We are all familiar with the cartoon dog endlessly chasing Tom round the garden and through the house and, all too often, this happens in real life too.
So can a dog and cat who don't know each other eventually live together in peace and become friends? The answer is yes, providing certain conditions apply and care is taken during introductions.
The cats primary defence against larger predators is flight.
For all that, dogs and cats are both social animals and as such, will often accept members of other species into their worlds, particularly if they have been socialised with them from a young age; after all, humans are a different species!
If a cat has been brought up with a dog, it is less likely to be fearful of them. Dogs that have been brought up with cats will be familiar with them, and less likely to chase or worry them.
Introducing a new dog to the home if you have cats, or a new cat to the home if you have a dog, can be problematic. However, it is not impossible, providing you have the right combination of dog and cat. The personalities of each are important.
Gentle, sweet-natured, or lazy dogs are more likely to be good with cats than strong-willed, active, alert dogs.
Strong-willed cats that stand their ground and hiss and spit, or swipe with a paw, are more likely to cope with a new dog, than the timid sort that run from everything.
Some dogs have a very high predatory drive and cannot be trusted with any small, fast moving creature. Some greyhounds are like this, and many terriers, whose recent ancestors were bred to catch and kill small animals. Terriers, especially Jack Russells, who have not been socialised with cats when young, rarely settle with cats or can be trusted with them.
Hounds, whose requirement for games of chase is high, can also torment cats if they have not grown up with them. Dogs bred for herding also enjoy chase games with cats, but they are more easily controlled.
As a cat owner who wants to own a dog, never choose a
stray, or ones you don't know the history of.
If you are a dog owner who wants to own a cat, think
carefully about whether your dog would be suitable first.
A word of caution to owners of more than one
Once you have decided on your new arrival, introductions
and early encounters are very important, and can make the difference between success
Unfortunately, you cannot expect them to make friends overnight, and allowing the dog too much freedom in the early stages can lead to the cat becoming too frightened to ever trust the dog again, as well as the dog learning how much fun it is to chase the cat.
Wait until the dog is showing no interest at all in the cat, before allowing it more freedom and, even then, leave a lead attached in case you need to stop it in a hurry!
Block up the cat flap for a while
Initially, it may be wise to give each its own territory.
Perhaps the cat could live upstairs while the dog lives
on the ground floor.
Since cats feel safer when they are on high vantage points, provide walkways out of the dog's reach if possible. This may entail temporarily moving furniture, clearing shelves, or securely propping up old tree branches against a wall.
Cats that know they can get out of danger if necessary, are more likely to venture down to meet the new arrival, than those who feel constantly threatened.
If you already have a cat and a new dog is coming into the family, feed the cat on work surfaces rather than on the floor. The cat will feel safer, and the dog is less likely to steal its food or interrupt it when it is eating.
Set up situations so that the cat and dog meet.
The dog must be restrained to prevent it from leaping about excitedly, or giving chase. Insist on perfect behaviour from your dog and you will be setting the scene for this to continue.
Allow your cat to go where it likes, but not to leave the room. Most of these encounters will be, or should be, uneventful.
Do not force them together, let them move at their own speed - which will probably be very slowly!
You will need time and patience if these two animals from entirely different species are to become friends. It probably will happen eventually, but until you are absolutely sure, do not leave them alone together.
Please also see Gwen Bailey's articles on
A Greyhoud or Lurcher in the Family and
Predatory Aggression in Lurchers and Greyhounds
Ingredients for the Perfect Puppy