Taking these five things into consideration before getting a dog will help you determine how your cat and dog will interact with each other and give you the best chance for a peaceful multi-pet household.
Consider the gender of the new dog carefully. Male dogs more often guard “space” while female dogs tend to guard “objects”. For instance, while a male dog may lay claim to your backyard, a female dog will control the toys in the backyard. However, both male and female cats tend to guard space, so a good pairing for a cat would be a female dog. The cat can guard the space and the dog can guard the objects.
Spaying and neutering both dog and cat can also reduce aggression and other hormone-related problems, especially if performed before sexual maturity.
Although it is possible for any dog to get along with cats if trained to respect them from puppyhood, some dogs are less cat-friendly than others. Terriers and sighthounds are designed to hunt and kill animals and may not understand that your cat isn’t prey. If you plan on getting an older dog, it may be best to stay away from these or any other breeds with a high “prey drive” unless the dog is known for his friendly disposition towards cats.
A kitten under six months may be at a stage in her life where she’s more willing to be friends with your new dog. If instead your cat is geriatric, make sure she’s allowed her space so that she isn’t stressed by the dog.
Keep in mind that a young puppy will be more willing to accept a cat than an older dog that’s never been around cats. A puppy will also be easier for your cat to “train” before he gets too big to manage.
If your resident cat is unhealthy, chances are she doesn’t feel good enough to welcome the new dog. Adding the dog could also increase her stress level and lower her immunity, making her feel worse. It’s best to make sure she has recovered before introducing her to the dog.
The environment in your new multi-pet household will affect how well your cat and dog get along. Too many pets with too little room can raise stress and increase the chances of aggression. If there isn’t much floor room for your cat, install cat trees before getting a dog. This will add more space and give your cat a place out of your new dog’s reach.
Another thing to consider is keeping your cat’s litter box and food bowls where your dog can’t invade. You can put them on a high countertop or in a room that only your cat can enter.
When you go to choose a new dog, remember to think of getting the dog for your cat too. This will help you find the best housemate—and possibly lifelong friend—for your cat. However, even with the best precautions, some pets will never get along. If your dog and cat become dangerously aggressive towards each other, contact a professional animal trainer or behaviorist.