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Can Cats Get Along with Other Pets?

Do Cats Prefer to be Only Pets, or Can They Get Along with Dogs and Other Cats?

By Mary Kearl. January 21, 2013 | See Comments

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Can Cats Get Along with Other Pets?

The rivalry that defines all other rivalries - cats and dogs - might not be as set in stone as we believe. Here is what you need to know if you are trying to get a cat to interact with a dog, or another cat.

The individuality and independence you love in your cat are the very traits that make it difficult to make generalizations about feline behavior and a cat’s likelihood to get along with other animals in the home. However, there are a couple of common cat instincts that can come into play and make having a peaceful multi-pet family challenging: cats are territorial by nature and, creatures of habit, they’re resistant to change.

That said, cats can get along with other cats, and, yes, despite all the stereotypes that indicate otherwise, even dogs, too. With personality being the most important, a variety of factors, including age, gender, temperament, breed, level of socialization as a young animal, and length of time the cat has reigned as top kitty often contribute to whether a cat will do well with other pets. Of course, the age, gender, temperament, level of socialization, and breed of the newcomer cat or dog certainly matter as well.

Here's what you'll need to know.

Don't Expect Cats to Immediately Bond With New Pet Additions to the Family

It is likely to take time for your cat to become pals with another animal. It could take up to 8 to 12 months for a friendship to form between the old and new cat and in some cases upwards of years for the same positive connection to form between your cat and a canine addition to the home. The process of introducing a new pet should be gradual--it may need to be done over the course of a few weeks to a few months.

If you’re planning to bring multiple pets into your home, always think safety first, recommends Debra Elredge, DVM, author of Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook. “Make sure both the current residents and the newcomer have a ‘safe place’ they can get to. Creative use of doorway gates can allow a cat to slip under and escape the unwanted attention of a dog, for example.” Give your pets time to adjust to the new situation, but be on the lookout for signs of stress, particularly in any older animals.

“An immediate behavior problem to watch for is changes in elimination. An antisocial cat can quickly develop litter box problems,” says Elredge. “Always add a litter box if you add a new cat.” A more obvious sign to look out for is aggression. Making sure the introduction of your pet and a new animal is gradual can help prevent animosity from developing.

Factors That Make Cats More Likely to Get Along With Other Pets in the Family

“The background of the cat is influential,” says Elredge. “A tamed feral may not tolerate other cats in his or her territory. A rescue who was terrorized by dogs may never be comfortable with dogs. A kitten raised in a home with other cats and with other dogs may get along with everyone.”

Here are some other factors to consider, keeping in mind each individual pet’s circumstances vary.

  • Kittens, newly separated from their mothers and siblings, may welcome four-legged family members
  • Cats who were socialized when they were young are more likely to coexist with others peacefully
  • Some breeds, like Birmans, Maine Coons, Persians and Ragdolls, are more likely to share their homes amicably
  • When it comes to rooming with dogs, cats do best with easy-going canines--those without hunter or predator-like instincts (which could lead to preying on cat companions)
  • Cats and dogs that have a personal history of doing well with other cats and dogs are likelier to make for great mates
  • Making the home welcome and inviting to all of the pets--and ensuring each has enough space--can also influence the stability of a multi-pet family
  • Young cats, under the age of 6 months, and dogs, under a year, make for the best interspecies combo, according to findings from a Tel Aviv University study
  • In general, animals with a similar level of interest in play and being buddies with another animal are going to cohabitate better than those with incompatibilities

Ideal Cat-Cat Pairings

Kittens and young cats pair up well with cats of their own level of maturity and energy. They may also do well with mature female cats who can act as adoptive mothers. Cats of opposite genders are more likely to do well together than same-sex pairings, and two females are a better bet than two males.

Ideal Cat-Dog Pairings

A Tel Aviv University study surveyed nearly 200 homes with cats and dogs living together, and found that in two-thirds, the pets had a healthy relationship, while one-quarter had pets who were indifferent to each other and 10 percent had pets who exhibited aggression toward each other. Researchers explained that body language can get lost in translation between dogs and cats and that homes with happily paired mixed pets showed signs of the cats understanding dog behavioral clues and vice versa.

Younger, more active cats and dogs that are small, calm, and listen to commands have been found to do well together.

More on Cat Care

Why Cats Meow: Cat Purrs, Growls, and Other Language
Litter Box Training for Your Cat
How Much Do Cats Sleep?

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.

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