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Can Cats and Dogs Live Together?

Updated on January 31, 2016

Cat and Dog Sleeping Together

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Can Dogs and Cats Coexist?

Movies, cartoons and books often have us believe that cats and dogs are hostile to each other. Dogs are often portrayed as cat chasers, barking and pulling at the leash to get to a nearby cat. Cats in turn are shown as scrapping, hissing and fighting with dogs. Some people even use the phrase 'fight like cats and dogs' when discussing human behavior, but is this a real representation of the relationship between these animals?

Dogs and cats are very different species of animals. Cats are very independent, often happy to be alone and generally self sufficient. As long as they have access to food, water and a litter box they live fairly independently. Dogs on the other hand need companionship and rely humans for basic needs. They are pack animals needing to lead or follow others. They both have very different body language, a wagging tail from a dog might mean he is happy to see you. From a cat it could sign he is not happy about something.

However, with proper introduction and supervision these two animals can be taught to live alongside each other and sometimes even have friendly and positive interaction. A recent study by the University of Tel Aviv found this to be the case.


Cuddly Kitten
Cuddly Kitten | Source

Study into Cats and Dogs living together.

The study by the Tel Aviv University's Zoology department explored whether a mutual hostility between cats and dogs is a natural behavior. The study investigated the ties between the two species and how they get along. The results published by Nets-Li Feuerstein in the Journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science, was the result of a study into the relationships observed through visiting homes containing both animals and questionnaires completed by pet owners.

The results showed that the two species can definitely coexist and in many case become friends. It was noted on many occasions that some cats and dogs play together, sometimes even sleep together and do not fight over food.

The study also discovered that over time both cats and dogs were able to learn each others body language. In two thirds of the homes surveyed, the pets had a happy coexistence and in one quarter of all the homes the pets were indifferent to each other. Only ten percent of the homes surveyed had pets who were hostile to each other.

So how do we encourage these friendly relationships?

'Partners in Crime'- dog and cat stalking a spider

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Introduce Animals when they are Young

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When to Introduce a New Pet?

If kittens and puppies are brought up together they stand a good chance of coexisting. They will be more tolerant of each other and may event learn to play together. However if you plan to introduce another pet to an existing pet it may take time for them to adjust, and there are several steps you can use to ensure your pets have a positive introduction.


Introduction Tips

  • Begin with keeping the animals in separate areas, they may be able to hear and smell each other but not interact in any other way.
  • Then allow them to see each other. A good way to do this is through a baby or dog gate. They can feel safe but get a visual of the other animal, they can sniff, touch through the bars but can back up if they are not feeling comfortable.
  • Both animals need a safe place to escape to if necessary.
  • Remember to give it time, it is a gradual process and will take a lot of adjustment.

Suggested Next Steps

  • Take the dog on a leash into a neutral area, providing the cat with a dog free zone within the area. Allow the cat to approach the dog in their own time and teach the dog not to chase the cat with redirection toys and treats.


Ongoing strategies to Maintain Coexistence.

  • Make sure you always have a dog free zone and high places for cats to perch. Cats need a safe place to escape to when they have had enough of the dogs chasing and play.
  • Feed cats in a dog free zone. Cat food is not suitable for dogs, it has a much higher fat and protein content at dog food and too much will give a dog a stomach upset. It will also be harder to monitor your cats food intake if it is sharing with a dog. Some dogs can be territorial and show aggression to another animal who approaches their food.
  • Keep litter boxes in the dog free zone. Dogs have been known to eat cat poop and cats may be fearful of using a litter box effectively if a dog is close by.
  • Allow monitored interaction between cats and dogs. Both animals will learn each others limits if allowed to play together, they will learn each others body language and what they will tolerate.
  • Keep cats nails trimmed to avoid dog injuries. Dogs with bulging eyes and short noses may be more open to injuries from a swiping claw.
  • Be patient - it can take several months for both cats and dogs to develop a coexistence.
  • Be aware of stress behaviors, - aggression and changes in toilet behavior may indicate a stress to the situation.
  • Never leave a cat and dog alone together unless you are sure they get along.
  • Keep cats nails clipped or use nail guards.
  • A well exercised dog is a calmer dog, keeping your dog well exercised will burn off energy and make them less likely to chase a cat.

A Sleepy Puppy is Less Inclined to be a Chasing Puppy

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Factors when Choosing a New Pet

  • Find out as much as you can about the background of your new pets, a rescue cat who has been at the shelter a long time may not ever be comfortable sharing an environment with a dog.
  • Alternatively a kitten born into a home with other cats and dogs may be more accepting of a dog or older cat when joining a new home. Kittens used to being with their litter my be happy to be introduced to a new playmate.
  • Some dogs have a hunter instinct that is common to their breed. Be aware of this before introducing your dog to a cat or kitten.
  • Cats and dogs may never be best friends, their personalities are all different. Training them to tolerate each other may be your best outcome.
  • Cats and dogs introduced as young animals are more likely to get along.
  • Small calm dogs and young active cats do well together.


Can Cats and Dogs Coexist?

Do Your Cats and Dogs Fight?

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In conclusion, it is possible for cats and dogs to live together amicably. With the right introduction, close monitoring and correct training they can at least be able to tolerate each other and in many cases become friendly.

Video of Cats and Dogs Getting Along

© 2014 Ruthbro

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  • Ruthbro profile image
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    Ruthbro 2 years ago from USA

    Thank you, it can definitely be successful!

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

    I love the photo of the sleeping puppy. We have had dogs and cats at the same time in the home with little problems. Good advice on how to make the relationship work well.

  • Ruthbro profile image
    Author

    Ruthbro 2 years ago from USA

    Glad to hear it all worked out!

  • sangre profile image

    Sp Greaney 2 years ago from Ireland

    I totally agree with this. I think the that each having their own space helps to keep the peace. A friend of mine got a rescue dog who after a week had established a relationship with the house cat of 10 years.

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