Dogs have owners, cats have staff – or so the saying goes. And there is some truth behind it, insists Lea Schmitz of the German Animal Protection League.
The animal expert points out that dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years and have developed a close affection for humans.
Cats, on the other hand, have not been in the company of people for as long and have therefore remained more independent.
Despite their differences, it is possible to keep the two animals together under one roof.
However, there are a couple of things to watch for that make getting along in everyday life a bit easier.
Cohabitation can be possible with proper training: Both animals should be able to remain relaxed in the presence of the other and be able to take commands from their owner in emergencies, explains Schmitz.
Dogs should be reliable with instructions such as “To heel” or “Drop”. Cats can also learn certain behaviours through clicker training, she adds.
“The language of cats and dogs is very different,” she explains. Dogs may understand the purring of cats as threatening.
The younger the animals are, the easier it is for them to get accustomed to one another.
The animals should be introduced to each other gradually. It may help to acclimatise each animal to the smell of the other – perhaps with the help of a brush or a collar.
Another possibility is to bring an existing pet along when going to choose a new animal, suggests dog trainer Heiko Kasner. “This way the owner can see how they react to each other.”
It’s best to keep the animals separated by a fence when they first meet and then to keep them in different rooms with the door closed in-between while they’re getting used to one another. It’s also a good idea to keep the dog on a leash. Use a muzzle if in doubt.
“Ideally you should take a holiday during this period so that you can react quickly to any situation,” suggests Ursula Bauer of Animal Action.
Owners should also create a retreat room so that the four-legged friends can get away from it all. For example, a cat’s litter tray and sleeping basket should be in a well-protected space.
To steer clear of rivalries during mealtimes, feed the animals at the same time, says Schmitz. It is never a good idea for the animals to share a bowl – it is much better to keep them separate from each other.
But be warned: Despite all your best intentions and efforts, there will always be animals for whom cohabitation is simply not possible.
At the end of the day, they don’t live together in nature. For example, dogs have a strong hunting instinct, and as such are not well-suited to living with other animals: They can possibly see cats as prey.
“If after two weeks of adjustment time the animals don’t come together at all, the project has failed,” says Bauer. It’s best for pet owners to check beforehand if it’s OK to return an animal to the point of sale in case it doesn’t work out.
Schmitz has one final tip for cat and dog lovers. “Both animals need to be treated for parasites like fleas and worms so that they don’t catch them from one another.”
However, each species needs to be treated using different means: The ingredient fipronil, used in treatments for dogs, can be lethal for cats. – dpa