Anyone who has watched just about any cartoon during their childhood enjoys the stereotype of dogs hating cats. It’s engraved into our psyche. Obviously, this is not always the case. But none-the-less, there are enough cases of dogs chasing and trying to kill cats to justify necessary caution when introducing the two species to each other. It is of utmost importance to do what is in your power to protect the cat from the dog and in some cases to even protect the dog from the cat.
But before introducing the dog to the cat or the cat to the dog, knowing the personality and temperament of each animal is ideal. Will the dog try to chase and bite the cat? Will the cat try to scratch the dog unprovoked? The more information you can gather will better help you make the introduction more smooth.
If the cat has a history of animal aggression or inversely, if the dog has a history of animal aggression, their introduction should be different than if both are gentle furballs of love. But if one or both of the animals is animal aggressive, or if you do not know, the only tool you really need to make the introduction smooth, is a crate.
Ideally, one animal should be in the crate and one free. It is preferable for the cat to be in the crate and for the dog to be free to roam and inspect it. This is especially true if the dog has a reputation of animal aggression. That’s because dogs are transient animals, especially when they meet other animals. They need to move around to smell the backside of the new animal and move around even more to become familiar with the cat’s scent on an intimate level. Conversely, cats are more visual and can familiarize themselves with a strange animal by studying them with their eyes. The role of the crate is to give both the cat or the dog an extra layer of security when faced with a strange animal. This process allows the two to familiarize themselves with each other at close range. Although this method of familiarization doesn’t guarantee the two will sit around a campfire singing Kumbaya, familiarizing themselves with a strange animal is a vital first step to peace…or at the very least a cease fire.
After several hours, the dog will likely show less enthusiasm with regards to the cat. At this stage, you need to open the door of the crate and allow them to interact face to face. Any human interference or refereeing will inevitably fail if you ever want to trust the two together. Animals read each other better than we do. Separating the two is just procrastinating the inevitable. If they will fight, your standing between them is not going to help you when you are no longer present. That’s because in nature, animals work out differences directly, without third party interference. In the wild for example, a certain type of dance ensues where if one shows aggression, the other avoids it naturally.
Usually, if the dog shows aggression towards the cat, the cat might either run away or stand it’s ground raising it’s back to try to make itself appear bigger. Or it may try to claw the dog’s face. If the cat shows aggression towards the dog, the dog will often tiptoe around the cat barking out of frustration. All of these outcomes are normal and okay. It’s important at this stage to let nature take its course. I once had a client who when introducing their dog to their cat, the cat ran away immediately and stayed on a high up bookshelf for three days. It eventually came down because it was hungry and was more ready to defend itself against the dog. That’s because while he was cowering on the bookshelf, he studied the dog’s every movement and behavior. The cat was basically conducting it’s own version of reconnaissance intelligence on the dog studying its every move. By the third day, the cat became more desensitized to the dog and eventually came down as he realized the dog was no longer such a threat as he initially thought. Also, the cat was hungry and was ready to challenge the dog at this point if it got in its way. The hunger gave the cat no choice but to ready itself to defend itself against the canine if push came to shove. Needless to say, today the are best of friends.
This is a classic example of how we need to let nature take it’s course and with time (and hunger) our animals can overcome just about every obstacle…including reconciliation.
One more important note: If you really have suspicions about introducing the two and feel an imminent disaster is looming, before opening the crate to make the introduction, trim and dull your cat’s nails to limit damage to the dog. And place a muzzle on the dog to avoid physical damage to the cat. That way they can interact without risk of harming one another.
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