According to a Gallup poll, 17% of pet parents have both a dog and a cat in their household. If you are among the approximately 1 in 5 people who cohabit with a canine and a feline you might already be able to weigh in on the accuracy of the popular myth that where dogs and cats cross paths, chases and scratches shall follow. But for the rest of the population of animal lovers who may be interested in adopting a kitty into your doggy den, or vice versa, there are plenty of happy stories of cat and dog friendships to inspire you to up the love quotient in your household.
Cats and Dogs are Friends
A 2008 study at Tel Aviv University[i] found that over 66% of homes in the study with both a dog and cat reported positive interactions. The one caveat – all of the cats were introduced to dogs before they were 6 months old. The age of the dog did not seem to matter. There seems to be a successful trend of cat-dog households when introducing the animals to one another at a young age.
Both young puppies and kittens have a mindset geared towards playing and exploring. This is the perfect opportunity to encourage your pets to enjoy each other’s company and play together. Cats and dogs both require exercise and mental stimulation, and while you may be the primary source for that, they can certainly help each other out.
The Massage Factor
Cats are notorious lap sitters and have a natural instinct to climb all over things and people. One common phenomenon in a cat and dog household is watching your cat give your dog a massage. Once your animal friends are comfortable with each other you might catch your dog lounging lazily as your cat hops on their back and explores. This behavior isn’t something you should force – placing a cat on a dog can bring out the claws and start a real mess – but it is perfectly safe if they get into the groove on their own.
Who Rules the House?
Dogs are usually bigger, stronger and crave more attention. Despite all of that the cat is often the dominant personality in the relationship. This is actually a good thing. Ideally your pets will live in perfect harmony but don’t be surprised to see your cat pushing your dog to the far end of the couch and claiming first dibs on the water bowl. The paradox with dogs is that they can be highly territorial amongst other creatures they are not comfortable with and then completely giving and loving with those they have come to love. If your dog follows your cat around as loyally as they fetch for you, you just might have a perfect pet household.
Grooming is Funny
Cats are famous groomers – a good base measure of your cat’s health is whether they are keeping themselves clean. But dogs also have a system of staying neat and one of the most precious signs that your two pets are getting along is a co-grooming ritual. Admittedly, your dog is getting the better deal, with the precision cleaning tool that is the cat’s tongue. But you will get more giggles out of watching your dog giving big slobbery slaps of love with a graceless tongue. It is a wonder why so many cats put up with that kind of loving but they often do (before going to give themselves a proper bath).
Boxing & Nipping
Some people affectionately refer to a cat’s great weapon of claw swiping as boxing. Others do the same for the dogs bite, calling it a nip. The trouble is our pets can use similar tactics when they play and when they are truly out for blood. Cats and dogs will commonly interact by fighting but it is your responsibility to ensure that any play remains in the safe and fun category. When cats and dogs play they might make clawless swipes with their paws or use their mouths to gently grab and release. If you can tell that both parties enjoy this play then file it under the category of wrestling and let them enjoy the exercise. If there is any sign that one pet is not taking pleasure in the activity, is trying to escape or is whining or crying then the play has gone too far and it is time to break it up.
Having a cat and dog in the house can be a source of great joy, for you as a pet parent as well as for each pet. It is important to recognize the added responsibility of a two pet household, though, and to make sure you still give each animal their fair share of attention and care. Play a game of fetch with your dog and every now and then use a Cat Play Wand to have fun with your cat. Then you can keep the cameras rolling and enjoy the interspecies fun!
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[i] Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2008