So there you are with your cute and cuddly cat, but you’re also thinking about getting a majestic Golden retriever. Will they play nice together, or will your home be turned into an animal battleground? Many people feel as though they need to choose between having a dog and a cat, but can’t have both.
The good news is that having a dog and cat peacefully coexist is not entirely unheard of. Though the classic idea of “dogs chasing cats” does carry an element of truth, there are some exceptions, which we will be exploring in this article. Read on to learn how to keep the figurative fur from flying, and let your pets become fast friends.
The Golden Rule of Golden Retrievers and Cats
If there is one over-arching rule to keep in mind when trying to create an oasis of love and harmony between pets, it’s know your pets! While we can list general guidelines and considerations, there’s no denying that each animal is different. Some cats are easy-going and generally stoic, while others can be more easily provokable. The same is also true for Golden retrievers; some can be more active and playful, and others can be more laid-back.
So a basic element of common-sense should be applied here. If your cat is more easily upset, it’s probably not a good idea to pair it with a more playful and energetic dog. A more mellow retriever may be a better choice to foster inter-pet relations.
Live and Let Live
Even if you already have both pets in your home and you can’t cherry-pick the perfect combination of dog and cat, all is not lost. Golden retrievers are a very intelligent breed of dog, and over time can learn to adapt.
Research has shown that dogs and cats can actually learn to communicate through specific mannerisms and body language over time. Dogs and cats obviously don’t “speak” the same language, though some vocalizations are common between them – such as growls, hisses, or a shriek of pain. There are other non-verbal ways to communicate, as well. Golden retrievers can learn to accept a cat as part of the family unit (the pack), and no longer see it as natural prey. This happens mostly through learning behaviors and routines.
While this is certainly possible, remember that it is not a quick process, it will take time. Both canine and feline living together, learning each other’s habits and nuances, and accepting one another in the home. There may be times when your dog may bark at your cat, or the cat might hiss at the dog. These can be tense moments, but they are sometimes inevitable. Sometimes intervention is required, but for the most part, the best course of action is to allow them to work things out themselves.
Use a Cage to Curb the Rage
If one or both the animals seem to be at each other’s throats, it can be helpful to place one in a pet cage. This is sometimes necessary during the initial encounter. The purpose of the cage is not a punishment but to prevent a physical attack.
You should note that it is better to cage the cat here, even if the dog is the aggressor. This is because caging and releasing a dog will generally cause them to chase the cat all the more upon release. Whereas if the dog can roam freely with the cat in the room, he will gradually become accustomed to the cat being around.
If you simply can’t bring yourself to use a cage, a pet crib would also work. Just be sure that it is an escape-proof crib – both ways. Because if the dog is determined enough, he might also find a way in, and a nimble cat can also easily jump out.
Positive Reinforcement is a Must
During this time, you should occasionally “test the waters” and let both dog and cat roam freely in the same space. Be careful to supervise these first few interactions closely, they may be strained at the beginning still. Don’t lose heart, however – this is all part of the retraining process. If your pets behave themselves and co-mingle peaceably, be sure to reward them both appropriately. This usually will greatly speed up the adaptation process. The stomach is always a fantastic motivator.
The key here is positive reinforcement. Do not punish the aggressor during this period, because that will have the opposite effect. Punishing the aggressive pet for following their natural instincts will create resentment, both towards you and towards the other pet. Keep in mind that both canines and felines are having to retrain themselves against their own innate tendencies. So do everything you can to encourage them properly during this learning phase.
Early Exposure for Better Composure
Another point to consider regarding the brotherly love between Golden retrievers and cats is their age. Generally speaking, the younger the animal is when exposed to the other, the easier it will be for them to adapt to their dissimilar companion. A young puppy and kitten are likely to be more active, playful, and perhaps rough, since their basic predatory instincts will not be fully developed yet.
That isn’t to say older dogs and cats can’t learn the value of cohabitation. It may just be a bit more challenging for them to adapt. In any case, patience is required from the owner or trainer to bare with the animals as they learn to cope.
Avoid the Feud Over Food
One final thing you can do to ease the tension is to keep their feeding dishes separated. Most animals tend to be more protective and territorial when they are feeding, and dogs and cats are included here. Nothing will drive a wedge between your Golden retriever and your cat than if they cross-boundaries during dinner.
After some time, they may develop a close bond to eat together; however, it can be a source of tension at the beginning. When a dog or cat is feeding, they both have specific behavioral mechanisms for defending their food. This is one of the strongest natural instincts, just as any animal naturally defends its food source.
Golden retrievers especially tend to be a bit more anti-social during feeding, but again, this will go away over time. As the dog becomes accustomed to the pack-members, it will feel more comfortable with others around during feed-time.
It is recommended that you keep a watchful eye during the first few feedings to ensure that nothing goes awry. Be ready to diffuse any potential situations before they become serious. Some things to watch for include the dog or cat sniffing or licking the other’s food, or dropping food pieces around the other’s area. This is one of the ways that dogs and cats try to mark territory, and they may be trying to “claim” the other’s area as their own.
We Can All Get Along
So we have seen here that it is definitely possible to have a peaceful home with a Golden retriever and a cat. It’s not instantaneous, and it takes both time and patience. It takes deliberate steps to recondition the default behavior for both the dog and the cat to accept each other.
However, even though it can be a process, it is possible, resulting in an extremely rewarding experience. There’s nothing quite like seeing your pup and kitten playing, walking, or running together. Having both your dog and cat curl up with you on the couch is also an amazing thing.