Nearly 50% of pet owners in the United States have multi-pet homes, the most common of which are dog and cat cohabitations. Dogs tend to be rambunctious, excitable, and curious about everything around them. If that environment includes a small fury creature who likes to stand out of reach or dart quickly by, the pup might be inclined to chase it, or bark ceaselessly. Cats tend to be suspicious, and will hiss or become hostile if threatened or pursued.  Many pet owners begin to understand the phrase, “they fight like cats and dogs”  whenever they attempt to introduce a new pet to the family.

Despite what some may think, cats and dogs of the same family can have very comfortable and amicable relationships.  Often same-house dogs and cats become protective of each other, or co-dependent with instances of cats and canines sleeping or snuggling together. However this kind of dynamic usually takes time and certainly takes work. The best way to avoid destructive or raucous encounters between your pets, will be to allow the animals to acclimate to each other slowly and at a distance.

When a new pet comes into the house, it is wise to keep her in a separate area for a few days. This will allow the other animals to be aware of her scent before the actual meeting.  When the pets do come into contact,  restraining the original pet while the newbie explores, will allow him to watch her at a distance while she gains confidence about the unfamiliar area. It also shows the other pet that the new one is free to roam about this space with equal authority, and will allow her to approach the older pet when she feels safe enough to do so.   After this meeting, separate them again until the next supervised encounter. When the interactions seem to be peaceable, it may be the right time to allow them to share the same space.  However, until this transition is successfully made, all interactions between the pets should have the owner present.

The good news is, if you are introducing an older cat or dog to a puppy or kitten, the guard of the older animal will be down, as the puppy or kitten will not be as much of a threat.  These kind of transitions, if made slowly, are often most successful when each animal has an opportunity to adapt, without being forced into the other animal’s space.

It will be important to train your dog and establish boundaries and restraints. One of the most important factors is to ensure that your cat has a high place to escape to, or a specific spot to hide. Though many dogs have the natural instinct to hunt or herd smaller animals, it is a behavior they can learn to curb.  Make sure your dog knows this is unacceptable.  However, if the problem persists, often a good scratch from the cat will teach him to mind his manners.

It usually takes about 2-3 weeks for everyone in the house to be comfortable with each other, often through a few bouts of trial and error. However,  when the induction occurs through a gradual transition with controlled conditions, the animals usually acclimate relatively quickly. Owners achieve a happy home when each animal is given time to acquaint himself with the stranger, while feeling comfortable in his own protected space.