A song from the classic musical "South Pacific" proclaims, "You've got to be taught to hate and fear." The song isn't referencing cats and dogs, but the logic applies. Raising a kitten and puppy together generally allows these two different species to coexist in the same household -- when dogs and cats are introduced properly at a young age, the hate and fear instinct doesn't necessarily kick in. Success usually depends more on the breed of dog than on the cat.
Kittens and Puppies
Cats and dogs are both predators, but some of the latter consider the former to be prey. Introduce a puppy and kitten slowly, with a barrier between them. For young animals, a baby gate makes a suitable screen. Don't worry if the kitten initially hisses and spits. That's an instinctive reaction to her introduction to a canine. Don't prolong the initial get-together -- 10 or 15 minutes is adequate -- but allow the pets to get used to each other over a period of several days. Bring them together a few times a day over that period, until being with each other is no big deal. Although it's nice if they become friends, ignoring each other also works. Don't leave them alone together.
Teaching Appropriate Behavior
Taking your puppy to obedience class is important whether or not he shares his home with a kitten, but it's especially necessary in that situation. He must learn basic commands such as the Come, the Leave It and the Stay; these will help to reinforce appropriate behavior when he's around cats of any age. If the puppy starts playing too hard with the kitten or chasing him in a predatory manner, a resounding "No" and a time-out will let him know that he shouldn't behave that way with his kitty pal, if the kitty doesn't do so first with claws or teeth.
Even if your kitten and puppy seem to get along just fine, don't take chances when you aren't there to supervise them for at least the first few months they're together. Separate them when you leave the house, perhaps by crating the puppy or ensuring the pets are secured in separate rooms -- with water. Always feed them separately, and don't leave one's food out where the other pet can access it. Each pet should have his own safe space, away from other animals and household hubbub. When you're confident that your pets will behave well together, start leaving them together for brief periods. Of course, you might want to continue to keep your dog crated if he exhibits any destructive tendencies when left alone.
Dog Breed Considerations
Certain types of dogs -- those with a strong prey drive -- aren't usually good with felines. Even when they're raised from age 8 weeks with a cat, some breeds' prey drive can kick in with tragic results. Think twice about keeping any kind of terrier with cats. The same holds true for sight hounds and husky types. Spaniels and retrievers are usually good with felines, as are most of the breeds in the American Kennel Club's non-sporting group. These include bulldogs, keeshonds, poodles and Lhasa apsos.
- Veterinary Pet Insurance: Dog and Cat Relationships
- Metro Animal: Integrating Cats and Dogs Into Your Household
- The Whole Dog Journal: Dogs and Cats Living Together
- Purina: Best Dog Breeds for Multi-Pet Households
- American Kennel Club: Cats and Dogs Together - Can They Really Get Along?
- American Kennel Club: AKC Breeds by Group - Non-Sporting
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.