Cats and Dogs can be friends

Les Amis are often asked if cats and dogs can live quite happily together. The simple answer is YES, they can in the majority of cases. However, it takes patience and time.

Darwin and Henry

Personally, I have owned both dogs and cats for a long time, and currently have two dogs and four cats. Based on my experience, I have 6 practical tips to help ease the transition.

  1. Give the newcomer their own safe space to feed, sleep, relax. It might be a spare room, bathroom, whatever you can manage. In the case of a kitten or cat, provide a dirt tray as well. They should be put back in their own space overnight, if possible, certainly for the first few weeks.
  2. Use a large cage in the main living area where the new arrival can be when everyone is around. In this way, the existing household animals can see the new family member, scent it and interact. In the case of a medium or large dog and where a cage is not available, sit with the lead on the dog(s) and let the cat(s) roam around as usual.
  3. Never leave them alone, not even if the new pet is in the cage. All animals are unpredictable and the last thing we want is to scare any of them. That would just put the whole process back a long way. If you need to go out of the house, then the newcomer goes back into the safe space.
  4. Dogs might lunge at a cat, especially if it is a kitten running around! A firm “NO”, and a tug on the lead should suffice. We use the flat of our hand in front of the dog’s face at the same time. Try not to be tense as this will translate to the animals.
  5. When you are comfortable and feel that the time is right, let the new pet off the lead or out of the cage. But always be watchful and aware.
  6. You can still feed in the safe space and use it overnight – we certainly would advise this for a number of weeks.

Skirmishes are likely. For example, we recently adopted another kitten who was so confident around everyone. She quickly learnt that she has a place in the pecking order and yes, the dogs would snap at her if she went near their food or tried to get on their beds. They all have to learn where the boundaries are.

Our dogs will try to chase any cats that aren’t ours. Diego, our Franco/Anglo who came to us from Les Amis, HATES cats but you will see a photo here of him with three of ours, all snuggled up on the sofa. To be honest, we adopted him without thinking about how he would be!

Both dogs will sometimes chase one of our own cats in the garden – we certainly put a stop to it if we are there, but we have to bear in mind that animals also have to look after themselves sometimes – we can’t worry all day every day!

Diego (the cat hater) and his pack of cats

You may have seen the story of Henry (deaf house cat) and Darwin (huge St Bernard) in our Newsletters. Darwin was the incumbent and around twelve years old. His owner was concerned that he would be jealous but really wanted a cat. In no time at all, they became truly best friends – Henry even helped Darwin to conquer his fear of storms!

So, if you see a dog that you may like to adopt and it says NO to living with cats, please ask for more details. There are some dogs who just will never accept a cat, but, by and large, with patience and time, it will work. There is always someone in Les Amis you can speak to if you need advice or help, before or after adopting.

PLEASE don’t dismiss a dog out of hand for his bad rep, or not take that gorgeous kitten or cat because you are worried your dog won’t accept it.

(first published in the Les Amis des Animaux newsletter Dec 2023) – article by Sue Worman