Dog Friendships that Defy Nature

By Elizabeth Wasserman

Dog Friendships that Defy Nature

Animal shelters often try to adopt out "bonded pairs," dogs that have been living together or have a strong connection. But the Humane Society of Silicon Valley (HSSV) in California didn't quite know how to handle an unusual twosome that ended up in its care recently. Mama, a 7-year-old Shetland sheep dog mix, and her best buddy Kiki, a 7-year-old short-haired gray and white cat, had grown up together.

"They had been living together for seven years," says Beth Ward, vice president of animal and customer care at HSSV. "They slept together. They ate together. They played together. They were the perfect odd couple."

Mama and Kiki had to be separated initially because the shelter houses cats and dogs in different facilities. But they were eventually reunited when the shelter found a family willing to adopt a pair of pet friends that defies nature.

Unlikely Cronies
Friendships between dogs and cats -- and sometimes between dogs and other animals, such as ducks and birds and bunnies -- are seemingly unnatural. Let loose on a playground, a dog will give in to predatory instincts and give chase to a cat, squirrel or bird.

It's important for pet owners to understand the differences in the social order between species. Cats are more elusive and will approach others when they feel the need. Dogs are pack animals and want to be as close to people as possible. But things can change when domestic animals are brought up together, experts say.

"When you think of the domestic dog and cat, you're really talking about socialization," says Bonnie Beaver, past president of the American Veterinary Medicine Association and a professor of veterinary medicine at Texas A&M University. "If, as a puppy and a kitten, they are around the opposite species, they usually do fine. It really has to do with how they're raised."

How to Encourage Friendships
If you have a 4-year-old dog that has never been around a cat before, the odds are that bringing a cat into the house will be an uphill battle. But nothing is impossible. Laura Fulda, another HSSV vice president, had three large dogs when she brought a stray cat from the shelter home. "Before I knew it, they were all sleeping on the bed together," Fulda laughs.

Fulda says she followed the guidelines developed by animal behaviorists and published on the shelter's website. Here are five ways to help your pets feel the love:

  • Felines make the first move Letting a big dog approach a small cat is a recipe for trouble. The cat is going to tolerate only a bit of sniffing before running away. That will only convince Rover to chase. Let the cat make the first move so it can learn to trust you and that strange, drooling beast.
  • Keep your dog on a leash During initial encounters, keep your dog on a tether -- especially if the dog isn't trained to come to a halt when you say, "No." The HSSV also suggests keeping a squirt bottle handy to spray the dog in the face lest it start annoying the kitty.
  • Provide an outlet for the "chase" instinct Make sure your dog fulfills its natural prey instinct and gets to chase something -- a ball, Frisbee, or a squirrel in the yard. Exercise can calm your pup and ensure better behavior indoors, especially with your cat.
  • Let the cat hide, if need be Dogs want to run up and sniff strange new creatures. Felines investigate more gradually. "Keep them separated with a baby gate," Ward suggests. "Make sure the cat always has an escape route."  Before you know it, the cat may be leaping over voluntarily to spend more time in the canine zone.
  • Praise positive interactions Make sure your pooch gets lots of positive feedback for good behavior. A happy, "Good dog," and a playful scratch might be just the encouragement a dog needs.

Making a Good Match
When teaching a dog a new trick -- such as learning to tolerate or even to like a new pet in the household -- ask yourself a few questions:

  • Is your home big enough for two pet species?
  • If you have a dog, was that dog raised with cats?
  • What type of temperament does your dog have?
  • Has the new cat been around dogs before?

"Not every dog is going to get along with cats and not every cat is going to get along with dogs," Ward says.

Sometimes other creatures are in the mix. The HSSV was presented with an even more difficult adoption situation a few years ago. "We had a dog, a cat and a duck that were bonded," Ward recalls. Unable to find one family willing to take all three, the unusual bedfellows had to be separated. Ward says, "We had to deal with depression in all three of these animals."

