Can dogs understand cats?
Which requirements have to be met?
A basic requirement for bringing dogs and cats together is that neither of the two has had negative experiences with the other. If a cat has already been chased by a dog and has almost been bitten "to death", you will have to struggle to overcome your cat's fear and to get it used to a life with its "mortal enemy". Even dogs that have passionately hunted cats all their lives or who have had painful experiences with the sharp claws of the house tiger will be reluctant to take this animal into their pack.
Getting to know dogs and cats needs to be planned
To be successful, you should prepare carefully for the first encounter between the two animals. Create a plan for the merger and take a few days off to implement it. Make sure that there is another person next to you during the first few days of the meeting, so that they can, for example, devote themselves entirely to the cat, while you mainly look after your dog. In general, it is important that you can focus your attention fully on your animals when you meet them for the first time. Special events such as visiting friends or large family gatherings should better not take place during this time. Even loud background noises from the radio or television can seriously disrupt the first meeting of dogs and cats.
Dogs, with an innate hunting instinct or very shy cats, on the other hand, are not a complete exclusion criterion for peaceful coexistence. Of course, in this case you will always have to cope with setbacks and the habituation phase for dogs and cats will take some time - but it is not impossible. Even the most unsuitable dog breeds are able to live peacefully under one roof with a cat, provided they have been carefully accustomed to the new roommate. In order for the merging to work, you need a lot of time and even more patience. Do not let the dog and cat just let loose on each other - the dog would chase the cat relentlessly, leaving you with a completely aggressive or frightened cat who would not get involved in a second encounter with this "monster".
This is how you plan to get to know your dog and cat
- Create a plan for the merger and take a few days off to implement it
- Make sure that there is another person next to you in the first few days of the meeting, so that they can, for example, devote themselves entirely to the cat, while you mainly look after your dog
- In general, it is important that you can focus your attention fully on your animals when you meet them for the first time
- Special events such as visiting friends or large family gatherings should better not take place during this time. Even loud background noises from the radio or television can seriously disrupt the first meeting of dogs and cats
Who fits who?
If you do not yet have a specific cat or a precise dog in mind that will move in with you as a second pet, you can of course make sure that the two go together as well as possible when making your selection. Mutual socialization works best with puppies who can get used to living together with the other breed from the very beginning and without any "previous stresses".
If you already have an older dog or cat in the house, the newcomer should be calmer, so not too wild and spirited. If, on the other hand, you have a very lively dog at home, the cat should also have a certain self-confidence to be able to assert itself against the bundle of temperaments.
Who came first
Incidentally, the question of which pet came first has a decisive influence on how cats and dogs are brought together: dog or cat? While dogs as pack animals usually accept a new family member quite soon, cats are often much more skeptical of the newcomer and perceive the dog as a threat to their territory. Integrating a cat into a dog household usually works more smoothly than the other way round.
If it is certain that a new animal roommate is to move in with you and you are willing to invest the time, effort and patience in bringing the animals together, you can soon put your plan into action. Before dog and cat face each other for the very first time, however, it is advisable to take a few precautions at home.
To avoid conflict, you should choose a room in your home that is as neutral as possible for the first meeting. The favorite place of the "long-established animal" would certainly be an unsuitable place for getting to know each other for the first time. In addition, you should make sure that the cat is given appropriate retreats if the matter is unsafe. A cat tree, a raised shelf or an empty window sill, from where you can initially observe the dog from a distance, gives your cat security. In addition, you should prepare a separate room for the newcomer, in which they can stay and withdraw for the first few days.
Separation of food bowl and litter box
A spatial separation is also recommended for the two feeding places. In order to avoid feed envy, it is best to choose an elevated place in the apartment for the cat's feeding place and feed the animals at different times if necessary. Just like each other's food bowl, the litter box is absolutely taboo for the dog. The cat absolutely needs to be quiet in the "quiet place" and is extremely sensitive to any disturbance of its privacy. Not infrequently, dogs also tend to eat the leftovers in the litter box, whereupon the cat moves to other places and becomes unclean.
Getting used to smells and noises for the first time
Parallel to the preparations in the apartment, you can also "prepare" the animals for the move in of the other. One possibility is that you rub the fur of both animals with a dry cloth and then place it at the feeding place of the opposite part. In this way, dogs and cats can get used to the other's smell and combine them with something positive due to the combination of smell and food. If the dog tends to bark loudly, the cat can also get used to this unfamiliar and possibly frightening noise in advance. Record the dog barking and then play it to the cat - first softly and then slowly and gradually louder until the actual volume of the barking noise is reached. If a cat joins a dog household, it should also be given the opportunity to explore the new surroundings on its own before meeting the dog for the first time. While a person is walking the dog, the cat can make its first forays into the apartment. So she already knows something when they meet and knows about her retreat options.
