Choosing a dog when you’ve got a cat

Your best shot at pet togetherness is to get your cat and dog when they’re both young. Kittens and puppies who grow up together are much more likely to get along, and they can even become close buddies.

That said, if you’ve got an adult cat, it’s possible to find a dog who will coexist with him. Before you dive in to the search, here are some pointers to keep in mind:

  • If you’ve already got an adult cat, it’s better to get an adult dog than a puppy. That puppy exuberance that we find so charming is annoying and stressful to cats.
  • Look for a dog with a track record of living peacefully with felines. Question the rescue group or shelter caring for the dog you’re interested in. If the dog fixates on and stalks cats, squirrels, or smaller dogs, he’s got a high prey drive (the tendency to chase and sometimes kill smaller animals). It’s difficult if not impossible to train such a dog to ignore his instincts. Certain breeds tend to have higher prey drives than others; see a ranking of prey drive among different breeds here.
  • Think twice about getting more than one dog. Dogs are more likely to chase, harass, or harm a cat if they’re in a pack.

Something to keep in mind as you’re thinking about a new pet: Many dogs love to chase cats but have no intention of harming them. Still, being chased and cornered by a dog is stressful for cats, so consider your kitty’s peace of mind as well as safety.