Elizabeth Wasserman, a Washington, D.C., area-based freelancer, has been writing about pets, among other topics, for more than 15 years. Her love of dogs, in particular, was handed down through the generations from her great-grandfather, Eric Knight, who wrote the book Lassie Come Home in the 1930s.

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Posted on February 13, 2011

Jennifer Felix says: Right now I have 4 dogs and 8 cats, all indoors.  One of the dogs even found a 3 week old kitten, whose mother and siblings had not survived, brought her home in his mouth and mothered her!!  Each animal did take time to adjust to a houseful, but each now get along quite well.  My siamese/himalayan mix cat even rules two of the dogs.

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Posted on October 3, 2010

Vimax says: Couldn?t be written any better. Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

Posted on February 23, 2008

BARBARA BAKER says: I AM 73 YEARS OLD AND HAVE ALWAYS HAD DOGS AND CATS TOGETHER IN THE HOUSE. THEY WERE TAUGHT VERY YOUNG. MISBEHAVIOR BETWEEN THEM WOULD NOT BE TOLERATED

Posted on February 25, 2008

Dianne B. Shepherd says: I have a dog name Princess Precious " Shelby" Shepherd, we just call her Shelby. She is a Sheltie, Shetland Sheepdog, she turned two in September 20th. We have two grandsons who live with us, Shelby will herd them, plays a lot with them, go in the car just about every where we go. When I am on the CPU she loved to watch, sit in my lap, sometimes even barks, happy sounds when we are looking at anything about animals, she watches TV, she likes animals Planet. She is intelligent, sensitive to loud noises, deeply attached to us all. The mailman loved her, stated" she is the only dog he loves on his route." When anyone stops by her tail is wagging, she thinks they all come to she her! She loved to go bye-bye. There is a rescue Center for Shelties, many people are abusive to them, they like to bark, in saying that they are very easily trained, some cut the voice cord, I personally think that is mean, down right wrong! That is apart of how they exspress their self, talk, or warn you of danger, She is my first dog, I have always had cats, she is full blood Sheltie.AKC. She is my best friend, I have cancer, rare blood disease, due from Childhood RA treatments, as well Fiberology,etc.... when I am down she stays right with me. Thank you for all your articles you have written, the computer one I really enjoyed. Thanks a million. P.S. I would like to recommend a book for first time owners or just because, it is full of informative information, doggy or cat. Book is Dog for dummies, record from shots, visits, training, pics', tags, etc... Thanks again Dianne Shepherd [ dee-dee]

Posted on February 23, 2008

Venita Jackson says: animals behavior is dependent on your behavior. If you are the qwner then you need to show that you are the boss by standing erect and feeling like you are boss and they will obey when you give commands. Keep them on a leash and give the cat, dog simple time together and then apart but continue to let them both know you are boss, not them. Watch dog whisperer.

Posted on February 22, 2008

Debra says: We have a dog, a cat and a miniature horse that are bonded like that, always together and sleep together too.

Posted on February 22, 2008

k.l.barnes says: We were at a friends farm picking out two kittens, when a car slowed & threw out a 9month old pup. We brought all 3 home. All 3 are the best of friends.Eat,sleep,play together.When it's play time the cats chase the dog (50lbs.) from one end of the house to the other end, then it's time to reverse. A year later a stray pup showed up, we kept her.Now it's a 4 for all!!!!!!!!!!

Posted on February 22, 2008

Betty says: My girlfriend had a poodle. I got a cat that was already 1years old and had never played with a dog. We introduced the two to each other. They never had an argument and acted out any negatives. We would bring visit each other and bring the animals. It was just like visiting a friend. We would even when we went on vacation dog/cat sat for each other.

Posted on February 22, 2008

Ginger says: I have a 17 yr old cat, recently I was given a 4 yr old Shih-Tzu. My cat had never really been around dogs except for the ones that chased him when he was in the yard. It took a whole 5 minutes to get them together, now their best friends. Lacy(dog) will go look for Spanky(cat)when you ask her where Spanky is. When I take Lacy out and Spanky goes with us, if Lacy gets too far away, Spanky will run after her and kinda herd her back towards the house. Like I said, They are Best Buddies!!!

