The Co-existing relationship between Cats & Dogs

Some people prefer dogs, others prefer cats, but what about having them in the same household as each other?

Disney lied to us when they showed via the cartoon, Tom & Jerry, that cats and dogs cannot co-exist with each other; it is impossible to attempt at having your cat and dog get along. This essence of a great level of fear owners have, myself included, about the potential risks involved in having a dog and cat around each other every day, is around us when we think about our pets.

Before we look at their possible co-existing relationships, how do cats and dogs weigh up together, especially when it comes to how many of them were adopted over the last couple years.

There is also a wide variety of dogs and cats out of this group who unfortunately are euthanased for several reasons.

Perhaps a way to avoid this is to have cats and dogs in one household learning how to co-exist with each other, as it may save them from these types of unforeseen events.

Impossible you say? I don’t think so. I believe you have to attempt to form some kind of relationship between your pets. For example, my dog and cat seem to co-exist with each other fine, at least on some form of mutual grounds.

Yes, at first my cat was scared of my dog, but eventually after being let outside, they managed to develop some form of relationship. So what exactly is the basis to this co-existing notion?

Animal behaviourist Suzette says it’s “more that they understand one is beneficial to each other or that they’re not a threat.”

She says it all comes down to “matching personalities”, in which the dog has to be the calm one and the cat as the confident one. When I look at my cat and dog, the roles are actually reversed. My dog is definitely more confident than my cat, so perhaps it doesn’t have to be a calm dog with a confident cat, just so long as there is one personality of each, they should have no problem in getting along. For example, if you were to have a confident dog with a confident cat or a calm dog with a calm cat, there is a chance they may not get along with those personality types.

There is another reason why your pets may not get along with each other, and that reason is the breed of the dog. It seems like any hunter breeds would not fit any cats at all, as these types of dogs have what they call ‘prey drive’. According to this article, “it is a genetically driven instinct (innate) born out of the fact that the dogs ancestral roots are predatory and carnivorous going back 40 million years through the order Carnivora.” Otherwise it means if anything moves, these dogs will dive into this mode and instantly view that object/animal as prey or as something to play with. Suzette explains if a hunter-type dog sees something like this, they will ultimately chase after it, including cats, and this could then cause them to fight or play with the cat. Some dogs she associates with hunter breeds are: springer/cocker spaniels, greyhounds, American bulldogs and huskies.

Take a husky for instance. In an article by the Orange County Register, there was a debate behind whether a husky dog should be put down after it killed two cats whilst they were away from their home. Animal advocates questioned how this husky could be connected to its counterpart, a wolf-dog hybrid. After viewing this article, it is very clear that hunter breeds cannot co-exist with cats, as they would likely mistake them for prey.

But even in normal dogs, they could still fight with cats, so how do we prevent this from happening and teach them to live with each other on mutual grounds?

Suzette says: “They can learn to co-exist, but it’s very rare they cuddle up with each other.” She highlights you could conduct the activity of scent swapping, which would involve having your cat sleep on the dog’s bedding and vice versa. You could also associate playing with your pets by ensuring all interactions are calm and the pets feel comfortable with each other.

What about bringing up kittens and puppies together? Will that possibly be a better way for them to co-exist with each other? Well to answer that in two words, visual introductions. You would do this by having your cat and dog sit with each other, whilst feeding them at the same time. Feed them one at a time, slowly they’ll be able to understand that neither of them are a threat to each other and thus achieve the beginning of a co-existing relationship.

Zing Yang Kuo of the Smithsonian Institution conducted a study where he grouped baby animals together to monitor the levels of fighting amongst them. Specifically focusing on dogs and cats though, he had most dogs belonging to the short-haired Chinese Chow breed and the cats to the Chinese local breed. He found that the “competition over food, and over sex, playing activities, hostility towards strangers, and living in isolation” culminated in such anti-social behaviour to each other. Since I was talking about having your pets eat at the same time together, what Kuo did about this was having them come to eat on the same platform every day. He had each of them brought in turn, one by one, to eat on the feeding platform. Whilst one dog or cat ate their food, the others grouped with them watched as they ate.

This type of visual introduction can bring positive effects to the relationships they will have with each other. After Kuo conducted these experiments, he made the animals reciprocate behaviours to wait their turn before they would have to eat, so as to cease competition over food between them all.

Check out the website for ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) or this page for a step-by-step guide on how to achieve a co-existing relationship between your pets.