Despite popular belief, cats and dogs can really get along. Several factors determine on how easy it is to train cats and dogs to co-exist, including both animals’ ages and previous history with other pets. However, the most important factor is how owners go about in introducing the two animals to each other.
There are a few steps that need to be taken before beginning the process. First, the owner needs to make sure he/she is always in control of the situation and monitors both pets until they can get along. Second, the owner needs to see which pet is dominant. They can figure this out by observing the dog in the cat in the same environment; the animal that walks towards the other one is dominant while the one that looks away is submissive. Contrary to animal stereotypes, the cat is usually dominant.
Introducing the animals to each other is a slow process. In the beginning, the owner should keep an eye out on the submissive animal. Allow both animals to smell each other’s belongings, such as chew toys and bedding. When they are accustomed to each other’s scent, let them observe each other in the same room. Afterwards, let them approach each other at their own comfortable pace. This can take as long as a few days or weeks.
There are certain behaviors that need to be discouraged. A dog and cat staring at each other needs to be stopped with a firm tug at the dog’s collar and an authoritative “No” to the cat. In the animal kingdom, staring an animal down will usually lead to a fight. Cat should not be allowed to make angry swipes at the dog or hide for long periods of time. Swiping leads to aggressive behavior from both animals, and hiding for hours only makes the “getting to know you” process longer. Pet owners also need to watch out for excited dogs. Excitement and wild actions dramatically increases the cat’s stress. Be stern when calming the dog down.
In addition, there are a few behaviors and steps that should be encouraged. Positive behavior should always be rewarded verbally or physically. (Be careful of giving out treats, as this can create competition between the two animals.) It is also important to give breaks to the animals. Allow them time apart to decrease the level of tension and stress they may be feeling.