Choosing ComPETable Pets

One pet is fun. Adding another can really double the love. But simply dumping the newcomer into your existing pet family may cause problems for the resident critters as well as the new kitten or pup on the block. Before falling head-over-paws for that big-eyed, needy stray, take into consideration your current pets, your living conditions, and how best to match a new cat or dog to the pets who already share your heart and your home.

Our cat Seren was seven years old and had always been an only pet when we decided to add a puppy to our family. We were on the waiting list for two years before Magical-Dawg the German Shepherd arrived, so we had a great deal of time to plan and prepare. Frankly, I never would have considered adding a dog to the mix if Seren hadn’t always been such a confident, take-charge cat. I knew that she’d be able to have any dog do her bidding.

Respect Your Resident Pets

Before anything else, evaluate your existing pet family. How well your current pet(s) will accept a newcomer depends on the age of the animals involved, their health, gender, genetics and traits of instinct, size, personality, and—you get the point—the list goes on.

Some dogs are willing to accept cats, while others can be downright dangerous to adorable furry felines. Although there are exceptions, terrier-type breeds and sighthounds developed to go after “critters” may not be able to control their instinct to chase and kill a new kitty. Even a friendly pooch that weighs 80 pounds could accidentally sit on a tiny kitten, or hurt the smaller pet if play gets rough. Study the breeds and talk with professionals that can help you make informed choices. Most dogs follow the lead of the human family member they respect, though, and if YOU say the new guy is okay, King often accepts your decision.

When we brought Magical-Dawg home at eight weeks of age, he already outweighed Seren-Kitty by five pounds. It’s a safety issue even with friendly dogs, so from the very beginning, our rule was that the CAT was the boss of the DOG. That remains so to this day, with six-pound Seren able to chase 90-pound Magic across the room.

There are fewer breed differences among cats, but big bruiser felines can be dangerous for tiny kittens (or small pups). Feline predatory behavior prompts games of stalk and pounce that can turn traumatic or deadly for browbeaten newbies.

Stranger Danger & Cats

Once a cat reaches the age of 12-18 months or so, it loses its inclination to make new friends. Tabby will either do her darnedest to get rid of any newcomers you introduce, or simply hide and become a stranger in her own home. It’s an instinct that protects kitties from being eaten—anything unknown is automatically designated as dangerous.

But if your resident pets have had positive experiences with other cats and dogs, especially during their younger years (early socialization), they’ll be much more likely to eventually accept a new pet into the household, and even become pals. This prime socialization period occurs from 2 to 7 weeks of age for kittens, and between 6 to 12 weeks of age for puppies.

Pet Matchmaking Rules

As a general rule of paw, it works best to choose a new pet that’s younger than, and the opposite gender of, your resident pet. Choose a male kitten to partner with an adult female cat, or a female kitten to introduce to your resident adult male. These combinations prove the least threatening to the resident adult, so they don’t feel that their authority is being challenged.

Sex doesn’t matter as much between cats and dogs. These creatures have different definitions of what defines territory, so both can be happy when what they want out of life is satisfied. Seren says, “Cats get all the good stuff. Pffft on dogs!” The Magical-Dawg wouldn’t agree… so I’ll cover both sides of the furry equation in future blogs.

With proper planning, the right mix of personality, and a little luck your home can be filled with twice the love, and both pets can have a new best friend. Alright… second best… you’ll always be number one.