It is very common, now more than ever, for homes to have a slew of different pets–ranging from ferrets to gerbils to dogs to cats to chinchillas….and getting them to all get along with each other can seem like a daunting task. But starting with the basics, AKA cats and dogs, can actually be done pretty easily, if handled correctly. Cats and dogs have the potential to be BFFs, but make sure you follow these important socialization steps in order to achieve peace in the home amongst your furry friends!
- First, consider the personality of your cat and dog. If you already have a dog that is known to growl, bite or ‘manhandle’ cats or other smaller animals, it’s likely that this dog will not be happy with a cat around, thereby making the cat unhappy, too.
- Start them young! The best time to socialize a cat and dog is when the are still kittens/puppies. When young, cats and dogs have a more malleable palette for social encounters, and are more curious than protective.
- Separate the animals to introduce scent. Across a few days, rotate which animal has freedom and which is confined to allow each animal plenty of time to investigate the other’s scent. Sometimes the dog should be confined to a crate or another room (or taken to another location if they can’t be left alone) to allow the cat time to roam free and investigate the smell of the dog. Once the dog is calm (or at least not obsessed with the cat) and the cat is calm, eating and using the litter box normally, you can proceed to the next step. Make sure to never leave either animal unsupervised this early in the stages of socialization!
- Introduce the animals in person while keeping them secured on leashes. Make sure the dog is securely leashed before letting it go to explore the cat. Once the cat is calm–eating, walking around, ignoring the dog–and the dog is calm–ignoring or at least not obsessing over the cat–you can let them interact with each other with proper supervision.
- Once comfort on both ends is achieved, start allowing unsupervised interactions. This comfort is generally achieved after a month or so, so don’t rush the process! Ensure that they behave well together while being supervised before ever letting them interact together without being watched.
- Watch for warning signs. If your dog is still behaving aggressively towards the cat even after a month of training, consider seeking professional guidance or a better match. If your cat is seen swatting at your dog, hiding from it, not eating, or using the litterbox in front of family members, then your cat is likely unhappy. This also calls for professional guidance or reconsideration of matches between the animals.
As a whole, the best idea from the start would be to introduce each animal to each other when they are both very young and easily sociable. It is difficult to introduce a new furry sibling of different species to a pet that has already established themselves as part of your family and home. But if you follow these steps, you may find yourself jealous of your furry friends new relationship!
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