You have a dog and are thinking of adopting a cat, or the other way around? Here are some tips that will shatter the myth
Na’ama Rolnik, SPCA Adoption Counselor and dog trainer
Many dogs enjoy chasing cats on the street. They are driven mainly by a strong hunting instinct, but when they reach the cat, the game is over. My dog, for instance, loves to make all the cats in the vicinity climb up the trees and then, when she has accomplished her mission, she comes back home, satisfied and happy. This does not prevent her from growing up in a house with two cats and living with them in perfect harmony.
If you are considering taking in a cat into your home, it is important to verify if your dog limits its enjoyment to displaying its hunting instinct, if it is, perhaps, totally indifferent towards cats, or, in the worst case – is aggressive towards cats, which will force you to abandon the idea of adopting a cat. Should your dog be indifferent to cats or social at a moderate, controllable level of enthusiasm, then you can bring a cat into your home.
In such a situation, it is advisable to bring a kitten so that it can learn to live with and accept the dog as an inseparable part of the household, and, more importantly, to protect the dog. An adult cat that comes into a new family and is under stress may take all its aggressions out on the dog and cause damage, the most problematic being a scratched eye. If you still want to adopt an adult cat, it is recommended to choose one that grew up with dogs or a breed with a quiet temperament such as a Persian or British cat.
If you are rearing a cat and have decided that you are ready to add a dog to your household, it is worthwhile taking the age of the cat into consideration. If the cat is ten years old, has never seen a dog and is a nervous type, it will probably take it a very long time to become accustomed, if it ever will. The ideal situation is when your cat is still a kitten that is still open and receptive to change and can grow accustomed to a dog. However, if your cat is fully grown then there are two optimal options: the first is to adopt an adult dog that grew up with cats or an adult dog that is indifferent to cats. This option suits mainly those who are not able to undertake raising a puppy. The second option is to adopt a puppy. A puppy is far more energetic, which may stress out the cat, but on the other hand, a puppy will learn to accept the cat and to live with it in equanimity.
It should be understood that in all cases of adoption there will be an acclimatization period during which it is not recommended to leave the dog and cat together in the same area without supervision. If you have taken a dog into your home, it is advisable to limit it to one defined area in the house, enabling the cat to wander freely around the rest of the house, and to do the opposite if you have brought a new cat to a home where a dog already lives. The interaction between them must be controlled and it is recommended to leave a leash on the dog when it is near the cat to enable you to control it quickly.