Good idea to keep a cat and a dog together?

‘They fight like cats and dogs’ – the age old expression always had us believe that no two animals could be fiercer enemies of one another. But what if you are smitten by both a dog and a cat and just can’t stay away from both?

A happy story…

Kirti Tarang, a professional with Childline India from Mumbai, had no choice. “For me it wasn’t a deliberate step. I had a Labrador at my place and then one day, I found that a cat has given birth to three kittens in my store-room and had died in the process. Those kittens were so small and vulnerable. I had no other option but to keep them with me,” she says. But, how in the world did she manage to keep her dog, Jenny and cat, Milu from clawing at each other’s faces? “I had no intentions of introducing them to each other. The kittens were two weeks old. I was feeding them with a bottle. I didn’t even realize when Jenny came and sat there. It just happened naturally,” says Kirti. “Queen Milu (the sole survivor of the three) hits Jenny a lot whenever she gets a chance and Jenny eats Milu’s Whiskers whenever she gets a chance. But Jenny always protects her from stray dogs and cats,” she adds.

What an animal activist says…

Poorva Joshipura, an animal activist from PETA, says that if dogs and cats are brought together at a young age, they can often live as companions. However, because of their inherently different natures, owners need to take utmost care during introductions, even at a young age. “Introductions could be dangerous if the dog perceives the cat as prey and so interactions must be managed with planning, care, patience and supervision,” she says.
If you are a cat owner planning to bring in a dog, Poorva suggests consulting an expert from shelters or rescue groups to get a dog who’s known to be tolerant to cats. And if you are a dog owner planning to introduce a cat, make sure your dog is on a leash, or obedient and trained to listen to you. “The introductions should be slow, with the cat being permitted to first get used to the smell of the dog from another room and then the dog brought in after a few days on a leash into the cat’s room. Do not permit the dog to chase and frighten the cat, even in play.
“Reward good behaviour of both animals with treats. After this, keep the dog on a leash for some weeks in the cat’s presence and always make sure the cat has a way to escape from the dog, such as by putting a baby gate across the door to a safe area. Build up the time the animals spend together and continue to make introductions rewarding, with more treats and praise,” she advises.

What a vet says…

Dr SK Chaudhary, a veterinary doctor from Delhi, says that a lot of people nowadays are keeping dogs and cats together as pets and it’s nothing unusual. He agrees that it’s easier for the owner when both are young and introduced into the family, but it’s not like they will lunge at each other’s throats otherwise.
Are there any special health procedures that you need to keep in mind? “No, there aren’t any special procedures. They are the same that you would otherwise have your pets undergo – standard regular check-ups, vaccinations etc,” he says.
Being a vet, he would have had ample experience with dogs to know which breeds are more suitable to keep along with a cat, so I asked him the question. “Any breed is ok, as long as he’s friendly and a good companion. Obviously, Labradors and Retrievers are more friendly, but even if you get a Doberman at a young age, he shouldn’t be a problem for the cat,” he replies.

A practical way…

Danika Dalal from Mumbai, who has (wait for it) eight cats and four dogs (!), agrees. She is an ardent pet lover who has had pets at home even before she was born. “When I got my kittens, I kept them in a separate room with the other cats because I had dogs who had already grown up. They are not at all aggressive, but they think the kitten is a soft toy and want to play with it. Of course, that can’t be fun for the kitten, which might get a heavy paw on her little head. So yes, you do have to keep them separate for a while, and when they are together, be on a watch,” she says.
Of course, you can’t avoid a fight forever. “Yes, there are fights sometimes, especially when my feisty tomcat, Mikey decides to pick a fight with the dogs.” But Danika has a simple yet ingenious method of breaking the fight, because obviously interfering in the brawl is a bad idea, unless you are ready to get scratched or bitten. “I just throw a big mug filled with water at Mikey, and because cats don’t like water, he takes off the next second!” she says, laughing. What a marvellous way of cooling off tempers.
So, there you have it. Cats and dogs are not sworn enemies after all! A little bit of attention, and a lot of love and care is all you need. So, if you love both dogs and cats, get yourself a dynamic duo today!