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by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS

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 How to Introduce Cats to Dogs and Vice Versa


That couple fights like cats and dogs!  Is there really a centuries old undeclared war between these two species?  Why is it that some "mixed species couples" get along famously, while others seem to verify the stereotype?

 

Early Learning

Dogs and cats might not get along with each other for a few reasons. Most likely, one or both were not socialized to the other species during their critical learning developmental period.

Dogs end their primary socialization period at about 16 weeks of age. Cats mature out of their sensitive learning period at about 10 to 12 weeks.

 

When puppies and kittens are introduced to a different species during these early weeks, the brain is most ready to accept new individuals into the social circle. In later weeks, there is a tendency to treat new individuals as "outsiders" to be distrusted. Without early introductions, dogs and cats tend to treat new individuals as "outsiders" that can't be trusted.

You can help your cat overcome social disabilities from lack of early kitten socialization but count on a lot of time, patience, and careful supervision. 
Learning can overcome this bias over enough time and with a good strategy.

 

You need to prevent the dog from chasing the cat and teach the dog  new ways to greet a cat.

 

The second most common reason that dogs and cats don't get along is because pet parents do not prevent the dog from chasing the cat. In some breeds, chasing the cat triggers the canine predatory instinct which can be dangerous to the cat!

 

Mistaken Identity

When presented with a charging dog, most cats will run. This triggers the chase instinct in the canine brain, and flashes a, "Chase prey!" signal. Cats are not natural prey of dogs, but in the heat of the moment, all is forgotten except the thrill of the chase.

In most cases, if the cat stops running, the chase is over and the dog loses interest. The real problem comes when a cycle starts and the dog becomes constantly on alert for an opportunity to play the chase-the-cat game. The chased cat responds fearfully by hiding or aggressively by attacking. Rarely does the cat respond friendly.


F
or dogs with a strong predatory instinct, the dog may not be able to lower his arousal that quickly and may pursue the cat. Once the dog gets into a vicious cycle of chasing the cat and getting a thrill, changing this pattern is much harder.

 

In dogs with a tendency toward predatory aggression, and if the cat is caught by the dog, the dog may try to kill and even begin to eat the cat

 

Although cats naturally fear and will avoid dogs who chase them, confidant cats may turn aggressive towards dogs. There are a few exceptions with individual cats who do see this as play because the dog never harms them.

 

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