Cohabitation of cats and dogs: to improve life between them!

You have just had a new cat or a new dog and you want Pitou and Minou to live together well, that they become the best friends in the world? Here are some tips from feline behavioral professionals to make sure the first encounters are less stressful and more positive for your two hairballs!

The perfect environment for your cats and your canine! 

Here you are not invited to undertake renovations and excavations! Only a few small touches, a few small gestures to change your environment to generate the least stress in your two animals ... And so less stress in you! You avoid fights, fights, jargons and pipis out of the litter (which are often generated by stress)!

  • Offer as many heights as possible in the house for the cat (in all rooms) so that it can escape the dog at all times;
  • Make sure that these heights are not reachable by the dog; 
  • Use the right height of cat trees (1.5 - 2 meters) so that there are small shelves where the dog should not be able to climb;
  • Put the cat's food and water on a high cabinet where the dog will never have access, thus creating a sense of security for the cat that will not be disturbed. This place can be the counter of the kitchen for example; 
  • Do the same for places where the cat will rest: provide a place where the dog will not be able to climb and place a small kitty bed, blanket or cushion, allowing your purring friend to rest and sleep without having Afraid of being surprised by Pitou; 
  • Provide hiding places where only the cat can sneak up and take shelter from the dog which would become too curious or insistent (a small box for example); 
  • Providing hiding places and heights in every room of the house will ensure that your cat will feel safer and more prone to explore the house easily knowing that it always has a safe area no matter where it is located. 
Presenting his dog to his cat: 

 You are so anxious that your dog or cat meet his new boyfriend! However, rushing things around, making presentations too fast can trigger reactions of fear and aggression (and even predation!) On both sides! 

 Here are the important points to remember: 

  1. Never hold the cat in your arms, put it in a transport cage or even in the cage with the dog. The cat must be able to save himself at all times if he is afraid of the dog; 
  2. Even if the cat was in the house before the dog, it is best to isolate it in a room with all its things (litter, food, water);
  3. Let the cat get used to this room. Take this opportunity to hide plenty of treats that your ....
.... cat likes and play regularly with him to make solitary confinement. Wait until it is calm before taking it out. A calm cat walks its tail and head tall. This may take one or more days. The dog and the cat can feel and touch under the door, but that's all;

     4. Be careful when entering and exiting the room to prevent the cat from running or entering the  dog. You can add a barrier that you can straddle (examples: baby fence, wooden board, mosquito net, etc.) to help you enter the room.     
Is it time to leave them together?
So! The time has come to present the two animals for good and let them live together? No! Warning! The work is just beginning! Here's how to make felines and canines learn to tolerate, and eventually love each other!
  1. Leave the cat free in the absence of the dog, having taken care to put treats throughout the house, especially in the places most frequented by the dog so that the cat make pleasant associations with the scent of Pitou; 
  2. Make small 10 minute sessions where the two animals will see through a small opening on either side of the door while giving them each their favorite food or treats. Start as far as possible from each side of the door; 
  3. Reduce the distance between the 2 bowls of food or treats very gradually with each session. Observe how the dog and cat behave. If they continue to eat despite the distance that is reduced and the fact that they see each other, it's a good sign! If one of the two stops eating, then you have proceeded too fast. Pull down the bowls of food or treats at the previous distance and do not move the bowls for a few sessions until the animals get used again; 
  4. It is also possible to do similar sessions, but instead of using the gate as a safety barrier, you can hold the dog on a leash. BUT BEWARE. Never shoot or blow on the leash to try to call to order, punish your dog or stop barking. Do not use a throat or choke collar. This would only have the effect of associating the cat with something unpleasant for the dog and creating aversion to the cat. Rather, reward your dog when it adopts the right behaviors, either when it is calm and does not run after the cat. You can reward the dog in several ways: food that he likes a lot, toys or caresses (depending on what he likes most); 
  5. Once the animals eat very close to each other, let your cat run freely in the house. But first, make sure your dog does not get too excited when the cat plays near him. A dog may be calm in front of a calm cat, but some instinctive predatory sequences may trigger at the sight of a fast moving cat. Playing with the cat in the presence of the dog on a leash will allow you to make this check: if it reacts, it would be wise to contact a canine educator to counter-condition this reaction which could be very negative for your cat; 
  6. Leave the door of the isolation room open to allow your cat to find refuge there if needed and to rest or reassure. ....
Manage fights between cats and dogs 

We would like our animals to get along as well as they can be, but living together with another individual (even the same species) can generate conflicts! Here are some tips to avoid their occasional skirmishes becoming a daily hell! 

  1. Never punish grunts, grunts or barking between animals. Not only must animals learn to recognize the distances to be respected in the other, but to punish animals will only serve to associate the presence of the other with a punishment and thus to create aversion between the animals; 
  2. Always supervise the encounters but if there are any altercations between the two, allow them to be solved as much as possible (if your dog does not have a history of fighting causing injury to another animal and tends to give more Warnings before coming to an inhibited bite). So, your dog will learn what the cat's boundaries are and vice versa. Be sure to trim your cat's claws to avoid incidents; 
  3. If the dog reacts whenever he sees the cat or runs after it, it is possible to educate the dog to sit for example whenever he sees the cat; 
  4. If a fight breaks in between, separate the two animals quickly and do not wait until you see a canine behavior specialist or a feline behavioralist. 
 Also, make sure that cat and dog have their respective place where to rest, or the other animal will not disturb it.

 How long does it take for cats and dogs to become the best buddies? 

All this will take how long? It depends on the two animals. Usually, owners want to go too fast and do not take the necessary time at each step which inevitably causes incidents. It is important to respect the speed of adaptation of each animal and realize that any incident between the animals will greatly affect the relationship between them and will lengthen the period of adaptation.

It is important to take time. It is not uncommon to see 3 weeks elapse before the animals can tolerate and several months before they can cohabit harmoniously. Meanwhile, enriching your cat's environment and offering mental stimulation games to your two animals will greatly reduce their stress, spend their extra energy, leaving you a little respite!

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