Blended families, introducing cats to dogs and dogs to cats in your home (c) 2009-2016 Frania Shelley-Grielen all rights reserved
Americans, especially urban American like New Yorkers love our pets. There are cat people and dog people and there are cat and dog people. And then there are those single pet owners who are thinking about another pet but are just not sure. Just how well can dogs and cats get along? Especially if they have not been raised together?
Researchers, N. Feuerstein and Joseph Terkel studied the relationships of cats and dogs living with humans in an article published in a 2008 edition of Applied Animal Behaviour Science. The authors’ analyzed questionnaires distributed to 202 households in Israel and observed cat and dog interactions in 25 of households surveyed. The scientists found, that, yes, cats and dogs can live “amicably”, read happily, together.
According to the study, cats and dogs are more than adept at reading each other signals and dogs will even adapt their own greeting behavior to accommodate the cats in the house. When encountering each other, cats tend to sniff nose to nose while dogs prefer a nose to tail sniff. When cats and dogs live together the nose sniff becomes the universal greeting.
Other key points made were that dogs and cats seem to be the most successful in adapting to each other when the cat is adopted first. Cats that are brought into the family before or after a dog, seem to more readily become accustomed to the dog, whereas when a dog is an established family member prior to a cat’s introduction the dog may exhibit greater aggression or indifference to the cat. The reason for this is thought to be the dog’s greater dependence on humans and what might look like and perhaps be jealousy on the part of the dog. Don’t blame the dog though. Human domestication of dogs has created this trait. Not only do we ask our dogs to work very closely for us as farm dogs, hunting dogs and service dogs (all heavily dependent on human direction and interaction). We also breed our dogs for what we consider acceptable temperament-namely sociability with humans
Cats are famously more independent than dogs. Our domestication of cats has called mainly for them to rid our grain stores from mice and rats. Cats are social and do appear to enjoy interacting with humans but also appear to savor their solitude in a way a dog doesn’t. But then again, the cat has not been asked to work as closely for humans just to mostly coexist and purr.
Not surprisingly, the age of the dog or cat can be a factor as well. Babies get along well with other babies. The researchers found that cats under six months of age and dogs less than one year tended to have the lowest levels of aggression and indifference to each other.
In situations, where the cat or dog is older or the dog is an established presence, I believe these animals can still share a household as long as the human involved is willing to take the time to “blend” the family.
Some common sense dictates: keep the animals as separate as possible initially—new cats should always be introduced by installing them in a separate room (not the garage) in your home. Allow days to weeks for a gradual supervised, introduction. Take the time to do additional research on what this should look like or consult an animal behavior professional (your local animal shelter might offer consulting information at no cost). And when travelling with animals that do not know each other keep the animals separated from each other initially and only allow for closely supervised visits—your dog should always stay on a leash and be under your control around a new cat or dog. Extra consideration, efforts and time may be required in the introduction process for cats who have not been previously socialized with dogs and dogs who have not been previously socialized with cats.
(c) 2009-2016 Frania Shelley-Grielen all rights reserved
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
"Cats that are brought into the family before or after a dog, seem to more readily become accustomed to the dog, whereas when a dog is an established family member prior to a cat’s introduction the dog may exhibit greater aggression or indifference to the cat."
-Want more? Find expanded and revised information in our new book Cats and Dogs (with tons more great material on bettering your relationships with your pets).
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