We’ve had our dog Mochi for well over a year now. Before we took him in, our cat Jack Bauer (yes…don’t ask) owned the house. He roamed everywhere, got into every corner, explored every inch. It was his huge cat gym. He was king of the household, whether we’re home or not.
I read someplace that while dogs have owners, cats have handlers. So true.
Well into Jack’s sixth year, we decided to adopt a dog. The last dog we had passed away seven years before. And our cat that preceded Jack passed away a year before she did.
Jack was not amused.
Dog And Cat Relationships
A 2014 survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association revealed that well over 50% of dog-owning households also have cats, and 50% of cat households also own dogs. This suggests that cohabitation of cats and dogs is not that unusual. And it does have it’s benefits.
Generally speaking, pet experts agree that animals do appreciate not being alone in the house when their owners leave during the day. And having another pet in the home allows them to socialize, even if the other pet is not necessarily of the same specie. While we shouldn’t impose our own human emotions on our pets, it’s really not too much of a stretch to assume that they do experience loneliness at being left behind for hours every day.
Pets do enjoy each other’s company. They get to interact with each other. They may play, or simply keep each other company. And we have first hand knowledge of this. Our previous pets, one dog, one cat and a parakeet, all got along perfectly fine together. It all seemed perfectly fine for them to be sitting together in one spot of the house, just chilling.
With Mochi and Jack, it was different. While our dog wanted so much to play with the cat, the cat won’t have any of it! It got to the point that he retreated to the upstairs portion of the house and stayed there for nearly a year! Mochi was not welcomed there. It’s like he built his own fortress and guarded it with jealousy.
We gave them their space for that year. But every once in a while, we would reintroduce both of them to each other. When you’re in this situation, you may notice that your dogs will almost always be the first to open up to your cat. And that’s what happened here. It took months for Jack to accept the fact that he no longer had full control of the house. It got so bad that he refused to even go down.
Slowly, though, we had to force the issue and get them both on the same level of the house.
So we closed the upstairs to both. We moved all of Jack’s stuff downstairs but made sure that he had his own spot where he can eat and do his business in peace. This is important because your dog will get his nose into everything. Our Mochi would eat Jack’s food and poke into his litter. Never a good idea. But everything else, they had to share the entire first-floor space. We gave them no choice.
Now, they “tolerate” each other. Acquaintances, but not quite friends, yet. And there are still stand-offs. But those are slowly becoming fewer. And this is typical, according to experts. It takes time for most pets to get used to each other, especially if one has been by himself for a long time. They are slower to adapt to the changes. But they do adapt.
Health Benefits Of Having Pets
The benefits of having pets, even multiple pets in the household are not just felt by the pets. Often, we forget that the owners are also part of this relationship, and therefore, share in the effects of this bonding.
An article in WebMD documents some of the benefits humans get out of owning pets.
Studies over the years have shown that pets have a positive effect on human emotions. Pet owners who are sick are less likely to suffer from depression. In fact, playing with one’s pet can elevate the body’s levels of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters known to have cause pleasure and calmness.
Doctors also note that people who have adopted either a dog or a cat had lower blood pressure levels when under stress. Stress releases chemicals like cortisol and norepinephrine that can lead to a buildup of plaque in the arteries, a leading cause of heart disease.
Great Companions For Older People
Alzheimer’s patients who have pets at home have fewer outbursts, according to the same article. Pets also provide companionship for older adults. And walks provide both owner and pet the opportunity to go out, exercise, and socialize. All three activities important to older people.
Numerous researchers also suggest that pet owners who have suffered heart attacks seem to survive their ordeal longer than those without pets. Moreover, male pet owners show fewer signs of heart disease, exhibiting less of the contributing factors of triglycerides and cholesterol levels in their systems.
The article then goes to explain that infants who grow up in an environment where there are furry pets, seem less susceptible to pet allergies. It seems that babies who have been exposed to what are otherwise normally dirty animals, like dogs and cats, develop stronger immune systems. They are also less likely to develop eczema and itching.
There will come a point when your pets will fight. And this is natural. People don’t get along sometimes, why should it be any different for our pets. There are a few things to remember, though, when fighting occurs.
Never reach in with your hands to stop a fight. Remember, your pets are animals and there is still some wildness in them. They may accidentally bite you through the confusion. Dousing them with water will usually separate them.
Make sure both pets get a timeout. Separate them for a while, place them in different areas of the house where they can feel safe. Let them cool down.
One Small Snag
One thing you must keep in mind when you decide to add another pet to your household is the added cost and responsibility. Whatever you’re currently spending on one pet, you will need to double that. Veterinary expenses, food, toys, grooming, all that costs money, and you will need to increase your budget for those things in order to accommodate an additional pet, whether it’s another cat or dog.
It also means increased responsibilities. If you have two or more dogs, they all need to be walked, played with, trained. Even if the added pet is a cat, you still need to spend time with them. You need to spend equal time with all your pets in order for you to get the most out of their companionship, and for them to get the best out of your care. It’s just fair. If you are unable to commit to all these, then you are not ready for any additional pets in your life. And you should not add on to your list of responsibilities if you think it will be too much.
At the end of the day, pets find a way to get out of each other’s way. Or, better still, they will learn to actually interact, and not simply to co-exist. And that’s what we want to see happen.
Our cat and dog are now slowly getting the hang of each other’s presence. They are slowly realizing that this house is actually big enough for the both of them. They know that they are cared for and appreciated. For them, that’s all they really care about.
You, on the other hand, end up with loyal friends and companions.