How does the first encounter go?
After the preparations in the apartment and the first acclimatization measures for the separated animals, nothing stands in the way of a first encounter between dog and cat. But no matter how well you have prepared yourself and feel ready for anything, the real work is only now beginning. Don't expect your cat and dog to be happy to meet you. "Love at first sight" does not exist with these naturally hostile animals. So lower your expectations and don't let the setbacks that are guaranteed to occur in the beginning get you down. Dog and cat will take some time to get along.
Both animals should be as balanced as possible before they see each other for the first time. You should therefore take your dog for a long walk shortly beforehand so that he is physically fit and satisfied. Incidentally, a hungry stomach also has a negative effect on your own well-being. So make sure that both animals have eaten beforehand and are full. Turn off the radio or television in the room where the reunification is to take place and leash your dog in the room - alternatively, you can hold the leash firmly in your hand. The leash is extremely important in order to avoid possible hunting scenes between dog and cat at all costs. If the dog chased the cat through the whole apartment the first time they met, this would usually be the end of a successful union.
The first contact
If the dog is now securely leashed, another person can let the cat into the room. The cat should definitely decide for itself how close it gets to the dog. In most cases, cats first take refuge in a "vantage point" that is high and as far away as possible, from which they can observe the situation and their "opponent". For almost all animals, getting to know a new roommate in "your own territory" means stress. Fear and nervousness are usually predominant and are only gradually replaced by a certain curiosity about the new partner. So do not ask too much from your animals and end the first meeting after a few minutes - even if it is surprisingly positive.
How do I behave during the meeting?
It is important that you radiate calm and serenity yourself. If you are tense and nervous at the first meeting, it is very likely that this will also be passed on to your animal. Instead, slip into the role of a moderator who gives the animals security and serenity. Pet the dog and cat and speak quietly and quietly. If your dog tugs on the leash like crazy, try to distract him by sitting in front of him and taking away his view of the cat. Don't make the mistake of trying to reassure your dog. The dog, who does not understand the exact words, but only the intonation, will take this kind of affection as confirmation of his behavior and repeat it accordingly. So only praise him when he manages to remain calm in front of the cat. Treats also prove to be helpful as positive reinforcement - for this to work, however, they should really only be distributed if the dog or cat has behaved well.
How long does it take to get dogs and cats used to each other?
After the first encounter it is now “practice, practice, practice!” Depending on how much fear the cat shows, you should limit the getting to know each other to a few minutes a day for the first few days. During the rest of the time, the animals should definitely stay in separate rooms. Initially, one or two encounters of five minutes each per day are enough for the two animals. If you find that the excitement of the first few meetings is slowly subsiding, you can increase the time to ten to fifteen minutes. Until then, however, two weeks can sometimes easily pass. Do not push your animals to anything and let them decide for themselves when you are ready to be in the same room with the other for a longer period of time. As the owner, you know your animals best and you will notice when the curiosity about the new roommate is greater than the initial fear of each other.
After the first few days of getting to know each other, the actual introductory phase begins. Dogs and cats are two fundamentally different animals that communicate using completely different body language. So it takes a while for the animals to learn to correctly assess each other's behavior. Only when the dog no longer sees the cat as prey and the cat no longer perceives the dog as a predator are they ready to slowly get closer. It is not uncommon for a few months to pass until this is the case and one of the animals “breaks the ice”, so to speak.
As you continue to expand the time of the gathering, it is important that you suggest as much normality as possible to the animals. Try to draw your attention to something other than your animals. You can cook, leaf through the newspaper, water flowers or type a text message on your mobile phone - with this you can show dog and cat that it is completely normal for them to live together in the house from now on.
You are only allowed to “let go of each other”, however, only when you are really sure that both react calmly to each other and that neither does harm to the other. It is not uncommon for six months to pass before you can leave the animals alone in the house without supervision.
The way to a well-coordinated team
In order to successfully bring dogs and cats together and to get used to a life together, you definitely need a lot of patience. When the end of the acclimatization period has come is never decided by you, but by the animals. At some point, however, your patience will pay off and your dog and your cat will become a well-rehearsed team, where neither of the two would want to do without each other.
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