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Can Cats and Dogs Live in Harmony?

Updated on February 21, 2015
VladimirCat profile image

Vladimir is a former champion ratter (retired). His hobbies are bushwalking, birdwatching and nature studies

Cats and Dogs can be Friends
Cats and Dogs can be Friends

Cats and Dogs can be Pals

Who said we fight like cats and dogs? If you bring a strange dog near me you will quickly learn about angry cats, but that aside, I have been known to tolerate the odd dog or two over the years. At one time I had a friend who was a dog!

So I can say in all honesty that it's possible to have a cat and dog living in the same house and it's also possible to have these very different creatures being good friends to each other.

It all depends on the dog.

Cats and Dogs in Harmony
Cats and Dogs in Harmony

A Lesson for World Peace

We are two different animals with two different distinctive personalities and we won't necessarily get along together harmoniously. But with a good dog, proper planning, patience, hours of training, and your strong commitment to provide a loving home, most cats and dogs can live together in perfect harmony.

This concept of amicably sharing the same spaces can extend beyond cats and dogs. It can be applied to people who don't get along, like your neighbours and world superpowers.

Surely, If ordinary cats and dogs like us can learn to get along, you people stand a good chance.

Cat and Dog making friends
Cat and Dog making friends

Crossed Signals

Communication Difficulties

The main problem I find with dogs is their slow learning process - particularly in the area of communication.

Dogs don't understand that we both use very different signals to show our feelings. I've come across many a dog with inter-species signals crossed. I must admit it took me a little while to read canine body cues so it's understandable that a dog, being of a less intelligent disposition, will take a long time.

For instance, I tend to lash my tail about when something has displeased me. Dogs do the same when they're in a good mood. Curiously, dogs show their anger by growling and arching their backs which is pretty close to what I do when my back is really against the wall.

Crossed Signals Again!

More Communication Difficulties

The position of the head is an odd one too.

When I avert my head I am giving you clear signals of aggression while, in a dog, that very same head position signals submission.

There's no getting away from it, dogs are strange creatures and find it hard to learn another language. (They find it hard to learn anything much at all).

It beats me why you humans spend so much time training a dog over and over, but even such poor clay as a family mutt can eventually be turned into a passable production.

Why won't dogs purr?

This would save a whole lot of trouble. But try and explain that to a willful dog.

Recipe for success - Timing

Cats can get along with dogs (and vice versa)

  1. If the cat has adopted the humans before the dog arrives
  2. If the cat and dog are introduced when still young (less than 6 months for kittens, a year for dogs)

Never leave a cat and dog alone together until you're ABSOLUTELY certain they're really comfortable with each other

Planning - Bringing a Dog into a Cat's Home

How would you feel if some new person just showed up one day, moved into your home, started stealing your food, messing around in your private bathroom and sleeping on your bed?

When you have decided on a safe breed of dog to suit your cat, then please ensure these conditions in the home are met

Cats and Dogs can be Friends
Cats and Dogs can be Friends

  1. Make sure the cat has a "safe place" where the dog can't follow. This is vital!
  2. Separate the eating areas. Cats shouldn't eat dog food anyway.Apart from that, dogs have a habit of guarding their food often in a particularly nasty manner. Put the cat's dinner up high where the clumsy dog can't jump.
  3. Block the dog's access to the litter box. If you don't, you'll soon discover why I recommend this step

If a dog already lives in the home

f you already have a dog and you're planning to bring a cat into your family, then you have a fair bit of training to do with the dog first.

I assume that your dog already has basic training and will obey simple commands like 'Sit' and 'Stay'. If your dog doesn't know these basics it's beyond my scope to explain dog training here.

Recipe for Success - Choose the dog wisely

If you already have the honour of a cat sharing your home and you intend to add a dog to the family, you need some proper planning.

First research the dog and choose wisely

Obviously a dog which humans have selectively bred for a thousand years to hunt small creatures isn't going to find it easy to live with one of these smaller animals. We look like prey. (I shudder when I write that)

To be brutally honest I don't recommend a doberman. If anyone has an example of a cute kitteh and a gentle doberman laughing it up together, please feel free to send me the happy snap. I dare you!

There are plenty of dog breeds exclusively honed for killing - unless you want murder in your living room, don't get any of them!

If you're getting a dog from an Animal Shelter you had better find out first if the dog has any experience with smaller animals and whether the experience has been positive.

  1. Use a leash, Make sure that the dog is comfortable on leash in the house, so that you can have easy physical control over the dog if you need it.
  2. Introduce your dog to other animals, especially smaller animals, there should be plenty around your neighbourhood or in a nearby park. Observe how your dog reacts - if he's aggressive, stop him straight away.

When first introducing a cat and a dog

You will need a few minutes several times a day to give the cat and dog some carefully supervised time together.

  1. Leash the dog
  2. Make sure the cat is at the same eye level as the dog.
  3. Keep a firm grip on both animals. You may need two people here.
  4. If the cats is frightened, immediately remove the cat.
  5. If the dog is aggressive, immediately remove the dog,

A pair of friendly youngsters

This pup knows how to treat a kitten

On Talking Terms with Dogs

There is a fashion in USA to train dogs with operant conditioning.

Reinforcing behaviors, like the 'clicker training; is all very well and good, but you have to understand what the dog is saying before you start any training.

A no-nonsense introduction to canine communication and interpreting dog communication signals.

Every human with a dog should have this!

Surely if cats and dogs can get along then people can too.

© 2009 Vladimir

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