Cats, dogs can live to­gether

South Waikato News - - RURAL DELIVERY - By NICK BAR­NETT

Will your dog like your cat, and vice versa? I don’t think you can know in ad­vance for sure, but there are things you can do to help, and there are grounds for a lot of op­ti­mism.

Cats and dogs can get on. They’re not doomed to life­long hos­til­ity or to ful­fill­ing the cliche about ‘‘fight­ing like cats and dogs’’. They can be touch­ingly gen­tle with each other, or amus­ingly play­ful, or ac­cept­ably tol­er­ant. Check out our photo col­lec­tions of cat-dog friend­ship for the en­dear­ing proof.

But they’re dif­fer­ent species, act­ing on in­stincts that of­ten are sim­i­lar but then can di­verge wildly.

How do you bring them to­gether so they’ll be peace­ful with each other? I’d like to know your thoughts and ex­pe­ri­ences on that – but here are mine to start things off.

We brought a puppy into a home that pre­vi­ously had a sin­gle cat. The pup, Phoebe, had been so­cialised with a cat and didn’t seem ex­er­cised by Mer­rick. But our cat seemed stunned by the tiny in­ter­loper, keep­ing a dis­tance while ap­par­ently not see­ing it as any ri­val or as much of an an­noy­ance – Mer­rick could eas­ily climb out of Phoebe’s range, and all feed­ing rou­tines went un­changed.

As Phoebe grew, things got tenser. The dog be­gan bark­ing at the cat, per­haps once a day. Gen­er­ally, it was all talk, but a cou­ple of times Mer­rick got pissed off and bat­ted the puppy away. Phoebe seemed to learn quickly to keep a dis­tance; she’d make sure not to get too close to Mer­rick on the couch, and only ever looked at him side­long.

Then we got a sec­ond dog, and Connor seemed to have been so­cialised with cats too, be­cause he showed no sur­prise or fear on meet­ing our cat. Over time, he’s devel­oped a much closer con­nec­tion to Mer­rick than Phoebe ever has: Connor of­ten cud­dles up to Mer­rick to sleep, and both are li­able to walk all over each other in pur­suit of the best spot on the couch. Connor oc­ca­sion­ally prances around the se­date old cat as if to im­bue him with more en­ergy, to the point where Mer­rick will raise an ad­mon­ish­ing paw that is usu­ally enough to re­in­state his pre­ferred zone of per­sonal space.

A lot of peo­ple will tell you that it’s the cat who sets and pa­trols the bound­aries be­tween it­self and any dogs it shares its home with. I be­lieve that has to do with, firstly, the cat’s in­nate self-as­sured­ness, and se­condly, its pos­ses­sion of claws.

Don’t un­der­es­ti­mate the claw – that’s a les­son both for dogs and for you as owner. Many a dog has lost its sight be­cause of a swipe from a cat. We once un­der­took a late-night trip to the af­ter-hours vet in fear that Mer­rick’s claw had con­nected with Connor’s eye, but it turned out not to have. Still, I’ve seen the cat’s claw gain pur­chase on Connor’s skin and once, yikes, on his ear. Even a slow learner such as Connor has twigged that it’s bet­ter not to get in swip­ing range of the cat.

By now, my dogs and cat are in a state of mu­tual re­spect and tol­er­a­tion. They don’t play to­gether, or groom each other fetch­ingly as some pair­ings do. But they can be on the same couch or bed, they can wait to­gether for feed­ing with­out con­flict,they can lick treats from the same bowl at the same time. They don’t fight. It’s a good sit­u­a­tion.

Too good a sit­u­a­tion to up­set by try­ing to in­tro­duce ei­ther an­other cat or an­other dog, I think.

But given our cat’s age, the day will prob­a­bly come when we are down to just the dogs – and I know I’ll at least con­sider get­ting an­other. That would re­turn us to the un­cer­tainty I men­tion at the start of this blog – you can’t bank on two an­i­mals nec­es­sar­ily lik­ing each other.

CAN THEY?: Can cats and dogs get along un­der the same roof?

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