Can cats and dogs get along? While cats and dogs scheming against each other is a comedic staple, millions of real-life cats and dogs live in harmony, and millions of people feel no family would be complete without at least one of each pet.
Getting a dog and cat to accept one another can be difficult, though, as anyone who's tried to introduce them knows. There are some basic steps to getting both pets to at least call an interspecies truce.
Under no circumstances should cat-dog introductions be handled by throwing the animals together and letting them work out things on their own. That method is far too stressful even in the best of circumstances. It's also important to keep in mind that introductions can be dangerous, usually for the cat. Some dogs see cats as prey, and even those dogs who are generally easygoing may react instinctively to a cat on the run, attacking the smaller animal.
Introductions must be supervised and handled with planning, care and patience.
If you have a cat and are planning to bring in a dog, try to find an animal who is known to be accepting of cats. Shelters, rescue groups or private parties looking to place puppies and dogs often know if an animal has successfully lived with a cat, or they will test to see how the pet behaves in the presence of one.
If you have a dog and are planning to bring in a cat, start working on your pet's obedience before you add the new animal. Your dog should be comfortable on a leash and be trained well enough to mind your requests for him to stay in either a "sit" or "down" position while on that leash.
For the cat's own comfort, he should be confined during the early stages of introduction to a small area (such as a second bathroom or guest bedroom) where he can feel safe while becoming acclimated to the sounds and smells of the dog. Be sure the room has everything he needs, and make sure he has frequent one-on-one visits with human family members.
After a couple of days with the cat sequestered, put the dog on leash and open the door to the cat's room. Allow the animals to see one another, and do not allow the dog to chase the cat, even in play. Use "sit-stay" or "down-stay" to keep the dog in place while the cat gets used to his calm presence. Don't force the cat to interact with the dog; if the cat wishes to view the dog from the darkest recesses underneath the bed, so be it. Reward the good behavior of both animals with treats and praise.
Keep the dog on leash for a couple of weeks in the cat's presence, and always make sure the cat has a way to escape from the dog, such as putting a baby gate across the door to the safe area. Build up the time the animals spend together, and continue to make the introductions rewarding with more treats and praise.
When the dog isn't interested in bothering the cat, and the cat feels secure enough to come out from under the bed, you can take off the leash and let them get on with their new lives together. How long it will take to get to this step will depend on the animals involved, and you must work at their pace.
It's not uncommon for dogs and cats to become friends and to enjoy each other's company. Take the time to manage your cat-dog introduction properly, and you could be setting up a friendship that will last for the rest of your pets' lives.
Walking multiple dogs:
What's the safe limit?
Q: How many dogs are too many for one person to handle in public? I see people walking multiple dogs in my neighborhood, and they don't have good control over any of them. We also have people who turn multiple dogs loose in our off-leash dog park and then don't pay attention to what the dogs are doing. These dogs seem to me to be more likely to get into fights.
Can you suggest a sensible limit on dogs? I think if you have two hands, you should take two dogs, no more. What do you think?
A: How many dogs can be handled on-leash and how many turned loose together in an off-leash dog park are two different questions.
Let's take the on-leash one first. A person with good dog sense and well-mannered pets could handle several dogs on-leash at once, while someone who is outgunned by an ill-mannered animal is hard-pressed to control even one. When walking dogs on-leash, people need to be realistic about their strength and reflexes, their knowledge of canine body language and their dog's level of training. If someone's overmatched, he or she needs a trainer's help with leash manners and needs to walk no more than a single dog at once.
The off-leash dog park, however, is an entirely different matter. Owners with multiple dogs, no matter how well-mannered their pets are, simply cannot stay on top of what all their dogs are doing once the animals fan out. Everyone who takes a pet into an off-leash dog park needs to be responsible for the behavior of that animal, watching to be sure the dog is neither bully nor victim and that no one gets hurt. The dog park is not for catching up on one's reading or visiting with other people. It is for safely exercising and socializing a dog. One dog is hard enough to monitor properly; more than two would be nearly impossible.
