Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat.
March 23, 2010 8:54 AM   Subscribe

I'm a cat lady with 3 rescue cats. I'm seeing a guy with 2 rescued dogs. We want to see if they will get along. What's the best way to do this while minimizing trauma?
posted by Kurichina to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Keep the cats safely confined in one room while the dogs sniff at them from outside. After a few days, open the door and let them take stock of each other - being prepared to separate them again if necessary.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:14 AM on March 23, 2010

We have a "brady bunch" family with two rescued dogs (his) and two shelter cats (mine). We introduced them one at a time; he held onto the collar of the dog and I let the cat free. The dogs MUST learn that the cats are above them in the hierarchy, so the dogs must be kept in a submissive position while being introduced. There was a lot of sniffing, a little hissing, and then the cat decided he was bored and ran off. Make sure the cats have space they can hide where the dogs can't go.

The biggest problem was keeping the dogs from getting too excitable, because they outweigh the cats by 20-25 lbs and can accidentally cause injury. So a calm environment is paramount. If the cats have claws, the dogs will quickly learn to stay in line. This has never progressed beyond a veiled threat in our house.

It's been several years, and they all just ignore each other now.
posted by desjardins at 9:16 AM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

If either of the dogs exhibits significant prey drive, it probably will never be safe to leave cats around it. My dog, which is a rescue, is about 1/2 chow and 1/2 Labrador, and was allowed to chase cats as a puppy. He finally caught and killed a few, along with some rabbits and a few birds, and in the end, became less of a cute family dog than he was as a puppy. At which point, I took him in, to save him from being sent to the shelter by the family that first adopted him, because they didn't like him digging out of their fenced yard to go chase stray cats all the time.

He'd still chase and kill small animals, if I let him. So, outside of dog parks, fenced sports fields and my home, he can't be off leash, because he's really quick, and a lot faster than most cats, and once he's on scent, there is no use trying to control him via voice commands. He also needs a lot of exercise, including several long walks a day. But he's not a fearsome dog, by any means. He's quite friendly to people, well socialized with other dogs, has no obvious guarding behaviors, and is only territorial in my home (barks at the approach of people to the door). But I'll never train his prey drive out of him, and if a cat crosses our path in his sight on our walks, his intent is immediate and powerful, and requires leash control until the cat is no longer in sight.

So, test the dogs for prey drive, or chase drive, and guarding behaviors, and if either dog exhibits such tendencies, recognize that introducing cats in his space may never be a safe thing to do. Training only goes so far, even with the best of dogs.
posted by paulsc at 9:36 AM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

- Leave the leashes on the dogs the first time they are allowed to mingle so you have something to grab that doesn't put you in the path of their jaws.
- if the dogs are well behaved enough to lay down and stay, make them do that while the cats investigate
- Do things to show the dogs that the cats are above them in the pet hierarchy, feed the cats first and make the dogs wait, etc.

Best thing that happened for me when putting a new puppy and old cat together was the cat scratching the dog. The puppy never realized as she grew up that she was way bigger than the cat now, she just always remembered that scratch...

Not a trainer, but these things worked well for me and joining cats and dogs.
posted by mincus at 9:37 AM on March 23, 2010

paulsc gave you a good answer...

I was lucky in bringing my pup home when she was smaller than the cats... the husky will chase the cats, but only wants to play, if a cat stops and faces her down she won't touch them.
posted by HuronBob at 9:51 AM on March 23, 2010

5 will enter, 1 will leave.

Sorry, had to do it.

I would suggest drugging them. Get some ACE from your local vet and get them nice and mellow. Introduce them and they'll most likely curl up together.
posted by TheBones at 9:56 AM on March 23, 2010

I've a few animals and a couple strays, with a few years between each. A lot depends on personality, as mentioned above. What's worked for us is to largely isolate the new animal for a few days (dog) or weeks (cat) in their own room. Then introduce them to a common room serially (new animal for a while, old animals for a while) to get them used to the scent of each other. (With cats, they tend to play footsie under the door anyway, so that seems to work well as an introduction.) After that, supervised visits are in order until you're comfortable.

The dog/cat dynamic is the one to watch for. In my experience they form their own rules (e.g., in our house, most cats are fair game if they're on the actual floor. But if they stand on anything else, even if it's a few inches off the floor, they're 'safe.' However, Bruiser Kitteh is considered an equal by the dog.) The prey instinct you'll probably catch early on, and the sniffing/meeting phase is essential to making the dog(s) understand that they're just part of the pack. (A stupid part of the pack that doesn't understand playbow or realize that they're supposed to be submissive when they're on their back, but they're just retarded puppies who need looking after.)

And yeah, Kitteh claws are a huge equalizer. We used to have an Alpha Kitteh who would just lift his paw lazily whenever the dog was annoying. He didn't even bother to unsheath his claws. Point was made.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:00 AM on March 23, 2010

I should clarify: we aren't (right now) considering co-habiting, but we want to "co-weekend". Also, one of the dogs (a Yorkie) is actually smaller than two of my cats (and about the same size as the third), but does bark and growl during walks.
posted by Kurichina at 10:05 AM on March 23, 2010

It would definitely help to know what the other breed of dog is. Yorkies are pretty wound up and high maintenance as a breed. Definitely different techniques may be needed based on breed.
posted by TheBones at 10:38 AM on March 23, 2010

I disagree with paulsc. Even a dog with a strong prey drive can totally be taught that cats in the home are off limits - I've successfully managed this with a blind, crazy Treeing Walk Coonhound in the past (nothing has a stronger prey drive than a hound) and my own current part Chow, part Lab, part who knows what, who will still chase rabbits in the park but plays happily and nicely with the cat in the house.

First off, I'd recommend taking the dogs to the cats instead of vice versa. If the dogs know that they are treading on the cats' turf, they're a lot more likely to be polite. In my experience it's pretty much always easier to introduce new dogs to cats than vice versa. Then, joe beese's advice is good - they need to get to know each other without a possibility of actually hurting each other. Use baby gates. Cats can get over them; dogs cannot. Be prepared for some initial hostility and don't overreact. Calmly correct the hostile one - well, the dog, we all know trying to calmly discipline a cat is totally pointless - and then let them alone to work it out. It will take some time. Don't despair. They may never get to the point where they're best buds but they can and almost certainly will learn to coexist relatively peacefully.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:41 AM on March 23, 2010

... we all know trying to calmly discipline a cat is totally pointless

I assume you're joking, but for the record, cats can be disciplined. Grab them by the scruff if they're doing something bad (don't lift them, though.) Coffee-can-o-pennies and spritzer bottle work too (but may be confusing if there's another animal around.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:52 AM on March 23, 2010

I had a cat, and got a shelter dog. The key to success was making sure the cat had a couple of places to go where the dog could not follow. I had a funny cubby area in the kitchen, and added a door with enough room for her to get under, but not the dog, and built her a shelf in there. Her food and scratching post were there. The dog couldn't reach under the bed, so I put a bit of quilt under there for her. We kept them in separate rooms for several days. She never, ever, got friendly with him, but she got used to his existence.
posted by theora55 at 12:17 PM on March 23, 2010

Seconding ChurchHatesTucker with regards to strange rules that get formed. My dogs respect and avoid our cats indoors, outdoors they're fair game to chase (fortunately they can climb the fence or a tree to safety.) The cats play into it too, clawing and reprimanding inside and running for dear life outdoors.

Also making sure the dogs see their owner, ie; they're pack leader, greet and show affection to the cats might be helpful.
posted by oblio_one at 3:17 PM on March 23, 2010

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