Whenever I tell someone that I have three cats and a dog, I’m asked one or both of the following questions: “Do they all get along?” and “Does the dog think he’s a cat?” It seems that the saying “fighting like cats and dogs” is still a truth for a lot of people, and most are surprised when I respond that my pets, for the most part, get along just fine. Sure, there are clashes from time to time, but no one has ever lost an eye or packed a suitcase to leave.
I’m lucky, though, because in many multi-pet households, cohabitation is just not possible, despite the owners’ best attempts to make everyone play nice. I’ve known some people who had to keep one dog upstairs and the other downstairs or outside.
I had a friend whose friendly and affectionate indoor cat turned into a fearful and aggressive kitty when a new dog was brought into the family. She tried everything she could to make the cat and dog live civilly under the same roof, but to no avail. In the end, she had to find a new forever home for the dog, and the cat went back to normal almost immediately. Thankfully I’ve never been faced with that situation, because I’m not sure I could handle it. (And my sister is probably thankful my parents didn’t have that option when we were growing up.)
But as for the question of whether my Miniature Pinscher–Dachshund mix, Pinch, thinks he’s a cat, well, you’d have to ask him yourself. He’s been known to climb up on a cat tree, aim for the litter box (but poop on the floor just next to it instead), and prefer the cats’ toys over his own.
I suppose you could say that Pinch was raised with cats, but not as a cat. And while he and my chubby ginger tabby Noé have chosen to live their lives as though the other doesn’t exist, it hasn’t always been the case. In fact, the first year of their lives is a testament to the love and companionship that can only exist between a kitten and his puppy.
Pinch came into my life when he was just five weeks old. Had I not taken him from his previous owner, he would have died from an untreated intestinal hernia and neglect. I knew that taking a puppy away from his littermates so young was certainly going to impact negatively on his socialization skills and future behavior, but I had no choice –- he had to come home with me. But even though he was rescued from a bad situation, I was worried that after his life-saving surgery he would be physically okay, but not mentally okay. I was doing my best to nurse him back to health, but I couldn’t replace the contact with other soft warm bodies like that of his brothers and sisters.
I hadn’t counted on my kitten, Noé, to step up and do it for me. Noé was just shy of five months old when I got Pinch. He was a rescue himself, and while I never saw his parents, I’m convinced his mother was either a chinchilla or a microfiber rag, because his fur is just so soft. He was a beautiful kitten with a beautiful disposition, but he was also the only fur baby at home, and I was apprehensive about how he would react to a new four-legged member in the family.
I remember placing Pinch down on the floor and holding my breath as I let Noé out of the other room. I was already totally in love with both of them, and I couldn’t imagine having to give someone away if they didn’t get along. But Noé, true to his easygoing and friendly nature, trotted right over to tiny Pinch and gave him a gentle swat on the head, then jumped back to see what would happen next.
Instead of cowering or crying, Pinch stood up on his stubby legs and shakily waddled over to Noé. They touched noses, my heart melted, and an inseparable bond was created between the three of us.
In the early weeks, I was Pinch’s source of food, while Noé took on the role of his mother and siblings. When they weren’t rolling around on the floor or chasing each other through the house, they were curled up together sleeping. Despite the difference in size, Noé always knew just how rough he could be with Pinch without hurting him (except for one accident involving the stairs). Noé gave him raspy-tongued kisses and let Pinch nibble on his tail. I was able to go off to work knowing that Pinch wouldn’t be lonely or scared thanks to his feline companion.
But as the boys grew up, they also grew apart. They stopped roughhousing in the middle of the living room, and I would find them sleeping separately instead of wrapped in each other’s embrace. It’s as though Noé understood that Pinch was a now a big boy and that he could take care of himself. Noé had comforted him through the tough separation from his littermates, but now it was time to let Pinch walk on his own four legs.
That was four years ago. Since then, Noé and Pinch have lived peacefully together, each respecting the other’s boundaries — but as roommates, not brothers. I get nostalgic for the time when I’d find the two of them wrestling or snuggled up together, but I know the estranged relationship they have now is one that they chose, and I accept it for what it is. They may be a cat and a dog, but there’s no fighting here.
Have you had cats and dogs that could or couldn’t get along? Tell us about them in the comments!
Read more by Crystal Gibson:
- Would You Change Your Dog’s Name If Nobody Could Pronounce It?
- Dog Ownership Is Killing Me — And I Don’t Mean Softly
- 5 Things I’ve Learned from Living with Naked Cats
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