Can Cats & Dogs be Friends?

Socializing Cats & Dogs

Although not always possible, the best approach is to start socializing the pets while they are young. Ideally kittens should be socialized between 6 and 12 weeks and puppies between 8 and 16 weeks. This is when they start to work out the things around them that are safe and the things that they should be wary of.  If either animal has a bad experience with the other at this age, it is almost impossible to undo this fixed belief.  Allowing a kitten or puppy to meet a cat or a dog calmly and in a safe, controlled environment is more likely to result in a tension-free relationship over the long term.

Whether a little one or an adult, the first introduction is crucial and shouldn’t be rushed. Allowing the new cat or dog time to acclimatize with the new surroundings will allow them to relax so the introduction needs to be broken down into simple steps. It is important that both, but especially the cat, have a positive experience so that in the long term they feel comfortable and confident around each other. 

Here are some tips on how you can first socialize:

  • Keep the resident pet separated in the next room allowing the new pet time to explore, feel safe and relax. Don’t let either pet even see the other for the moment although it is good that they will probably smell and hear each other in the next room.
  • While they are both still apart, take an old towel and rub it all over the new cat or dog then take this into the other room where the resident pet is. Let him sniff the towel and get used to the new pet’s scent for an hour or so.
  • After a while, switch the pets around. Place each animal in the room where the other pet was making sure that both are calm and relaxed in that environment.  This gives them a chance to smell the other pet again and gain more confidence.
  • Next, place some treats for both of them on either side of the dividing door giving them both the chance to enjoy their food whilst the other pet is around. This provides a positive experience for both pets without feeling any threat at all.
  • Once the animals are less curious about sniffing each other underneath the door, allow the animals to see each other but preferably through a gate or screen door. This will make them both feel secure, especially if there is still some tension between them.  Use treats and patting to calm and reward both the animals.  This step might take quite a while, even days so be patient.
  • Once both are calm and relaxed, slowly allow more interaction. 

Other Ways to Increase the Bond

  • Spend quality time with each of the pets alone so that each feels spoilt and loved and this will help them both feel less resentful about the other. By each believing that they are the favorite, the “teacher’s pet”, neither will feel that it has to compete for the owner’s affection.
  • When playing boisterous games with the dog, make sure that he doesn’t disturb the relaxed environment of the cat who may be relaxing nearby. Similarly, try to develop a “no-go area” for each of the pets so that each has somewhere to escape to. This is especially important to a cat and it can be in the form of a spare room, an enclosure or even just a semi-enclosed scratch pole.  Set the boundaries early and ensure that each pet knows the rules.
  • Provide separate water bowls. Cats love fresh, clean water and it only takes a dog seconds to mess up the bowl.
  • Feeding time for animals is an especially important time and if another animal is around, they will defend their bowl causing tension to set in. Feeding cats and dogs at the same time is no problem and can actually help to develop a routine where the pets are at least in the same vicinity as each other, but choose different areas for their food bowls to be placed.  Cats will prefer somewhere off the ground so that they know that they can relax whilst they eat without any threat of the dog coming along to steal their food.

Above all, be patient. Don’t force either pet on to the other and always allow them an escape route if stressed or upset.  They are, after all, different species with different personalities and were never intended to be best friends.  If they do begin to enjoy each other’s company, it will be in their own time with just a little bit of encouragement from you.