The Difference Between Cats and Dogs
The difference between cats and dogs can sometimes seem like night and day. Yes, they both have furry tails, four legs, and steal your heart, but the similarities often end there. Cats do life on their own terms. They can take or leave us humans most days, and generally prefer to show you who’s boss (hint: it’s not you).
Dogs, on the other hand, live to be your companion. They’re honestly excited to see you every time you come through the door (even 10 seconds after you left). They usually don’t hold grudges and are intensely interested in food, or the smell of food, or the promise of food. Dogs would prefer you to be their pack leader, so they can relax and just be themselves. Communicate your leadership in a language your dog can understand and he’s more than happy to follow you anywhere.
The key to helping your fur-kids get along to find some common ground. For most pets, that common ground is FOOD.
You can go a long ways toward achieving peace in your house with a few treats and some basic training. Work on simple commands and well-behaved manners with the promise of a yummy meal or treat as the reward for good behavior. But keep in mind, food can also be a source of contention for your pets if you have one or both who like to compete for the lion’s share of the kibble. For these pets, using play as a bonding experience can sometimes work better. Just keep co-play sessions short and always look out for the non-aggressor in the duo, since he may end up taking the brunt of his overly-eager playtime buddy.
Dealing with a Feline Aggressor
When your cat is the instigator the majority of the time, your poor pup can end up spending most of his days in fear. Sharp claws and teeth can come at your dog at any time even for seemingly no reason at all except the cat didn’t like the way the dog was looking at him, or maybe he just felt like bullying the dog- because he can.
When a cat feels the need to attack, he is most likely trying to defend his territory. One solution is to give the cat a good distraction, by letting him outside in the yard. This expands his hunting grounds and lessens his need to defend the couch, bed, or living room from the dog. Distraction is a great tool for deterring unwanted behavior in cats. You can offer an interesting toy, a petting session, or a trip outdoors when he starts to show aggression.
When a Dog’s Instinct Gets the Best of Him
Most dogs have a predatory instinct. This can spell trouble for your cat unless the dog is taught not to view the cat as a pest that needs to be eradicated or a yummy snack. Some breeds of dogs are notorious for being aggressive towards small animals like mice, rabbits, squirrels, and cats. Some dog breeds just really shouldn’t share a home with cats. Most dogs can be taught to get along with cats.
One of the best ways to help your fur-kids get along is to feed them together (with close supervision). There’s something about sharing a meal that helps create a bond. Playtime can also be a great opportunity for bonding. If one or the other has territorial issues, try creating a space for each to retreat to so they have a place to call their own, and save shared spaces, like the family room, for joint activities.
If your dog is determined to eat the family cat, you may need to consult a professional dog trainer or behaviorist for expert advice. Exposing your dog to cats a little at a time can help, but be sure to provide very close supervision. Keeping blankets, toys, and other items with the cat’s scent around the house can also help your dog adjust.
Setting Up a Multi-Pet Household
Don’t mix dog and cat toys in the same basket. Instead, give each pet their own space for their toys to avoid disputes over a favorite toy. Preventing fights before they start will help pet parents teach cats and dogs to get along better. At first, you may need to introduce your pets to each other through smell, with a closed door between them if you’re bringing home a new cat or dog. Letting your fur-kids “meet” each other through scenting each other first can help them adjust with less aggression.
Think of your cat and dog’s relationship as similar to stepchildren learning to live in the same house. It may take time. And things may not always go smoothly. It can be difficult to adjust to big life changes, and even learning to get along with your furry siblings can be a real challenge. Cats don’t speak dog, and dogs don’t speak cat, so until they learn each other’s ways, you’ll have to serve as an interpreter for both your cat and your dog. Even if your cat and dog never reach the point of best buddies, they can usually learn to tolerate each other’s presence and occasionally enjoy each other’s company. You can help facilitate the process and provide safety and protection for both of your fur-kids as learn the joys of living in a multi-pet home.