Do you feel like you’re spending a lot of time playing referee between your dog and your cat? If they’re not bickering over the favorite spot on the couch, then they’re fighting over treats… or maybe Spot simply can’t resist the urge to chase Fluffy through the house.
Keeping the peace in a multi-species household can be a challenge. Is it even possible for them to live under the same roof without one of them getting hurt? Will you have to keep them separated at all times? Or, even worse, will one of them have to be rehomed for everyone’s safety?
Don’t give up on your multi-species family just yet! In most cases, with a little training and a whole lot of patience, it is possible to keep your cat and dog from fighting like cats and dogs. They may never love each other the way you love them, but we’ve got some tips to help you keep the peace.
Train them together and individually.
If you want to help your dog and cat get along, start by training them individually before you work on training them together. They need to learn their boundaries and what’s expected of them individually because that will help them understand what they’re supposed to do around other pets.
Use positive reinforcement, not punishment.
Many people think the punishment is the only way to get their point across, but in reality, you’ll get a lot further with positive reinforcement. Instead of yelling when your dog and cat bicker, offer rewards, like treats and affection when they’re calm.
Over time, reinforcing good behavior can actually lead to them wanting to hang out together and get along because they know it means yummy treats and extra affection from you.
Use sensory cues.
Sensory cues are invaluable for animals, so it makes sense to take advantage of this when you’re trying to teach your pets to get along. Scent swapping is a great technique to try because animals are so scent oriented. Try swapping out their blankets or beds to help them get used to each other’s scent.
Desensitization can also be helpful for getting them used to each other’s sounds from a safe distance. Recordings of dog or cat sounds played at a low level are great for this. That way, when they’re close together and one barks or the other hisses, it won’t set off a fight.
Give them each their own space.
Even though the goal is for your dog and cat to get along, forcing them to be together all the time can have the opposite result. Just like humans, animals need their own space where they can relax, nap, and eat without feeling stressed.
For your dog, that might be a cozy crate in an out of the way corner. Cats will appreciate a cat tree where they can get up high away from the rest of the household when they need some time on their own.
Keeping them both safe is your first priority.
When you’re teaching your pets to get along, your first priority should be to keep them both safe. If your fur babies are just getting to know each other, it’s normal for them to feel stressed and maybe even threatened.
At first, you’ll want to use two levels of safety. It may seem like overkill, but it’s better to be safe than have a tragedy occur if they get into a fight. So, keep a leash on your dog that you can use to quickly get him under control, and put up a baby gate so your cat has a safe place to retreat to where the dog can’t get to him.
And always keep them confined in separate areas of the home when you can’t be there to supervise.
Have fun together.
Don’t underestimate the power of fun, especially when you’re trying to get your dog and cat to get along. Play games with them together, like training games or teaching new tricks. Just be sure to keep the games low key so nobody gets too worked up and becomes reactive.
You don’t have to do it all by yourself.
If, despite your best efforts, your dog and cat just won’t get along, don’t hesitate to reach out to professionals for help. Sometimes, it’s hard for pet parents to understand what’s causing their pet’s anxiety and misbehavior.
But a professional animal behaviorist or trainer knows how to recognize stress or phobias that could be causing your pets to react aggressively toward each other. They can also give you tips for managing their environment to keep everyone safe and encourage them to get along.
Choosing a New Pet to Introduce to Your Household
If you’re considering adding a new pet to your family, but you’re concerned about everyone getting along, these tips may help.
- Choosing a dog that will get along with your cat: First, be aware that certain dog breeds get along better with cats than others. At the same time, breeds like terriers, who were bred to hunt small animals, will probably present more challenges.
Be sure to consider the dog’s personality, as well as the breed, because every dog is different. Look for a dog with a calm disposition or consider adopting an adult dog that has already been around cats. Expect puppies to be more challenging because they are excitable and playful by nature, which probably won’t amuse your cat in the least.
- Choosing a cat that will get along with your dog: Every cat is different, but Maine Coon cats tend to get along well with dogs. There are also lots of adult cats in need of a good home, and they may already be used to having dogs around.
If you decide to get a kitten, consider your dog’s personality. Is he likely to play too rough or be aggressive and hurt the kitten? If so, you’ll have to be especially diligent during the training process.
Hopefully, these tips will help you establish a truce in your multi-species family. It will take some time, but eventually, they’ll at least learn how to cohabitate and stay out of each other’s way. With your patient training, a whole lot of love, and a little outside help, they might even eventually become best friends.