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Living with Cats and Dogs: Is It a War Zone? Try a WEIRD Zone!

We document the odd relationships cats and dogs develop in three real-life multiple-pet households.

 |  Mar 19th 2013  |   8 Contributions


Some people are self-professed cat people, and some call themselves dog folks. Then there's a group who love both equally and share their home with one or more of each. Growing up, we had a gentle giant of a yellow Lab and always lived with a horde of cats. Beau, the Lab, loved the cats and considered himself a big brother of sorts. He was very protective of the kitties, and they adored him to no end. I remember sometimes the kitties slept sprawled out on him, like he was a giant fuzzy beanbag chair. They'd make biscuits on his belly, and he never complained. It was very sweet.

I've heard stories of some cohabiting dogs and cats that just couldn't get along, demonstrating that there's really some proof to the idiom, "fighting like cats and dogs." I know it all depends on the animals' personalities and histories; sometimes by working with a behaviorist, some of the issues can be resolved.

Some families are lucky and the fuzzy siblings get along from the start. I have three friends with canine and feline furbutt families; here are some of their experiences.

1. Katy: two Labs and a giant cat named Gorilla

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Gorilla and Rosie taking a break from the chase. Photo by Katy Herman

Katy loves black cats and dogs. She never paid any mind to that ridiculous "bad luck" belief and, despite a little chaos, knows her four-leggeds have brought her only the best of luck. Her two big black Lab mixes, Ivan and Rosie, live under the same roof as the giant onyx feline beast, Gorilla. Katy says they really do get along but have distinct relationships.

"Ivan is the pack leader and makes sure Rosie remembers that daily. Gorilla hasn't noticed that yet," Katy says. "All tennis balls belong to Rosie. Gorilla hasn't noticed that yet. Rawhide bones are for dogs only. Gorilla hasn't noticed that yet." So you can see that, although there are some unwritten rules, Gorilla reserves the right to change them. And he does. 

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"Nobody's gonna tell me what to do." Photo of Gorilla by Katy Herman

Gorilla and Rosie love to play chase, with Gorilla doing the chasing. However, alpha dog Ivan is a different story, and the house panther is wary when it comes to harassing him. Kitty also likes to mess with the dogs by tossing kibble from the bowl to the floor, one piece at a time, and watching the pooches scramble for it. Yes, it's a big happy family, as long as everyone listens to Gorilla.

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Teddy and L.C. cuddle and Sophia isn't interested in an interspecies friendship. Photo by Kari Achenbach

2. Kari: two cats and a Lab

Kari shares her home with a young yellow Lab named Teddy and two cats named Sophia and Little Cat (or L.C.). Sophia is older and has a bit of a standoffish personality. She doesn't much care for the dog and generally steers clear of him.

Teddy and L.C., however, enjoy more of a playful relationship. Kari says, "L.C. will get a piece of Teddy's food (it's pretty jumbo-sized) and play with it all over the wooden floor. He'll sit and observe for quite a while until he decides the party's over and then he lumbers over and eats the piece of food. Then L.C. races out of the room." 

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"Hey, we're trying to nap." Photo of L.C. and Teddy by Kari Achenbach

L.C. and Teddy are also fans of playing chase, with L.C. being the prey. Kari says, "L.C. will hide under the bed and wait for him to stalk her. Then she'll dart out from underneath the bed and run right in front of him into another room. Then they repeat the whole process. This goes on for a while and he never gets her." 

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Best buds. Photo of L.C. and Teddy by Kari Achenbach

3. Nicky: one Coonhound and many cats

Nicky's Coonhound mix named Honey recently passed, but always shared her life with cats. For the most part, the big dog ignored the cats, except for an occasional butt-sniff. She only acted aggressively if one of the kitties tried to eat her food, but she only stared at the bowl and growled.

Nicky says, "In the end, when we only had Hector the cat and Honey, Hector would come up and rub his face on her, but she really wasn't interested. She would lie down and he would lie down next to her. She simply tolerated him." 

The only time Honey actively got involved with the cats was when the felines were fussing and fighting. Nicky adds, "If there was ever a standoff, hissing, or something that looked like a scuffle, she would insert herself, whining and wagging her tail like she wanted them to break it up."

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Honey and Hector were friends, but Honey kept her emotional distance. Photo by Nicky Westbrook

Although there was some amicable -- or at least tolerable -- relationships in the three homes, each bond played out differently. Animal relationships are like human ones: Some are playful, some are strained, some are indifferent, and some are unbalanced. I have to say I've never chased anyone under a bed; however, I will growl at anyone who messes with my food.

Do you share a home with cats as well as dogs? What's the dynamic under your roof? Tell us about it in the comments!

Read more posts by Angie Bailey:

Read more about interspecies mingling:

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