7 Ways To Get Your Cat & Dog To Peacefully Coexist

by Carolyn de Lorenzo
Tatyana Gladskih/Fotolia

Lots of us have witnessed many an affection relationship between the family pup and resident feline. While there's some truth to the idea that cats and dogs are each others natural enemies, it is absolutely possible to live with both a cat and a dog. With some careful planning, respect for the needs of each animal, and skill, pups and cats can coexist in peaceful and loving harmony. They can even be best friends — sometimes. That said, there are some factors that can help stack the odds in your favor, though — it’s good to be aware of what to do, and what you’re better off avoiding when introducing any new animal to your home; especially when a potential cross species relationship is at play.

Dogs and cats do speak different languages, as it were — they see the world, and relationships with humans and other animals, through different, often contrasting, lenses, Animal Planet notes. Also, the way your cat and pup respond to each other will likely be shaped by any previous experiences they’ve had with the respective species; if your kitty has had any traumatic encounters with dogs in the past, that could complicate the introduction of a new dog into your home a bit, and vice versa. Here are seven simple tips to help your furry kiddos adjust well to one another, make a new buddy, and enjoy a long and harmonious relationship.


The Younger The Better

Because puppies and kittens have little to no history with one another, they are less likely to have issues accepting each other. If you have the financial bandwidth, and the energy, get your puppy and kitten at the same time, and raise them together. Growing up together will help them form a bond, but also make sure to keep their differences in sight — a puppy may be more energetic than a kitten, for example. Watch out for signs that your kitty needs space from your pup, and encourage your puppy to play with toys, too, and not just frenetically chase the kitten around 24/7.


Respect Your Cat's Privacy

Make sure to place your cat’s litter box where pup can’t get at it. Cats like privacy, and keeping your dog away from the litter box will keep kitty from getting stressed out. Consider a covered litter box that your cat can access, but your dog can’t get into.


Match Up Compatible Personalities

A pup who has at least seen a cat before without chasing her up a tree, and a cat who is more curious than fearful of dogs, are your best bet as potential roomies. Rescue organizations will help you pair up animals who have the best shot at getting along, and can help guide you if you’re already have one resident animal and want to adopt a newbie.


Create An Escape Route For Your Cat

According to WebMD Pets, it's important that your cat or kitten has a getaway route, or can run off and hide if she wants to when meeting a new dog. Christopher Pachel DVM, a vet who specializes in animal behaviors, told WebMD Pets that it's helpful to create hiding spaces off the floor for your cat — like cubbies and places to perch— so that she can retreat. "You basically want an elevated resting place" for the cat, so that she can take breaks as needed.


Keep A Close Eye On Your Pup

Professor Katherine A. Houpt also told WebMD Pets that if trouble is going to start during cat and dog introductions, there's a good chance your dog will cause it — since dogs are wired to chase rapidly moving objects. If your kitty gets nervous and runs away, your dog most likely feels "honor-bound to chase it," Houpt observed. So keep a close eye on your pup, and if she does start the chase, make sure to "nip that in the bud," Houpt says. Don't hesitate to keep your dog on a leash or harness during the introduction phase to ensure kitty's safety.


Take That Intro Slow

Animal Planet notes that since cats are territorial by nature, and not super fond of change, a gradual — and supervised — introduction is the best way to ensure a peaceful outcome in the long run. And keep in mind that it can take anywhere from a few days to a number of weeks for your cat and dog to fully acclimate to one another. It may help to keep your animals in separate parts of your home most of the time at first, and designate a neutral space, or special room, for getting to know each other. Make sure to spend lots of time with both of them separately, with plenty of affection and treats, and speak softly and calmly throughout the process. Animal Planet suggests brief meetings in the neutral room, while slowly upping exposure to one another. Take things slowly, and remember not to push the process.


Let Them Smell The Roses

Animal Planet notes that animals get acquainted primarily through scents, and not so much face-to-face like humans do. Before your pets meet for the first time, Animal Planet suggests an intro via scents. You can "gently rub a T-shirt, sock, towel, or washcloth over the dog, and place it near the cats food, dish, or bed," before the first intro meeting, Animal Planet says — and you can also reverse the process for your dog. By giving them access to one another's scents before and during the introduction process, your pup and kitty's initial meetings will likely be a more relaxed affair.

Prof. Joseph Terkel at the University of Tel Aviv found that, in homes where peaceful cohabitation exists between cats and dogs, "cats and dogs are learning how to talk each other's language [...] cats can learn how to talk 'dog' and vice versa." So while a few preliminary precautions are recommended to set your furry kiddos up for a successful relationship — friendly nose bumps, cuddles on the couch, and even sharing a water dish aren't out of the realm of possibility. After all, "If cats and dogs can get along," Prof. Terkel remarked, "surely people have a good chance."