By Elisa Black-Taylor
Michael (PoC) has asked me to do a few articles on the relationship between the cats and dogs in my home. I believe he’s fascinated in how well the two get along. First I’d like to say there’s a big difference in having small dogs and cats and a large dog and cats living together. Today I’d like to entertain the readers with cats living with small dogs.
I hope you will all share stories about the cats and dogs living together in your homes. I know there are a lot of you out there with both. I hope I don’t offend anyone who only loves cats, as I realize there are quite a lot of you out there also.
I hope this article will offer some insight on families where one member wants a dog and one wants a cat. There’s no reason not to give both a loving home.
I’m not sure about the rest of the world, but in the U.S., small dogs tend to have an easier time finding a home than a large dog. Many people in apartments keep a small dog as a companion. They’re less expensive to feed and their life span is generally several years longer than a larger breed. Small dogs are also more welcome when traveling. Many hotels allow dogs under a certain weight but frown on larger dogs. In my area it’s 35 pounds or less.
Our Maltese mix dog Darla was the first to live with a cat since I started caring for cats again. I believe it’s been exaggerated over the years on how cats and dogs are natural enemies. There was a bit of yappy barking in the beginning. Mostly curiosity and a little tail sniffing.
Fast forward to the present. We now only have one small dog in our home since Dreyfuss left us for the Rainbow Bridge. Cujo is Darla’s son and a shih-tsu/Maltese mix. His full grown weight should be under 20 pounds. He’s almost seven months old and neutered. He’s also grown up around the cats, so playing with them comes natural to him.
Our cats have taught him a game I like to call “Ambush.” This has been a favorite where one of the cats hides and then jumps on the first cat to walk around the corner. Ambush turns into a chase, which turns into a wrestling match. Sometimes it’s played by only two, and sometimes we’ll have four cats (and one cat-dog) running from one end of our home to the other. I’d get this on video, except they’re too fast. I’m surprised someone hasn’t knocked themselves out running into the wall while turning around.
This game has proven a little dangerous for my daughter and myself. Especially when one of the players jumps on the back of the couch, crosses over to the other couch, then back onto the floor at full speed. I’ve been known to sport a few claw marks to my head. I’ve learned to cover my face with both hands when I see them headed toward me.
There’s one precaution we’ve had to take for them to coexist safely. It concerns the cats toys. Jasper loves to carry around a bottle top or a milk jug top and play hockey with it. The tops are large enough not to present a choking hazard to the cats. Cujo, with his “chew anything” mentality, has caused us to hide Jaspers toys out of reach until Cujo goes to bed with me for the night. I’ve read where cats have even tried to eat small stuffed mice. So be careful what type of toy you allow your cat to have. Especially if there are dogs in the house.
Cujo considers himself a cat. There’s no other way to put it. He’s being raised to play cat games by the cats. They also wash him up and sleep with him. The way I see it, they don’t know he’s not one of them. He probably smells a bit different, but other than that he’s one of them. Between all of the licking, pampering and playing, Cujo requires a weekly bath to keep him “lick-worthy” of his adopted cat mama Mandy.
Jasper had been desperate for a playmate who can tolerate the roughhousing he loves. He’s the alpha male of cats in our household. He plays hard and he sometimes plays rough. Until Cujo came along, his sister Mandy was the only one who could keep up with him. Now Jasper has someone who’s technically his own size who can match him in skill and agility. There’s now more entertainment at home watching the two of them play than there is watching television.
While we have a wonderful relationship developing between the cats and Cujo, this isn’t the ideal situation for everyone. I’d never anyone to put an aging or shy cat in the path of hyper-mutt. And it’s probably a bad idea to put a very young kitten with a small dog because of the risk of injury. But if you have an adult cat who’s rather outgoing and has boundless energy that you can’t seem to keep up with, then adding a small dog could be ideal. I can tell you from experience that both Cujo and Jasper sleep very well after their play sessions have ended. Before Cujo, Jasper would roam the house trying to get the other cats to play with him. Sometimes they would and sometimes they wouldn’t.
I’d recommend a child safety gate if you have any concerns about introducing a small dog to a cat. This way the cat will have a way to get back to safety should the dog prove too hyper at the beginning of a relationship. We never needed that. Our cats walk on the furniture more than they do the floor. Cujo has developed his “cat-like” personality and learned to jump from table to couch to floor to bar while chasing the cats. He always lands on his feet. Still, I have basic low cost insurance on him, which I feel is necessary. Small dogs are much more likely to be injured than a cat. They’re also much more likely to ingest something they shouldn’t.
I’d also recommend separate feeding areas so no one gets jealous of meals or treats. We’ve reached the point where Cujo and the cats have their feeding bowls on the long cat table, but we can’t give him any large chewy bone snacks in the presence of the cats or he’ll growl at them should they get too close to his treat. Other than that, they’re fine eating in the same area. This is something you’ll have to observe to know what’s best.
I believe the relationship between cats and small dogs is a play situation. There’s always someone to play with. This doesn’t hold true from my experience with a large dog living with cats. That article will be my next, where I’ll take you into the world of a large dog living with a family of cats.
How many of you have mixed fur families? Do we have a lot of common ground on how your dogs and cats interact with each other? Comments are welcome.