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Ask the SPCA: Cats and dogs

December 6, 2018

I’d really like to adopt a cat, but I already have a dog. Is that a problem?

Contrary to popular belief, cats and dogs can live in harmony. Here are a few tips for selecting a feline housemate for your dog.

1.) Choose a cat previously socialized to dogs. Most cats can adapt to dogs even when they have never encountered one. However, a cat who has lived with a friendly dog as a kitten is more likely to be completely comfortable around new dogs as an adult.

2.) Choose a cat with a temperament most likely to enjoy your dog’s behaviour. Cats have different temperaments. Bold, extroverted cats will probably appreciate the frolics of a curious and playful dog, while very timid cats will be more comfortable with calm, laid-back dogs.

Avoid adopting a very active and playful cat with a dog who is easily excitable. These dogs have a strong desire to chase anything fast moving, be it a ball, skateboard or cat. This can cause the cat to become defensive and aggressive.

When you bring your new cat home, introduce him to your dog in a way that gives him full control over the interaction. He should have his own (no dogs allowed) room with a comfortable, covered bed, a litter box, and food and water. During the first few days, visit your cat often (without your dog). Sit on the floor and let him come to you.

Once your cat shows relaxed and welcoming behaviour towards you, he can meet his canine housemate. Sit on the floor (away from his bed) with your dog under control – preferably lying down – and allow the two to meet. Keep the visits short and leave a treat for your cat each time. Repeat until he shows relaxed and greeting behaviour towards you and your dog.

At this point, your cat can now run free. Continue to monitor him, watching closely for your dog’s reaction when he runs and when he approaches her food bowl or bed. With your positive assurances to your dog that the cat is part of the family group, the introduction should go smoothly.

One final caution: Dogs with strong predatory tendencies towards animals should not be around cats. If you are unsure whether your dog has these tendencies, have a behaviourist or dog trainer assess her.

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