Does your pet love an animal of a different species? The old saying "fighting like cats and dogs" doesn't have to be the case! Although interspecies conflict can occur in homes with both cats and dogs, they can also become great friends when properly introduced. Look for these signs that your pets feel a close bond with each other.
Signs of bonding
The most important thing to watch for when deciding if your dog and cat love each other is if there is a sense of mutual respect between the two animals. Some dogs and cats will curl up and cuddle at nap time, or play together — these are good indications that they have a close bond. A love between the two species can also take the form of calm interactions with one another around the house. By watching the body language of both your cat and dog, you can determine if they are having loving interactions together.
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Cats and dogs that love spending time together can also sometimes annoy each other. If your cat doesn't like something your dog is doing, it's important for your dog to back off from them. An example can be your dog not continuing to pursue your cat in an attempt to play. If you find your cat is "bullying" your dog or vice versa, use treats or toys to gently separate the animals and try having them interact again later. Having boundaries is a good thing!
Distance makes the heart grow fonder! Providing your dog and cat with separate spaces to relax can help them to fall more in love. Creating space between your cat and dog is very important at mealtime. Feed your pets in different areas of the home to prevent them from getting into each other's food. This could not only make the other animal sick, but it can also lead to resource guarding and other conflicts between the animals. Cats can also get overwhelmed by dogs' boisterous play styles at times, so it's important for them to have the ability to access quiet spaces away from them. Normal cat behavior is to seek out the ability to survey a situation from a height vantage. Providing your cat with cat trees or other climbing options can help keep a loving relationship flourishing between the dog and cat in your home. Your cat should also have a private litter box area where your dog cannot have access or bother them.
If your cat and dog both enjoy playing together, it's a good sign that they have a loving relationship. Healthy play should be initiated by both cats and dogs, (not one or the other). For example, your dog chasing your cat might be fun for your dog but is likely stressful and not enjoyable for your cat. Supervise your dog and cat while they are playing to make sure both are having fun and one of them isn't getting stressed by the interactions. It's also important to keep in mind any size difference between your dog and cat. Small dog breeds and cats can play well together and more safely than larger dog breeds. Although large breed dogs and cats can love each other, it's also important to limit how actively they play together, because a large dog can accidentally injure a cat (or small dog) while playing.
Remember: supervision is always important
Even if cats and dogs have a history of positive interactions with each other, they should still be supervised by their humans regularly. This is especially true for early on in the dog-cat relationship, and also if there has ever been any concern about behavior between the animals in the home. Supervising allows you to help your pets' relationship by intervening if play becomes too rough, and engaging them in safe and appropriate play together. If you can't supervise their interactions, it can be beneficial to use management strategies like baby gates and closed doors to keep cats and dogs separated in different areas of the home until you are able to supervise them again. Giving pets a break from each other can improve their relationship — by giving them time to decompress.
Many cats and dogs can become good friends and form loving bonds with a proper introduction and supervision over time. If you have brought home a new cat or dog and are struggling with their interactions, it's a good idea to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Your vet will be able to confirm that all of your pets are healthy and be able to refer you to a local trainer or behaviorist to help you with the cat and dog relationships in your home.