A pet has come to be regarded as the animal extension of a household or family and is treated with care and love as any other member of the household. However, as much as we value our non-human friends (or relatives), there are still some complications with having them live with us in our homes. In the case where you have pets of different species, for instance, their interactions might not be too friendly; you might develop allergic reactions to your pet; etc.
Living with a cat and dog in one household:
The most commonly kept pets in Ghana are cats and dogs. Some people keep these two pets in two capacities: the dog living outside in the compound as a security provider and the cat indoors for pest (mouse) control. This reduces interactions between them to a minimum which may reignite the age-old war between felines and canines. However, if, you, like a lot of the new generation of Ghanaian pet-owners, want to have both of them live with you indoors, these tips might can in handy to avert crisis and build harmony between the two pets:
Don’t force interactions between them: If you already have one pet, a dog, for instance, do not shock it (or the cat) by suddenly bringing a cat into its space in the house. You could start out by keeping them in separate rooms in the house and only permit interactions between them when you’re present and can control the situation. You could also bring the newer pet over from time to time from it’s original owner’s place until the two are used to each other’s presence before you make the move permanent.
Positive reinforcement: Trying this psychology tool on the cat and dog could be of huge help. Here’s how it works. If you have a dog, for instance, while walking it, reward it each time you encounter a cat and it doesn’t display any aggression towards it, or if it just goes closer to investigate without harming the cat. With time, it’ll come to regard the cat with the same positive feeling it gets from receiving the treat you give it for not being hostile towards cats, and this positive feeling will allow for a harmonious living with cats when you eventually, bring one into your home. This technique could also be tried with cats, but may require a little more patience on the owner’s part. If done right, your cat and dog are likely to become fast buddies, the one rarely ever seen without the other.
Pecking order (Hierarchy): Cats are normally indoor pets but very territorial, and dogs, are usually outdoor pets with a pack mentality, so they like to have a pecking order. Consider these differences when considering having the two pets live with you inside your home. Provide the cat with a safe space to retreat to out of reach of the dog (preferably a high platform) if things get out of hand between them. That way, the cat still has its personal territory and the dog could still feel like its alpha position in the family (pack) is not threatened. In the rare case where the dog recognises the cat as superior in the family hierarchy, you may not need the safe territory for the cat since the threat that would make it necessary would have been nipped in the bud from the start. The dog might be the one in need of a safe space if your cat is aggressive in this case. A crate, usually, could serve this purpose. A space where the cat won’t join the dog. Both the cat and dog need their personal space to feel part of the household.
Having the two pets living together with you at home can be quite pleasurable as an animal-lover, but it might be hazardous to your health or that of other members of your household if either you or them are allergic to one or both pets. However, this should not be entirely disastrous to your goal of living together. Here are a few ways to manage the situation:
Install air purifiers in vantage points of your home. This might reduce the amount of dander (the part of the pet that usually triggers allergies) in the air. It is not completely effective, but it will reduce the risk somewhat.
Keep the cat and dog outside your bedroom at all times. If you are not the allergic one, then keep the pets outside the bedroom of the allergic household member at all times. That way, there’s a safe place at home that is always free of cat and dog dander where a person can retreat to if they feel the allergy coming up. Also, keep them (the cat and dog) off carpeting and furniture in the living areas as much as possible when they are indoors.
Wash pet and pet bedding regularly. This point cannot be overemphasised. The pets need to be clean at all times. It won’t stop them shedding dander all over the place, but it will keep the levels low and tolerable to you and the other humans in the household. Also, be sure to clean up after every time you handle or pet the dog or cat.
A healthy home is a happy home. Ensuring that the space feels homely to your pets and reducing the likelihood of it becoming a menace to the humans in the home in the process, makes for very healthy and happy living for everyone: pets and owners! If you have some other tips on how to maintain stability in a house with dogs and cats that have worked for you in the past, please share them with us in the comments below.