Posted on February 22, 2008

Tony says: We found a 4 week old kitten in October 2006 and brought her home to our 5 1/5 yr old pom/pikenese/poodle mix. It didn't take long before Butter (the dog) was mothering Lola (the kitten). We made sure that Butter never felt left out. BTW, Lola has been blind since birth, we did have to have what was left of her eyes removed. A year and a half later, she really gives the dog a run for her money. They're quite close, eating and often sleeping together.

Posted on February 22, 2008

Raymonde Pirard says: I had many pets in my long life, but the one that was the best pet I ever had, he was named Kadi. His parents were pure bread, one was a beagle, the other a fox terrier, two friendly neighbors. I got that pet at the Human Society. Kadi was very intelligent and he wanted to please his masters. I love to train my dogs, like circus dogs. They loves it and there is bondage between us, of course the treat after the trick is an insentive, to please Mama and Daddy. One Thanksgiving day, my son, who was in College, came home with a little kitten. It must have been a feral or the mother was left, on the side of the road, with her litter, 2 kitten were already dead, the mother had been hit by a car, and was dying. A slate gray and white kitten was still alive and my son was nursing it with an eye dropper. At Thanksgiving the College was closed, so my son kept the kitten in the back of his car, afraid to present the kitten to the dog. The temperature was very low and my 2nd son, told me about the kitten, of course 2 minutes later, that kitten was in the warm house. Kadi smelled the stanger and that ball of fur hissed at him. Well I started to talk to the dog, while I had the kitten on my lap, and scolded him for barking because it frightened the baby. Kadi was the big brother and the babysitter. Well the story is too long, but soon after those 2 were inseparables. The bondage was so great. The Kitty was learning every tricks done by his "big brother'. Kadi lived 17 1/2 years before being put to sleep, after a stoke, that left him too weak to be nursed. One day, Kitty was looking for Kadi and then jumped on my lap, and meowed, he leads me when Kadi's bed was usually located. I could see the cat missing his pal, He curled on my lap and I thing he must have felt my sorrow for Kadi. When Kitty was abour 15, he was sick and the Vet declared that it was a cancer. Kitty, was 15 years old, he had to be put to sleep. I refused to hav another pet but, one day, I had another one. Again a beagle mixed bread and I got it from the Human Society. Pokey became sick and was suffering a lot, so 2 years ago, it was the end of his life. He was 14 years old. Now, I have another little girl, Cricket, a Papillion mix, already 13 years old. she had a miserable life but now she is pampered. We are 2 old ladies together, I think, she will be my last adoption,old due to my age, it would not be fair. I still often think about the other dogs, and compare them, with my Cricket. Dogs have their own personality their personal intellience so, the regular dog training is not for me, I use their natural aptitudes to train them and evenwhen I started training my 11 years old Cricket my way and I discovers her little aptitudes and use those, to become a plus in her life. Bye.

Posted on February 22, 2008

Harton Firmin says: I have integrated three different kittens into my dog friendly domicile. These cats just showed up at my door. The first was easiest. My old dog, Buck, needed nothing more then one firm "Alright!" to understand that he was not to bother the black cat. The other two cats were a different story. They showed up a year apart and in each case I had to rescue the kitten from harm. My Jack Russell and Chow/Lab mix would have hurt them. Discouraging the dogs required a firm hand. I segregated the cats in a safe room when I couldn't be there. For several evenings I would take the Jack Russell and the kitten together in my lap and make it clear there would be no fights. Upon retiring I would return the cat to its safe room. After a few days both dogs accepted the new arrivals. Now they are friends. I don't recommend this procedure for the faint-hearted. I suffered a few maulings. My formula is: one thousand doses of affection for every dose of discipline. Animals, even cats, want to please you. I have found that an established cat takes much longer (months, even years) to accept a new cat or dog. Let them work that out unless the cat attacks. Then be firm, they'll get it and tolerate if not like the newbee.

