Dogs and cats are both complex animals, with emotional needs which can easily be upset so as to cause anxiety.
When a dog and cat are introduced to each other for the first time, if the situation is an anxious one, the animals will associate each other with negative feelings.
It will therefore be much more difficult to encourage them to bond. It should be noted, however, that even if this does occur, the negative association can be reversed with patience and dedication.
The younger the animals are the quicker they should grow to trust each other, but older leopards can change their spots too (I'm not suggesting you get a leopard).
For both animals, introduce them in a way which shows you are happy and at ease with them, showing that they are in a safe and secure environment. Animals always socialize more readily when relaxed.
Cats can be very territorial, so much so that they can, if forced, fight to the death over their direct territory when encountering other cats.
If you are bringing a dog into your home and you already have a cat, you will need to do it in a way where your cat does not feel their territory is under threat.
Try to keep the dog away from “prime” areas where your cat tends to sleep or hide. These are the spots your cat will protect the most.
When introducing your dog, keep him/her on a leash and ensure that your cat has plenty of space to vacate the area around the dog if it feels the need.
Keep your new cat in a different room from your dog for a day or two. Ensure that your new friend has toys, somewhere to sleep, and everything it needs to be happy for that short time.
This will allow the scent of the cat to become a familiar facet of your home for your dog. Once your cat has heard your dog, but seems relaxed and wants to leave the room, it's a sign that it is more confident.
If you have earned the trust of your cat, keep the animal in your arms and allow your dog to come over in his/her own time.
He/she will be curious eventually and will approach to sniff its new friend. This helps your dog associate a sent, the main form of communication in canines, with your new cat.
Depending on how well behaved a dog is, it might be a good idea to incorporate a level of obedience training into how they interact with your cat.
The reason for this is that dogs have a strong chase instinct. This doesn't mean they want to eat your cat (although you should always be wary), but it does mean that your dog might take it upon itself to chase your cat around your home.
This will cause anxiety for the cat if it doesn't recognize this as a game, and in the worst case scenario the cat might decide to fight back, which could result in an injury to your dog. No need to panic about this, however, it rarely comes to this.
Most dog owners are aware of commands such as “sit” or “heel”, but the command “leave” or “leave it” is a great way to show your dog that you don't want him or her chasing your new pet. It's an effective way to control how your dog will be around your cat.
While some cats can be almost too inquisitive, most are cautious by nature so will hopefully not chase your dog around. If they do, it might be worth using a cat harness and leash when the animals are around each other initially.
One of the biggest mistakes a pet owner can make is to assume that when one animal is ready to play, the other is too.
Playing is an important way for alliances and socialization to take place for cats and dogs, but both animals have to be willing to take part.
For example, you might have a kitten who just wants to play with an older dog, a great sign from your cat, but if your dog shows any signs of frustration, or tries to get away and can't, this can lead to some problem confrontations. The reverse is equally as true.
In the first few weeks, observe the playful behavior of both animals. When you sense one isn't in the mood, try to separate both of your pets carefully.
Eventually the other animal will come around and enjoy playing, but sometimes a dog can be more ready to strike up a friendship than a cat, and vice versa.
This is especially true when one animal is very young and the other much larger and older. That can be a potentially dangerous combination, but with some patience and by encouraging both animals to play when the time is right, they will bond eventually.
Don't worry too much about your dog and cat. If you take the above into consideration, and continue researching about how best to socialize your favourite pals, they will become firm friends.
All photos courtesy of Public Domain Pictures