Integrating dogs and cats


Contrary to popular belief, dogs and cats CAN be pals! The key is patience and calm.

The more anxious or upset you get, the more it will escalate the dog’s excitement – they’ll think it’s a fun game! Follow the above steps but be aware that dogs may still try to chase cats at first because they want to play and investigate. As long as they don’t display aggression and your cat has an easy escape route and place to hide, don’t worry – they should sort themselves out. Just be patient and keep trying but don’t force the issue

Stay calm: Cats may well look a bit freaked out or run away, and the new dog might try to play, but it’s normal. Just discourage him/her gently. If he/she is interested, go with them to see the cats – pulling them back on the lead can only excite them more and make them see cats as a ‘forbidden pleasure’.

Boundaries: More often than not, cats will quickly teach boundaries to a dog with a few hisses or a paw to the snout. Let the cats set the pace – don’t hold them or crate them; they will decide if they’re ok or if they want to step away from the situation! Eventually their curiosity will draw them back. Make sure their food is out of reach of dogs.

Reward good behaviour: If the new dog is friendly and calm, praise them. ANY chasing, barking, growling, etc. at other pets must be interrupted immediately but gently. Distract them with a toy or treat (only give treats when they’re behaving themselves), and gently tug them away by the leash. Do not shout, jerk the leash, or punish. A positive experience means they will associate each other with nice things! It can be helpful to have one person sitting by other dog giving treats and attention but if the new dog comes up to you, don’t chase him/her away.

Be PATIENT! Unless both your cats and the new dog are very laid-back, it’s still a change which they need to adjust to. Be aware of that and go with the flow.

Copyright: Fisantekraal Animal Welfare, 2017. Kindly credit FAW if you share this information as this helps to create awareness around our work, which helps the animals. Thank you!

Real story: Sasha and the kitties

Sasha, a black Labrador-x, was sasha1Newrescued by FAW as a skinny, unsocialised pup who had been kept in a tiny space alongside a dilapidated house. She was adopted at around 6 months of age by the Staak family, and quickly made friends with their senior Labrador, Minx. But making friends between Sasha and the cats was another story…

Initially, Sasha was not at all impressed with the cats – and the feeling was mutual. They ran away, hissed at her, and refused to come inside. This lasted about a week or so. One of the cats was braver and soon started to check out the new family member. However, Sasha, not being used to cats, growled at them and sometimes made as if she was going to give chase.

The Staaks had already fallen in love with Sasha and were not about to let her go, so they set about implementing some of the above tips. They started by letting Sasha sniff the cats through the door, then patiently supervised all cat-dog encounters. They stayed calm at all times, and made sure Sasha knew her place. The fact that her new doggy friend, Minx, was happy around the cats and showed her the ropes.

A year later, Sasha and the cats are very good friends. They even share a couch! There is no more growling, barking, chasing, hissing, or other antagonism, and there is, once again, peace in the home. This proves that, even with a dog that shows signs of real unfriendliness, it IS possible to have a happy home with both.*

*Note: if the dog really shows aggression or bites/attempts to bite the cat, keep them separated, never leave them alone together, and consult an animal behaviourist.