A kitty or a pup will make a great addition to your nest, but bring home one to the other and the fur may fly. To keep your cat and dog from fighting like ... well, you know ... provide your little buddies lots of positive social interaction with each other.
The best period of time for your kitty and pup to socialize together is when they are both youngsters. If you can, adopt a kitten and puppy together -- this should make for a lasting, loving relationship between the two. Kitties are most open to socializing between 4 and 14 weeks old, and pups between 4 and 12 weeks old, according to the Gentle Touch Animal Hospital. This short window of opportunity is an important time to show each furry baby that the other is someone they want to be friends with. Make sure the youngsters are weaned first, so they can eat solid foods, and begin to introduce them to each other around 7 weeks old, recommends the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. Positive reinforcement through praise and tasty food rewards at this age teaches your nestlings that the presence of the other amounts to good things.
If you haven't adopted a kitty and pup together as younglings, don't worry. You can socialize adult cats and dogs. The process may take longer than it would with young animals. Kitties or pups previously exposed to the presence of members of the opposite species under good circumstances tend to do better as adults when interacting with each other. When adopting a new furry companion, ask the breeder or a shelter worker if the little guy has been exposed to other cats or dogs as a baby. It's best to choose a pet that hasn't shown extreme aggression or shyness around its own species as well. Those traits can hamper the socialization process with a pet of another species.
No matter what the age of your little furry friends, keep their introductions to each other slow and positive. Have the kitty and the pup spayed or neutered to eliminate the impact of hormones on their interactions with each other. Let them smell each other's scents from one room to another; then let them see each other through a baby gate or a door propped open. When each pet begins to respond with a calm reaction to the sight and smell of the other, give plenty of tasty treats. Face-to-face meetings can take place with your pup on a leash to control him around the kitty, at least until they each show that they are okay around the other -- and be prepared to intervene if the cat appears ready to give the dog a dressing-down.
Helping Things Along
Kitten and puppy early-socialization classes help prepare your little guys for interacting with members of their own species and with those of others. Using cat or dog synthetic pheromone sprays around your furry friends can help put them at ease around each other, helping to socialize them, according to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Before introducing your pup to your kitty, teach him basic obedience commands so you can verbally control him and keep him reserved around your feline friend. Set up spaces for each of your little ones to retreat to, like a cat tree or condo for the kitty and a kennel for the pup. This way, each one of them has a safe spot all his own.
Your kitty and puppy have their own ways of communicating with others of their own species. These body signals and behaviors are specific to each type of pet. Unfortunately, this can lead to some misunderstandings between your furry friends. Researchers at Tel Aviv University, though, found that cats and dogs appear to learn to translate and understand each other's behaviors over time, leading to a friendly relationship between them, according to ScienceDaily. This is why slow introductions and positive rewards are crucial to giving your little ones a chance to get to know each other and eventually understand each other, too. With time and patience, your furry family members should learn to get along -- or to tolerate each other at the very least.
- Cat Channel: Cats and Dogs
- Animal Humane Society: Socializing the Adult Dog
- PetPlace.com: How to Keep Your Dog and Cat From Feuding
- VPI Pet Insurance: Socializing Cats and Dogs
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Can Cats and Dogs Get Along?
- The Veterinary Clinics of North America -- Small Animal Practice: Preventing Behavior Problems in Puppies and Kittens
- Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association: Effects of Dog-Appeasing Pheromones on Anxiety and Fear in Puppies During Training and on Long-Term Socialization
- ScienceDaily: Dogs and Cats Can Live in Perfect Harmony in the Home, if Introduced the Right Way
- American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior: AVSAB Position Statement on Puppy Socialization
- Gentle Touch Animal Hospital: Puppy and Kitten Socialization, Training and Behavior
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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