“…this city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions… fire and brimstone coming down from the skies… forty years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanoes… dogs and cats, living together – mass hysteria!” – Ghostbusters
In the classic comedy Ghostbusters – currently celebrating its 30 year anniversary – Bill Murray’s character and his ghost-catching comrades categorize “dogs and cats, living together” alongside human sacrifice, boiling rivers and seas, and the dead rising. Is a shared-space scenario truly so grave?
While the film’s quote is meant to provoke laughter, many regard canine/cat cohabitation as a general recipe for disaster: add one feline, mix with dog, then jump back and watch the fur fly. We even accuse arguing people of “fighting like cats and dogs.” It’s true dogs and cats have had some epic altercations (sometimes with very surprising winners) but much of this unruly reputation is unfounded. The notion dogs and cats can’t live together is the real mass hysteria.
And that’s why we’re aiming to dispel the last three decades of Ghostbuster-inspired canine character assassination!
Here are a few tips for dogs and cats living together:
- Looking to add a cat to your existing dog home? Talk to your local shelter to see if they have dog-experienced cats that can meet your dog under controlled conditions. Some shelters help arrange this prior to adoption.
- Introducing a new dog to an existing cat? It’s probably a good idea to trim kitty’s claws.
- Make sure your dog has basic obedience training first, such as coming when called and understanding “leave it”.
- Work off some of that doggy energy prior to a first meeting, and have treats handy.
- Keep the dog on a leash or use a baby gate to control interaction, but don’t inhibit the cat’s movement.
- Be present for the first interaction, keep it brief, and don’t put them together unsupervised for at least a month.
- You may need to create separate spaces within the house until a rapport is created.
- Create permanent retreats for both animals where they have safety and privacy.
- Food should be separate, and don’t let the dog near kitty’s litter box (it’s stressful for the cat, and your dog might view it as food).
- If aggressive behavior continues but you’re lovingly committed to both animals, a professional animal behaviorist may be solicited for help.
For more information on these and other tips the ASPCA, HeartforAnimals.org, the American Humane Association and petfinder.com have pages dedicated to dog/cat introductions. And don’t worry–many Rover sitters are happy to watch cats a well as dogs! We celebrate those of you who defy the stigma–the beauty and joy of a blended family might just be worth it.