Dogs and Cats
Choosing a dog
That said, if your existing cat is very nervous or aggressive near dogs, particularly guest puppies visit their home, then adopting a pup is not a good idea. You'll need to give careful consideration to the breed of dog you choose. Certain breeds have a higher prey (or chase) drive than others.
Some of the most cat-friendliest breeds include:
- Australian Cobberdog
- Labrador Retriever
- Golden Retriever
- German Shepherd
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Bichon Frise
Cat households introducing a new puppy
Many people are unsure whether to bring a puppy into a cat household. However, according to statistics, 24% of UK adults own a cat and eventually adopt a puppy. In our experience, prospective puppy owners are usually more worried about how their cat will feel about the new addition rather than how they're going to cope!
Don't fret - cats are generally sensible animals and adjust well. Even rocky starts between puppy and cats tend to resolve as they adapt to the new family order.
It's definitely a myth that cats and dogs can't get along. In reality, they can be best friends once they get to know each other.
We have two cats in our home and there is no doubt that they consider themselves to be above all dogs in the pecking order.
Things to change before your new puppy arrives:
- Change to non-clumping litter. Some puppies are attracted to the smell of the litter tray. It's extremely dangerous if they ingest clumping litter as it solidifies in their gut.
- Move the litter tray, bed and cat food dishes to a different room before the puppy arrives. This is only relevant if this is the area you'll feed and house your new pup. These changes alone are usually enough to make most cats disappear for a few days. Nonetheless, we always recommend placing your cat's belongings in locations that your dog cannot reach.
- Keep any other smaller pets out of reach. Keep any fish, hamsters, rats, or guinea pigs away from both pets during the initial introduction. It reduces the risk of them being harmed if things go wrong. Some dogs can have predatory instincts by nature, so all small loose pets, including cats, can be identified as prey. If your cat runs, then your puppy's natural urge might be to chase them.
- Trim cat's nails before the introduction. A cat's natural self-defence is their claws when they feel threatened. You don't want your puppy getting scared if they get scratched badly.
- Multi-species calming products. We sell calming spray and diffusers, which are multi-species. Therefore, they work on both cats and dogs. It's better than animal-specific brands, especially pheromone-based products. It's easy, cheap and you only need one product, instead of two. It's particularly useful if you also have excited children and/or other furry pets in the home as well.
Tips to make your cat more comfortable
Introductions are those first impressions of puppies, and all resident pets have for each other. It's like meeting someone new; when you first see each other, you have assumptions about their personality that you may or may not like.
The same goes for pets. Dogs and cats only interact through non-verbal communication, unlike humans. Your cat might show signs of fear or aggression when interacting with your puppy. In this case, the introductions should be planned accordingly and should be in a safe place where they can comfortably adjust and get to know each other at their own pace.
Make sure the cat has plenty of room to run around the house. They tend to run away when they feel scared. Prepare your home for these changes; make sure the cat has an escape route and hiding place if they want to hide from your puppy.
Purchase cat towers or any elevated surface if you haven't got one already. It helps the cat feel safer around the puppy. Consider moving a clean litter box, water and food to this location as well.
We often tether the puppy to their new owner (handsfree) in the house during the adoption for a smooth handover.
The next tip can be tricky for pet owners: never get too close to your pets, especially your cat, during the introduction. A cat can panic and might run away from the situation. You can imagine the scratches you'll have if you're holding your cat in your arms and they get scared of your puppy.
During the first few weeks
- Feed your puppy in your crate to avoid conflict. It also ensures each animal eats its correct meals. Dogs and cats can share water bowls; however, they cannot share food. Canine and feline nutritional requirements are quite different. Cats are pure carnivores, and Labradoodles have specific dietary requirements for skin, coat and joints. Any access to cat food containing chicken or artificial preservatives should be strictly restricted.
- Use positive reinforcement for good behaviour. Pets tend to repeat actions when they are rewarded. It encourages them to repeat the desired response and expect something in return. During the introduction, reward your pets with treats and praise to promote calmness.
- Never leave them unsupervised. For everyone's safety, never leave a puppy initially unsupervised with a cat inside the house. Scent swapping is helpful if you want them to get used to each other's smell before the actual introduction.
- Scent swapping is a kind of repeated informal introduction. You can gently stroke each pet, rotating between them without washing your hands. It'll help them get used to your skin smelling a different but familiar scent.
- Use a smelly Bonzo (dog toy) and Bruno (matching cat toy) in both beds. Swap toys over to get each pet accustomed to the other's scent. Heat pads in the Bonzo/Bruno will make them more appealing as a warm night-time pal.
- Don't force them together. Whilst both pets are adjusting, it's common that one will reject the other. The most common signs include displaying teeth, rejecting places when your puppy is around, or even showing signs of jealousy when you're petting your pup. As pet owners, your topmost priority should be the comfort of both your pets. Therefore, never force them together as conflict may arise.
- Designate separate places inside your home in case they want to run away from each other. This allows them to create a safe space for each other to settle. We strongly recommend having a crate for your puppy if you have a cat. Many families offer the cat a crate as well as their own space. However, usually, cats simply remain up high, away from floor level.
- Never let your cat bully your puppy. Most pet owners usually say it's just a friendly fight; however, it can cause a lot of anxiety for your puppy. Instead, separate both pets when the fighting becomes severe and you hear the puppy getting hurt.
Signs of fear or aggression in a puppy
Observe your puppy's behaviour at all times. Watch for body languages that indicate fear, aggression or stress, including:
- Growling and snarling
- Raising of fur on the neck or back
- Longer stares at each other than usual
- Display of teeth
- Hunched back
Signs of aggression in your cat:
- If a cat's tail is puffed and in full erect, it means they are aggressive towards the situation; if their tail slinks lower, they show fear and stress.
- If their ears twitch and move backwards, this tells you that an encounter wasn't friendly at all. Afterwards, the cat will turn its back away and leave quickly.
- A wagging tail denotes happiness in dogs. However, this is the opposite in cats as it is a sign of a predatory attack. Similarly, an open mouth in cats (often exposing teeth whilst making a hissing noise) is a clear indication of aggression.
- When a cat shows her back and hides its belly, it acts as self-defence to any danger that may come.
Introductions aren't a one-time event for either pet. It will take a while for both to adapt to life together. Therefore, stay calm, even if the initial introduction wasn't a success. It's not a disaster. Pets can take months to accept each other. They usually find an equilibrium and become friends.