Unlikely Pet Friends by Jacqueline Valencia

You can’t force a friendship. You can’t force a friendship between two animals. You can’t force a friendship between two animals of a different species. It’s true and if you're a responsible pet parent, you’d understand that as much as you love your pet and want them to have companionship, it’s not always easy. However, with a lot of care and consideration to each of the animals you intend to introduce, you might make a friendship blossom.

 

There are many adorable videos of birds getting along with cats and becoming best buddies or dogs bringing home stray kittens or even mice on their backs. However, these are strange and rare occurrences. Some animals just have big hearts and are sociable, but you can’t force these situations to work.
 

First thing anyone must understand is whether your pet has a prey instinct, in that, if your dog or cat were presented with a much smaller or timid animal friend, it will attack. This can be found out through you getting to know your pet. I knew a bulldog I took care of for a night that got along with my dog, but did not get along with cats. So I kept my cats in another room for the time I was caring for the dog. There are also cats that won’t get along with other cats or dogs that just won’t get along with other dogs, no matter how much you try to condition them. Please keep an open mind and have good alternate plans for the care of all the pets you introduce to your home. Don’t adopt if you can’t make it work and insist on a trial run for your home. You want whoever or whatever comes to your home to feel wanted and loved and if your pets don’t get along, you must have space to separate them or an alternate plan for a new home. Remember, pets are like children and depend on their pet parents for guidance and home security. 

The best thing you can consider is whether you have evidence that your pet would get along with another animal in the house, and if so, what kind of animal? Ideally, they would be from the same species, but many homes have cats and dogs coexisting quite happily. If you were to adopt from a good shelter, the application process would explain if the animal has the experience of being around other animals. There would also be a slow introduction of your pet with another for a trial basis. It is my recommendation that none of this process be rushed.  

My success with my cats’ introduction was purely based on the idea that if kept apart long enough and given space and the same amount of attention that they would get along. As it is, they co-exist peacefully and eat from the same bowl, but they don’t snuggle or seek each other out. The closest they get to sleeping together is when one of them takes the foot of the bed and the other sleeps next to my head.

In introducing my dog, a chihuahua mix, to my cats, the process was slow. I had a crate set up like a little cave for her to call her own. The cats had the rest of the apartment. After a few very patient introductions, the dog befriended at least one of the cats (they chase each other playfully when I get home). The other cat will come out to ask for pets if I’m petting the dog and I happily oblige. All their food and spaces are separate and self-imposed most of the time (although one of the cats will try to sneak a drink out of the dog’s water bowl).’

As for animals like rabbits, birds, or hamsters, I would best advise not to have these animals try to coexist with cats and dogs. Smaller animals with bigger ones are a gamble and one that could be cruel and possibly fatal. Use your judgment.