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JoAnna Lou
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Can Cats and Dogs Get Along?
The shifting dynamics of my multi-species pack.
Nemo and Izzy in a peaceful moment by the porch door.

From the comic strip, Garfield, to the movie, Cats & Dogs, the feud between felines and canines has long been engrained into our culture. These days, with so many multi-species households, it seems as though the notion of furry mortal enemies has become more of an old wives tale. 

I never gave much thought to the canine feline relationship since my pets have always gotten along pretty well. But recently, a shift in my pack’s behavior got me thinking about what influences the dynamic between cats and dogs. 

Our first family pet, Mew-Mew, joined our family 18 years ago. Mew was very dog-like, tolerating the silly outfits we made him wear and learning how to sit and give his paw on cue. 

Eight years later we decided Mew needed a friend and adopted a second kitty. Izzy, in her cat-like glory, was Mew-Mew’s polar opposite. After a few initial scuffles they became inseparable, although Izzy was never one for costumes or tricks.

Four years ago, much to the chagrin of the cats, we welcomed our first dog into our home. The three of them got along pretty well, aside from Nemo’s unsuccessful attempts to get the cats to play. He would follow the cats around, lick their faces, and offer play bows with the tireless persistence of a puppy. 

Two years later, recognizing that Nemo needed a canine playmate, we added Ella to our growing pack. Bringing out the sheepdog in each other, Nemo and Ella began to playful herd the cats. But once the dogs got their energy out, they would peacefully join the cats in chilling out by the sunny porch door.

Then last August, Mew-Mew passed away. For a few weeks Izzy seemed to be depressed, roaming around the house, moaning, and spending less time lounging in the sun. The dogs seemed unaffected, until last month when I started to notice that the dogs were picking on Izzy, barking at her and chasing the poor cat into the basement.

Generally, the three of them still get along, but now Nemo and Ella bark and charge at Izzy several times a day, which they never did before. Fortunately the dogs don’t actually do anything once they get to her, and Izzy doesn’t seem scared, but it’s been a drastic change in their relationship.

When a pet passes away, it’s natural for the pack hierarchy to change, but I never expected the dogs’ behavior towards Izzy to change so much. I think that the crew viewed Mew-Mew as “top pet,” since he’d been around the longest, and perhaps he instilled some sense of order. Because research on animal behavior and emotions is only just beginning to get funding, not much is currently known about the relationships between pets.

For those of you with multi-species households, do your cats and dogs get along? Have you ever had a shift in behavior as a result of a major event, like a pet passing away?

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.
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Submitted by Tiffani | November 17 2009 |

I have 3 cats and 2 dogs. The cats sometimes have "disagreements" with each other but as far as the dogs and cats together, they all get along fine. My female cat prefers her canine sisters to her feline brothers. I can't figure out if she's a dog person or she just likes hanging with the girls. Maybe your cat is doing something out of boredom or lonliness to encourage the chasing. I think you should adopt another kitty so the balance is restored!

Submitted by SaraG | November 17 2009 |

My dog used to be fine until a big orange cat--I mean BIG--started to go all attack-cat on us when we walked past his/her house. Cheeto (my name for the cat) comes flying out with claws bared and hissing and gets all up in my dog's grill, and we're just minding our own bizwacks. Forget about dogs attacking cats--what about cats attacking dogs?

Submitted by Pit Bull owner ... | November 18 2009 |

Yes, I have a Pit Bull and a cat. They are sleeping together in my dogs bed as we speak.

I bring my Pit Bull and my cat to my Grandma's for Christmas, and she has a small dog, and a cat, and they all get along.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 19 2009 |

My first German Shepherd got along fine with our cats. In fact you can see on YouTube "German Shepherd baby sitting kittens" that our shepherd was very good with our cats. Since his passing we got a puppy and the puppy and now adult cats just don't seem do get along. He approaches they hiss, barks, they run, he chases. Its just chaos in our house now.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 20 2009 |

I have two cats and two dogs. We lost our oldest pet family member in August. The biggest change in our dynamics is our youngest dog -- he can't stand to be left alone and is virtually velcroed to me all day.
He lost his buddy, even though he plays with the other dog and one of the cats. We need another dog.

Submitted by Kayla | November 28 2009 |

I have 3 dogs and 3 cats and everyone gets along just fine. Part of that, though, is getting all at a young age and properly socializing the dogs to not go into prey mode whenever they see one. They're all so desensitized to one another that there's never been a problem.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 6 2009 |

We had 3 older cats when we adopted a puppy; and along with the pup, Sidney, we adopted a kitten, Marble. Marble & Sidney were each other's support system. But poor Marble, who got along with everyone, was sick from the beginning, and recently died. Since then Sidney has definitely been much more aggressive toward the older cats, chasing them whenever they cross his path. The never did have much patience with him and Im sure find him totally obnoxious now.

Submitted by Rene Shelly | December 20 2009 |

We have four house cats and two large dogs, plus barn cats. If the cats are outside, the dogs chase them and the cats run like fury. In the house, it depends on the cat. One cat runs and hides. Another will run, but when cornered will turn and scratch. Another, a big bruiser, will only run if startled, but otherwise stands his ground, hissing and spitting. The fourth, a large, orange long-haired actually seems to welcome their attention, arching his back, rubbing his face against the dogs, and laying down next to them at times.

Submitted by petapparelfashion | January 25 2010 |

this is so interesting! by the way, visit this page http://petapparelfashion.com and you will find everything about clothes and accessories for your pet! see you there! :)

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