Further, dogs who live together are more likely to gang up on those animals who aren't in their "pack." Dog packs have a different dynamic than individual dogs, and having a regular pack frequent the park could be a dangerous situation indeed.
To operate safely, dog parks need good basic rules, an active community to police through peer pressure and plenty of common sense. While all you can do with a person who's walking too many dogs on-leash is stay out of the way, you can work to put common-sense rules in place at the off-leash park not to limit the number of dogs, but rather to ban inattentive behavior on the part of the owners. If that fails, it may be necessary to set an arbitrary limit as to how many dogs a single person could have in an off-leash area at one time. -- Gina Spadafori
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Dogs have a growl
for every occasion
-- Dog growls don't always mean the same thing. A study published in the journal "Animal Behavior" found that dogs use a distinctive growl in play that is shorter and higher-pitched than growls used in the context of guarding food, and that the food-guarding growl also sounds different than the sound used when threatened by a stranger.
-- Horses remain loyal to humans that they've had positive experiences with in the past and can remember people even after a long separation. A study in the journal "Animal Behavior" reports that horses have excellent memory not only for people, but also for complex problem-solving behaviors for 10 years and beyond.
-- Pet rodents are more intelligent than their wild relatives. A study published in "Frontiers in Zoology" reported on the tests of tame and wild guinea pigs in a water maze, finding that the domesticated guinea pigs outperformed the feral guinea pigs. The results were a surprise, since the wild animals were better swimmers and had bigger brains. The study suggests domestication may make species better problem-solvers as they adapt to the human environment.
-- The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates a population of more than 150 million cats and dogs in the United States. Most studies note that around eight out of 10 of these pets are altered.
-- Veterinarians report high degrees of job-related stress, according to dvm360.com. Contributing factors include dealing with difficult clients, long hours with little free time, and difficulty balancing their professional and personal lives. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker Shannon
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books.
On PetConnection.com there's more information on pets and their care, reviews of products, books and more. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting PetConnection.com.
Taking Wing: Don't delay if a pet bird gets away
Because birds can fly and are often wary of strangers, an escaped bird can be very hard to get back. Prevention and persistence are key to keeping your bird safe.
-- Prepare for possible loss. Have your bird microchipped. Keep his wings clipped to prevent him from flying away, and make sure everyone in the family knows to keep doors and unscreened windows closed.
-- Don't waste time. The longer your bird is out, the smaller the chance of recovery. Immediately start searching nearby. If you have some game you play that would elicit a response from your bird, start playing it.
-- Lure your bird with favorite treats. Because birds are more likely to eat at dawn and dusk, even a bird who's not immediately interested in treats may come into a familiar cage set out at feeding time. Once he's eating, simply close the door.
-- Use the hose, cautiously. Because being sprayed from the hose is frightening and may injure the bird, don't go for this technique first. But it can be successful in keeping a bird from flying away and getting him down to where you can nab him. Once he's wet, wrap in a towel to prevent him from biting and carefully check for injuries.
-- Spread the news. Once your bird is out of sight, put up fliers around the area and at the local bird shop, pet-supply stores, veterinarians' offices (especially avian veterinarians) and pet shelters. Place both print and online classified ads, all offering a reward for his return.
-- Keep up the search. Many birds are found days, weeks and months after they're lost, but they're found by people who don't know anyone is looking for a lost pet. If you don't keep putting out the word, your bird may be lost for good, even if found. -- Gina Spadafori
As weather warms,
keep pets cool
Cats have enough sense to nap on warm afternoons, but dogs do not. If you let them, they'll go where you do, even if it's too hot. Dogs are not good at keeping themselves cool, and they rely on us to keep them out of trouble.
Limit exercise to the coolest part of the day, no matter how happy your dog is to participate when it's warm. Even in the coolest part of the day, watch for signs of trouble: Glassy eyes and frantic panting indicate a dog who needs help. Get to a veterinarian, immediately.
Remember that older, obese or short-nosed dogs are less heat-tolerant, and that all dogs need constant access to shade and an endless supply of cool, clean water. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Pet Connection is produced by a team of team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper, by sending e-mail to email@example.com or by visiting PetConnection.com.