Posted on February 22, 2008

Tim Cardenas says: Yes I do believe that cat's and dog's can get along because I've had a cat and dog that used to be best of bud's and you article is right on the money at least in my opinion.

Posted on February 22, 2008

lynn milbrath says: i have 3 cats and 2 dogs. andone is a pit bull. he likes to chase but the kitties encourage him. there is lots of yelling &squirting.

Posted on February 22, 2008

Darlene Watson says: We have a cat that fetches like a dog. I think that is kind of unique. Do you?

Posted on February 22, 2008

eLIZABETH WHITE says: MY DOG WAS 4 BEFORE MY DAUGHTER,S CATS CAME TO LIVE WITH US. AFTER ABOUT 6 MONTHS THEY GOT ALONG FINE---NOW I ALSO HAVE MY DAUGHTER,S 2 DOGS AND ALL 3 DOGS AND 2 PERSIAN CATS---ARE FRIENDS--BUT IT IS UP TO THE CATS--WHEN THEY FEEL LIKE MORE CONTACT. DOGS DO NOT CHASE THEM AT ALL.

Posted on February 22, 2008

Kate says: I think that there have been famous cat-horse friendships. Talk about big! -- from the cat's viewpoint. I don't have a sense of how common such friendships are -- anybody? Dogs and horses seem to have more 'working' relationships, rather than pals.

Posted on February 22, 2008

Ryan says: Two dogs and three cats here. All indoors. The cats chase the dogs and also clean their faces. In fact, the cats are usually the ones irritating the dogs with too much attention. It's all very odd but fun to watch!

Posted on February 22, 2008

Barbara says: I had two Persian cats and brought home a maltese puppy, all three got along great. A few years later we added a Shih Tzu puppy who went even further, she paired up with my younger Persian cat and they did everything together. They were the too cute together, when he passed on she was lost.

Posted on February 22, 2008

Di says: We adopted an unwanted dwarf rabbit after Easter. We had three adult dogs: an Australian shepherd, a sheltie mix, and a yorkshire terrier. The boss dog, the Australian shepherd liked the rabbit and made it plain to the other two that it was a member of the pack. The rabbit grew up learning to growl, whine, and bark. They slept together and the rabbit lived to a ripe old age as did the dogs. Yours, Di

Posted on February 22, 2008

Pam says: My daughter has two Goldens & a Coon cat. Hunter and Tailer(THE CAT) were raised together and get along beautifully. Hunter weighs 116, Tailer 8lbs. The recently rescued T-Bone, an 18 mo. old Golden, weighs 67 lbs. & has the energy of a typical toddler! Quite a managery ! He's a real handful and still chases Tailer but using the baby gates gives the cat a break. Love them all.

Posted on February 22, 2008

Terry King says: We have 4 wonderful cats that we all adore. We also have a pond so of you ever encounter another dog, cat, duck hardship, e-mail me and I'll discuss with my husband and see what we can do to help out. We have about 5 acres in a very rural area with neighbors that also love animals.

Posted on February 16, 2008

Nathan says: Nice pituire. How many dogs do you have? How many cats do you have? what are their names.Name the one on the right Hunter. YOU HAVE TO.

Posted on February 22, 2008

Irene says: My dog was brought up with cats. One day when she was outside a stray tom cat entered the yard seeking her out. Apparently, the cat was either brought up with dogs or was very dog friendly. When it was time to call the dog in, the stray cat followed. They bonded much more so than the cats we already had for years prior to this. In fact, right from the start, the tomcat took to playing with our dog, tackling her, cleaning the inside of her ears. Our other cats never did that but tolerated the dog in a friendly manner. The new tomcat hated the other cats and loved his new found shepherd mix and was her best friend from the time he saw her in the yard to the end of both of their lives. In fact, when the tom cat was out and would come home we would let the dog out and call her name at the tomcat would answer to her name. It was a beautiful thing to see. Their love made my family think...."can't we all just get along?" You can see the story at starnetnews online. My son wrote about what this cat meant him. He was a very special cat named Boots (a tuxedo cat). Thanks

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