“Are you a cat person or a dog person?”
This question is innocent enough, but it always gets under my skin. Technically, I’m a cat person. My current pet is a cat. And if I could have only one type of pet for the rest of my life, I’d pick cats. Cats have the edge in representation on my Pinterest board of cuteness.
But that doesn’t mean I’m anti-dog, or that I can’t imagine why anyone would choose a dog’s companionship. I have a crush on the French bulldog who works at my favorite pet store (and I think it’s mutual).
When I went to “The Cutest Show on Earth,” the host asked for a show of hands as to who was a dog person and who was a cat person. My friend Sharon did something I wished I had thought to do: She raised her hands for both cats and dogs.
And, of course, old cliches aside, cats and dogs can get along just fine. Remember our story about Mozzy the teacher cat, whose best friend is a Chihuahua? We asked Suzanne Pruitt of Mozzy’s foster family for some tips on helping dogs and cats happily co-exist. In addition to their foster animals, Suzanne’s family has four cats and three dogs of their own.
• “The first few times they are together on the ground, it is best to keep the dog leashed for safety and correction,” Suzanne says. “Even if you don't hold the leash, it gives the dog a sense of being tethered and controlled.” (By the way, all of these tips are for dogs that have not shown signs of cat aggression.)
• Let the dog sniff the cat and then ask him to turn back to you to sit. Follow this with a treat. “Try this a couple times in a row,” Suzanne says.
• Cats need places where they can be higher than dogs, such as cat trees. At Suzanne’s house, cats are allowed on the furniture, but dogs are not. “I think that the height difference makes the cats feel safe and also causes the dogs to see them in a superior position,” she says.
• “If the dog barks at the cat, clap your hands or do something to distract the dog,” she says. “Give a treat for a quick, positive change. Don't allow the dog to jump up at the cat when the cat is in your arms.”
• “As the cat walks by, reassure the dog by saying something like ‘Be sweet’ or whatever works,” Suzanne says. Give positive reinforcement (it doesn’t have to be food) for waiting patiently or just walking by sweetly. “Most of the time the dogs and cats learn to walk by each other without even acknowledging one another.”
• “If your dog is not food aggressive, you can eventually start to feed them near each other, but not too close,” Suzanne says. (Mozzy and Chico the Chihuahua, pictured above, are an exception to her rule.)“Eating together is a good bonding time.”
• Try petting and talking to your cat without acknowledging your dog. Suzanne theorizes that it’s good for the dog to see the cat in a favored position. “They also see the cat in a relaxed and loved mood, and the dogs usually respond well to this,” she says.
Do you have cats and dogs who are BFFs? We’d love to hear about them and see pictures!
Photo credits: Siamese cat and dog: Arantz via Wikimedia.org Gray-and-white cat and dog: Ohnoitsjamie via Wikimedia.org Mozzy and Chico: Suzanne Pruitt