperate with other pack members and will defend them. The above-mentioned works in all cases: when pets play, meet strange animals or feel threat from a human. For example, my two cats and dog always meet guests together and are equally friendly to them (if this is a friend, or someone they know), or equally hostile hissing and grinning at them (if this is a strange person).
To avoid conflicts it is better to feed your pets separately during first two-three days. When they got used to each other’s odour at home you can start joint feeding that will also help to form pack hierarchy.
Before the feeding of your pets you need to eat something yourself. The thing is that according the animal rules the pack leader eats first, than older members of the pack, and last are the youngest. Even if you are not hungry you can have a peace of an apple or meat just to show your privileged place in the hierarchy. In this situation it is the fact of eating that matters not the amount of food. After you had a bite you can start feeding your pets.
First goes a cat (or cats, if you have more than one). If you have two or more cats you start with the one that you want to be the leader of your cat pride. It would be the best choice if you can place cat bowls in the place where dog cannot reach them: on a windowsill, cupboard or any other place higher than your dogs’ nose. In this case your doggy won’t be able to lick off the cat’s food and it will be easier for you to control your dog and prevent it from keeping cats off the food. But don’t send the dog away from the place of feeding. It would be better if it sees how you eat first, than cats, and only afterwards comes the dogs’ turn. This moment is very important for the dog, which understands and accepts such pack order as the results of such feeding procedure. Of course, this doesn’t mean that your dog won’t hesitate to eat the food in the cats’ bowl that remained after it finished eating. But at least the dog won’t behave aggressively toward the cat during feeding. Also remember that it will take some time for your dog to get accustomed to this pack hierarchy, so you need to keep the above mentioned ritual of feeding every time your pets eat.
Most likely cats will choose themselves where to sleep. You can buy dozens of cat houses, but usually the owner finds his cat anywhere but not in this cozy house. But if you still decided to allocate the certain place for your cat choose an eminence. This might be a special pedestal, house or place on the windowsill where the dog cannot reach your cat.
As with all other procedures, this “upper place” also plays a role in forming the right hierarchy. In the wild world the pack leader always sleeps higher than other members of its pack. That is why it is not recommended to let your dog sleep with you in bed (of course, it depends on the size and character of your dog, but first-time dog owners better follow this recommendation). If you are not against a cat sleeping in bed than it won’t do any harm.
Playtime and walks
When pets got used to each other and you see that they accept each other as pack members you can start taking them for a walk together or letting them outside by themselves (if you have a fenced yard or live in the countryside). Of course, in the city you can walk with your cat on a breast band only and most of the time you will have to hold your cat in hands. But if you a happy owner of the house with a vast territory, than after you helped your pets to establish the proper and respectful relationship between them, you can let them outside together.
For sure, your cat will find what to do in the open air, but sometimes it also will be happy to spend time playing with your dog. First two-three times you better watch over your pets when you let them out, just in case something goes wrong. However, if you did everything right, most likely you will just enjoy watching their interaction. Only one bad thing might happen – your pets might damage you flowerbeds in the heat of play.
Author: Alena Morgunovskaya