Can cats and dogs live together?

Can cats and dogs live together? Get along? Even like each other? Of course! With the right introductions, your kitten and the family dog can become fast friends. According to the 2001/2002 American Pet Product Manufacturer's Association (APPMA) National Pet Owners Survey, 26 percent of people lucky enough to share their lives with a companion animal call at least one dog and at least one cat a part of their family.

There are inherent safety concerns when the kitten and the dog vary a great deal in size. After all, a well-meaning but bumbling big dog could squash a tiny kitten just by stepping on her. Besides this, certain dogs may view a scampering kitten as a tasty morsel. Fair play requires mention of the dangers of kitten claws to canine eyes as well, particularly in some of the dog breeds with more prominent eyes. In spite of these concerns, the vast majority of cat/dog relationships are positive ones. Many of the same kitten-to-cat techniques work just as well with kitten-to-dog introductions. Remember that dogs and cats are very different creatures. They have different languages, different social systems -- and want different things out of life. It's up to you, the owner, to understand them both and help them adjust to each other.

When introducing the new kitten to a canine companion, you should be the person who brings the baby into the house. That sends a message to the dog that his leader -- you -- have made this decision.

As with the kitten-to-cat introductions, the newcomer should remain in her own room for the first several days. Dogs that have been well-socialized to cats when they were puppies will likely display some curiosity and want to sniff at the door. Whines and even a few barks are fine. Be sure to watch the dog's whole body to "read" his true intent. Be alert for raised hackles -- the fur along the neck and shoulders stands up with excitement and potential aggression. He may growl, or wag his high-held tail with excitement. Let the dog sniff your hands and clothes after you've spent time with the kitten. He should have a good idea of what's inside the room long before a face-to-face introduction takes place. Dogs often consider you to be the most important part of their territory, and so take care that he doesn't feel neglected. Try to spend extra time with your dog, and interact with the kitten in her room when the dog is outside taking care of business or playing.

Once the kitten room has become old stuff, and any growls or raised hackles have subsided, it's time to let the kitten explore the house. You can send the dog outside to the yard with another person to play a game and keep him distracted.

Remember, the kitten won't care to meet your dog until she's familiar with the environment. It is paramount she have the opportunity to explore the house uninterrupted prior to a face-to-face introduction.

With a kitten-to-dog introduction, even when you are positive the dog wouldn't hurt a fly, it's important that you place the dog under leash control. Only then should the kitten be allowed out of her room to meet the dog at her own pace. The leash is a safety precaution in case the kitten proves irresistible to your normally obedient pooch. It also reminds him that you are in charge of the interaction.

Just as with the resident cat introductions, your goal is to have the dog associate the kitten's presence with good things for him. Talk to him, give him treats and praise him when he reacts favorably to the kitten. In the future, you can reinforce the notion that having a kitten around is a good thing by having a treat handy each time your dog acts "nice" to the new baby.

Be sure to segregate the kitten in her room whenever you are not there to supervise the two pets. Even friendly play can turn dangerous, if either pet becomes overexcited or frightened. Kittens should always have access to a "safe place" -- like a chair back, or cat tree -- that keeps them beyond the reach of the dog. Likewise, the dog must have a private place, like a crate, where he can go to escape unwanted attention.

Reprinted from Complete Kitten Care by Amy Shojai
© 2002 Permission granted by New American Library.

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