I’m not one of those people that can be lumped into a category of dog-person or cat-person, I’ve always loved both. When Adam and I bought our house (and I’m not saying that we bought a house because we wanted cats, but…) one of the first things I did was start looking for cats. Bramble & Pumpkin are 4 years old now, and they’re indoor cats (paranoid cat-mama).
We’ve always known that at some point we’d introduce a dog into the mix, and have been planning for the day for – literally - years. The amount of research we did into adding a dog to a cat household could fill a book, but there are a few things we’ve learnt along the way that I think are super important.
- We thought long and hard about the breed of dog we were going to get. Originally, Adam and I had our hearts set on a beagle. We soon realised that such a lively breed wouldn’t fit with our family, or cats, very well. At least not right now. Maybe when we have a larger house, eh? We vetoed any dogs with a high prey drive (terriers, hounds etc.), and any dogs that are prone to giving chase. We started looking at notoriously gentle, trainable breeds. Adam had a golden retriever growing up, and she’d successfully lived with a cat, too. Our mind was set! Golden retriever! NB. I realise that with training, many dogs (including the breeds we vetoed) can get on great with cats, and conversely our ‘safe breeds’ might not get along so happily. It’s a gamble, but I believe that breed traits are a good place to look when finding a dog that will work for your family/other pets.
- We wanted a puppy that we could bring up alongside our cats, a blank slate with no past cat experience (good or bad). This was a tough decision as I massively advocate adopting sheltered animals, but I believe that this was the best choice for our situation.
- I spent about 3-4 months looking for a litter being brought up with cats, where the mother was proven to get along with them. We found one just a couple of miles from our house!
- We started prepping the cats for the arrival of Scout. When we got new dog things we’d leave them around the house instead of putting them away until her arrival. We added a baby gate over the cupboard under the stairs (home to the cat’s litter tray), and made sure they were okay with jumping over it. Every time we visited Scout we’d make sure the cats had a good sniff of us after we got home so they could get used to her scent. As they’re indoor cats, they’ve got loads of favourite places in the house. We made double sure that they had access to high-up areas so they could observe without feeling threatened. We moved their food on to the kitchen table, too.
- We decided that Scout would definitely not be allowed in our bedroom, at least until the cats were comfortable with her & she was older. We’re crate training her so she’s mainly downstairs anyway, this leaves the entire upstairs for the cat’s.
- The cats have never, ever been pressured to interact with Scout. This is a huge no-no! They need to take things at their own pace!
- When Scout’s having a crazy time we make sure the cats aren’t in the firing line. Scout tears through the downstairs like a bat out of hell!
- Any time Scout approaches a cat we ask her to sit or ‘Go steady’. We basically just try to keep the situation calm and not encourage any chasing or play. We never leave her unsupervised with a cat. Any time that she barks at a cat (which is usually just wanting them to play), she’s told off and taken away from them.
So, all that being said, how’s it actually going? It’s going really, really well! Okay – so they’re not super awesome buddies or anything yet, there’s no playing or dog/cat snuggles… but! They can all be in the same room at the same time. They can walk by each other without freaking out, & there hasn’t been a hiss in over a week.
Bramble’s adjusted much better than Pumpkin, who spent quite a lot of the first few weeks on the wardrobe in our bedroom (not that unusual, it’s one of her favourite spots). As we’re crate training Scout it means they get some respite and don’t have to be totally on edge at all times.
So far, so good :)