You love your pets equally. There’s no way you could choose between them or prioritize one over the other. So when they’re not getting along, it can be particularly painful. You want them to love each other as much as you love them -- but getting there can be a challenge.
But while the struggle is real, it’s very much worth it! Having cats and dogs that get along makes your life easier, and it also enriches theirs.
Here are 3 smart tips on how to help cats and dogs get along:
1 Prepare your space properly
If you’re introducing a cat to a dog or vice versa, be mindful of how your space is set up. For example, if you’re bringing a puppy back to your house for the first time, consider getting baby gates so your cat will have a room or two to escape to (not to mention so you can protect those floors from getting peed on).
Pet experts say that when trouble happens between a cat and dog, it’s usually the dog instigating (often without meaning to). So it’s particularly important to set your little family up for success by prepping the environment. For example, put the litter box somewhere the dog can’t reach it, so the cat can go to the bathroom in peace.
Similar to when two humans are meeting for the first time, you want to give your cat the space it needs to feel comfortable going at its own pace. If it has nowhere to go if it feels uncomfortable, it may hiss and scratch. Avoid bad behavior and encourage good behavior by giving your cat a safe space in the first place. Setting up elevated areas like perches is particularly helpful, since dogs can’t reach them.
- Use smells
Don’t expect two animals from two completely different species to just get along right away -- it takes time. Pet experts actually recommend keeping the pets separate at the beginning, and waiting 3 or 4 days before actually having the animals meet face to face. If you try to force cats and dogs together suddenly, they’re more likely to fight or associate the other with conflict. But if you go slowly and respect each one’s needs, you can have a bonded pair in time.
The best thing to do is keep them in separate rooms, out of sight from one another, until they’re both peaceful and calm. Then start by mixing the animal scents by petting the cat, then petting the dog (and vice versa), while the pets are in separate rooms.
Next, alternate which rooms they’re in. This way they can sniff where the other has been, without the animal’s actual presence. Scents are an important way animals get to know each other, so it helps for them to become familiar with the other’s scent before meeting.
Finally, try taking a towel and rubbing your dog with it. Place that towel under your cat's dish, so they get to know it. If possible, you can try feeding the cat and dog on separate sides of the same door. This forces each to adjust to the smell of the other.
- Give equal love
Like humans, animals get jealous when the “new kid” is getting more attention. Be sure to show your pets equal love as you introduce them to one another. Demonstrating to both of your pets that they are loved -- and that you don’t fear the other animal -- goes a long way.
Show love, too, by pacing yourself as well as the animals in terms of their sessions together at first. Give them some time together and lots of time apart at first. The name of the game is adjustment. This won’t be an overnight process, but it’s well worth it.