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Ask AKC: Relationships Between Cats and Dogs

American Kennel Club, Inc. (c) 2011

Dear Lisa: My daughter would like to get a dog, but we have a cat. I'm worried about how the cat might react to a new addition to our household. How difficult is it to introduce a new dog to an existing cat? --Fighting Like Cats and Dogs
Relationships between cats and dogs cover the spectrum from best buddies to mortal enemies. Interspecies match-ups can work depending on the personality and age of the animals to be introduced. Ideally, you would want to raise a kitten with a puppy when both are young and open to learning when an early bond between them will last a lifetime. When one of the pair is already established things are a bit more complicated.

Before you decide what kind of dog to get, you should assess your cat. How old is your cat? Is it young and willing to accept new animals or is it very old and set in its ways. How friendly is it? Put together a profile of your cat before deciding on a new dog. Once you have this done, picking a dog will be a whole lot easier for you.

Let's say you have a fairly large, older cat that tends to bully and is very territorial, a worse case scenario. I would suggest you look into getting a young puppy. Now while all this new activity will probably not endear the puppy to the cat immediately, it will be best for the puppy as she will grow up with the cat and learn to accept whatever it dishes out. If you try to bring a large, full-grown dog into the house, the cat would feel even more threatened.

If you get the young pup, it will learn to give an ornery cat a wide berth. You may find a few claws stuck in the pup's nose but it will be a lesson she won't soon forget. Most puppies learn to adapt to the "alpha cat" and problems are rare.

Read up on the different breeds to learn about their temperaments and adult size at the American Kennel Club and make a list of choices. Then call reputable breeders available on the web site and talk to them.


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