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Introducing Cats and Dogs

cats-dogsIntroducing dogs and cats takes time and patience. It might be several months before they can be in the same room together and you will need to manage the situation carefully.

A dog’s natural instinct is to chase any small, fast moving creature and the cat’s instinct is to run if afraid. Given the opportunity, a dog will have great fun chasing a cat up a tree or watching it claw its way up your curtains.

Your chances of success are greater if your cat is strong willed and your dog is docile. If your cat is timid and your dog is alert, young and active, then your job will be more difficult.

Remember to take the process slowly. If your cat is over stressed and frightened, he may decide to leave. Cats are notorious for abandoning one home because the food and facilities are better a few doors away.

It is important that the cat should not feel threatened by the dog and she will need to know that she has access to safe areas away from him. In the early days, the best solution might be to allow the cat access to upstairs and keep the dog downstairs. She will also need a route outside that will not take her past the dog.

For the first few weeks allow them to become familiar with each others’ smell but keep them completely separate. If you have pieces of vet bed, you can keep swopping the beds around until the pets show no interest and seem comfortable with the new smells.

The second step is to allow your dog and cat to see each other but not touch. Put up a safety gate so that the cat can walk past with no fear that the dog can reach her. Praise the dog for quiet behaviour but if he becomes excited, shut the door and remove him from the situation.

When you feel that the cat is confident enough and the dog calm enough, you can attempt an encounter in the same room. Put the dog on a lead and allow the cat access from the far side of the room. Try to set up the situation so that you can remove the dog immediately if he starts to become excited. If you have a room where you can stand by a door with the dog (and remove him if necessary) and the cat can leave by another exit, then you will not be placing either under too much stress. In an encounter the cat must never feel that she is “cornered”; she will become calm and confident more quickly if she feels that she is safe and can remove herself from any perceived danger.

Until the animals are confident with each other, always keep the dog on a lead in the cat’s presence. If the dog has an opportunity to chase the cat, her confidence will be shattered and you will face an uphill struggle. A good time to attempt your first encounter would be after your dog has been well exercised and is tired and relaxed. Never force them together. Acceptance might take a very long time.

Remember to praise the dog for all quiet, calm behaviour. Good basic obedience will help, so practise sits, down and stays and try to keep positive. It is important that the dog and cat do not have negative associations with each other.

Make sure that your cat always has access to areas where the dog is not allowed. She will need somewhere private to eat, sleep and use her litter tray. As she becomes more relaxed and they share living space, you can arrange furniture so that she can always climb up high if she feels that she needs to escape.

Be prepared to take the whole process very slowly. Until you are sure that they are safe together, never leave them alone.

Dogs at the Doodle Trust will always have spent a short time in foster care for assessment. It is often possible to find out if the dog has lived amicably with a cat.

Many Doodles have been bred from working labradors and can have strong hunting instincts. In some cases it may take a long time (if ever) to accustom them to small pets. The fact that a dog has lived with a cat will not guarantee that it will tolerate a strange cat.

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