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Cats and Dogs: Togetherness Tips

Cats and Dogs: Togetherness Tips

My cat and dog fight like, well, like cats and dogs. In one corner of the ring is Spike, an 8-year-old, black, long-haired catzilla, weighing in at more than 16 pounds. Sure, a few of those pounds come from too much snacking and catnapping. But he’s also just big-boned–really! He has paws like kitty-asaurus.

In the other corner (cowering) is Clyde, a 90-pound, 3-year-old Plott Hound wuss. He is ruled by his nose, which often leads him into the vicinity of the cat food. And so the trouble begins. First, we hear a growl, low as faraway thunder, vibrate through the house. That erupts into a frenzy of hissing, screeching, and RWARRs, and soon after, Clyde is seen fleeing, tail between his legs, to the safety of his crate, baying mournfully the whole way. It’s pathetic really. He’s the laughingstock of the neighborhood dog park.

Both Clyde and Spike are pound pets, and they’ve only been living together for about a year. And while I’ve had a few roommates of my own I’ve wanted to growl and claw at myself, I feel like Clyde and Spike should be friends. Growing up, I had three dogs and three cats. And they got along famously. One dog would curl up asleep on the couch and a cat would lie curled asleep on top him–yes, on top of him.

This proves to me that amicable inter-special relationships are possible. But how? Is there anything I can do to establish such a furry friendship between Spike and Clyde? I spoke to my veterinarian, Cristina Gutierrez, at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, and she gave me these tips:

Start them when they’re young. “Kittens and puppies can grow to become best friends much more easily than pets already set in their ways,” says Gutierrez. With older pets, as in my case, introduce them to each other slowly. For the first month or two, keep the dog in one half of the house and the cat in the other (by using a safety gate, for example), so they get used to having this other, somewhat-alarming critter around. The dog learns the cat isn’t food, and the cat learns the dog won’t eat him. Slowly, under supervision, start bringing them into the same room together.

Keep the cat’s food and water in a place the dog can’t get to. This will minimize territory conflicts and the cat’s need to defend his food.

Have safe areas to which the cat can retreat (for instance, a pillow atop a bookshelf). This will help the cat feel secure and ease any anxiety. Let the dog learn “the law of the claw,” Gutierrez says. One or two swipes from the cat will teach the dog a healthy respect for the cat–and that he needs to keep his distance a bit.

If these tactics fail, don’t fret too much, and practice acceptance. “Nothing in nature says dogs and cats have to be friends,” she says. You do need to make sure the dog doesn’t injure the cat, however, so if the aggression escalates, you may want to keep them permanently separated, she says. This week, I’m going to try some of these suggestions, and I’m crossing my fingers that the lion (Spike) will lie down with the lamb (Clyde). Failing these strategies, I’ll move on to plan B: Dousing Clyde in a bottle of catnip.

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By Kristin Bjornsen, Natural Solutions magazine

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Natural Solutions: Vibrant Health, Balanced Living offers its readers the latest news on health conditions, herbs and supplements, natural beauty products, healing foods and conscious living.

27 comments

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7:38PM PDT on Mar 25, 2013

I@ll try the catnip bath too!
Our dog Luca is terrified and don'twant to come into the house anymore. 4 cats are just too much for him to handle.

1:14PM PST on Dec 15, 2012

Thank you, interesting comments.

1:14PM PST on Dec 15, 2012

Thank you, interesting comments.

9:17PM PDT on Oct 6, 2012

Two tips? That's all? Looks like an excuse to spam your products.

10:25AM PDT on Apr 29, 2011

Try Comfort Zone plug-ins for both the dog and the cat. They are natural pheromones which ease stress and anxiety and a variety of other unwanted behaviors. You can also spray the bedding. You would need both feline and canine to help ease tension. They really do work!

9:57AM PDT on Aug 3, 2010

I really enjoyed Kristin Bjornsen's writing style. Informative but also lots of fun.

8:26PM PDT on May 19, 2010

My cat, Lola, used to ride on my dog's back when she was little. Well, 'ride' is a bit of a stretch. But Lola used to sit atop Harley all the time. Every now and again, she'd attempt to hang on when Harley started to move around . . . which didn't last too long! Cute as hell to see Lola just sitting on Harley though!

3:52AM PDT on May 18, 2010

Cats and dogs together can be done. I have had both at the same time. You have to get them adjusted to each other slowly and keep a close eye on them. My cat used to sleep next to the dog, but the cat was the boss of the house and the dog was aware of the pecking order.

3:53PM PDT on Mar 27, 2010

Forgot to say we had to de-claw the cat - something I hate to do. ANd right now she's meowing and knocking my glasses off - wants attn. Gotta go.

3:48PM PDT on Mar 27, 2010

Well - I think you answered my question; how do I get my at and my dog to be at least half-nice to each other? I have a cat I've had almost 6 years. She's always been a kind-of one animal pet. But recently we got a dog from the shelter as a watchdog. They are both indoor pets and I live in a mobile home (single-wide). The few times I have tried to get the 2 even close, the dog high-tailed straight to the cat, barking and snarling with looks to kill. She is like this with other animals, people, etc... whatever...the wind. SO I din't have high hopes and began keeping the cat in 2 rooms and the dog in the other. It's quite stressful though the dog is getting a little better not following me everywhere - she bonded to me rather than my partner who is good with her. But we are planning on putting a door in the hallway so the cat can roam 1/2 the home without me smuggling her from room to room. I guess we're at that: keep them separated stage.

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