Today’s column is about pet relationships or, more specifically, cats and dogs living together.
I often hear people voicing their concern about adding a new pet to their home. They worry it will upset the household, particularly their current pet. I hope I can offer some advice, which is based on my own experiences of settling dogs and cats into my home.
You will need to have patience because you can’t rush the relationship. If you are adopting a rescue cat or dog, the organization may already know if the pet enjoys other pets.
We owned two great rescue cats before we brought a dog into our lives. Of course, we were hesitant as we did not want to cause too much stress for our cats. We met the puppy a few times before we brought him home. On one of those visits, we placed the puppy in a blanket we brought from home. We later left the blanket in our living room so the cats could get used to the puppy’s smell.
I think it helped because there did not appear to be very much chaos when we brought the puppy home. We only had to redirect the puppy’s attention anytime he showed interest in the cats. In the end, the three of them became best friends and they slept together on the dog bed for many years.
The second dog we added to our gang was a hulking seven-year-old rescue boy and the introductions to the cats were utterly different. The dogs bonded immediately, but the new rescue dog was petrified of our cats.
He never looked at them and he would slink away when they came into the room. If one of the cats was sitting on the stairs, the dog would keep his distance; he would stay at the top or bottom of the stairs until the cat moved away.
It was silly to watch because the cats were not reactive to dogs and were very social. As time moved forward, the rescue dog finally figured out the cats were not a threat and he started to enjoy hanging out with them and even took naps beside them.
I also recommend feeding new pets in separate spaces and to always keep the feeding areas consistent. To this day, I feed our dog and cat in different rooms. My dog eats very fast and I want to give our cat ample time to eat in peace.
You may want to consider keeping your dog on a leash when introducing them to a cat. The leash would keep the cat from being chased and it would keep the dog safe from any swats from the cat.
Being a person who advocates for homeless pets, I often encourage people to have more than one pet in their home if possible. That being said, please ensure the pets can live together peacefully.
Please be kind to animals.
Tracy Jessiman is a pet portrait artist who lives in Halifax with her husband and their three pets. She is a volunteer with Animal Rescue Coalitions of Nova Scotia. She has been rescuing animals most of her life, but more intimately, animals rescued her