Adopting a dog (with cats)

DD265DD265 Forumite
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We want to get a dog - hopefully early next year. The preference would be a German Shepherd, but we're open to other breeds/mongrels as long as it's a medium-large dog.

The difficulty we have, is that we have two cats, and their safety is obviously paramount. We also may go on to have children, and many rescues don't seem to want to rehome with cats/young children. I suspect this isn't specific to larger dogs, but I'm also finding that the information isn't available up front on most websites/profiles.

Are we best putting our name on a waiting list at a rescue and seeing if a suitable match is found? Is it frowned upon to put your name down at multiple rescues? Has anybody been in our situation and successfully adopted a dog?

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  • elsienelsien Forumite
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    DD265 wrote: »
    We want to get a dog - hopefully early next year. The preference would be a German Shepherd, but we're open to other breeds/mongrels as long as it's a medium-large dog.

    The difficulty we have, is that we have two cats, and their safety is obviously paramount. We also may go on to have children, and many rescues don't seem to want to rehome with cats/young children. I suspect this isn't specific to larger dogs, but I'm also finding that the information isn't available up front on most websites/profiles.

    Are we best putting our name on a waiting list at a rescue and seeing if a suitable match is found? Is it frowned upon to put your name down at multiple rescues? Has anybody been in our situation and successfully adopted a dog?

    Can't give much help on the cat front, other than to say I do know people who have cats who have adopted dogs who are known to be cat friendly if they can be introduced sensibly.

    Putting your name down with multiple rescues is fine.

    The young children bit can crop up with some breeds more than others - I have bull terriers who would bulldoze a small child without a second thought, but as you don't have children as long as you don't get a dog known to hate kids, it would be the same as having a puppy then adding a child into the mix later.

    If you are upfront about your situation, a lot will depend on the specific rescue (some are way over the top) but also how well the dog matches your circumstances. Having cats isn't deal breaker with the right dog and showing you know how to introduce them safely.
    All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

    Pedant alert - it's could have, not could of.
  • gettingreadygettingready Forumite
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    I would be careful here as dogs that are said to be "good with cats" are good with THOSE cats. May not be so with other cats.

    I have a GS, Zara turned 13 in August last year. I got her at 4 months and I had cats at home. At that age she loved them from day one.

    BUT - she still (to this day, after living with cats all her life) would chase "other cats". In her head she seems to separate "our cats" and "other cats" and would chase one on the street. More than that - we are in our current flat for 3 years now and next door neighbours got a cat (kitten) about 2 years ago - Zara never lets him come to our garden.

    So.. go figure...
  • pinkteapotpinkteapot Forumite
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    You also need to be sure your cats will get along with the dog (or at least tolerate it). We have our cat because his previous owner got a dog and couldn’t integrate them. Cat was still very stressed and attacking the dog after 8 weeks so she had to make the decision to give one of them up.
  • SilvertabbySilvertabby Forumite
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    Some dog breeds are better with cats than others. My parents had a lab who absolutely adored cats - not just their own, but neighbours cats as well.

    However, the individual personalities of the dogs and cats will play an important part.
  • SensibleSarahSensibleSarah Forumite
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    It took me over a year to find the right rescue dog for my house (then with 3 cats who had never lived with a dog before) and it was utterly worth the wait, although frustrating at the time. My dog was in a foster home with a cat and totally ignored her there - but of course it's always still a risk - just a calculated one. My dog doesn't have a strong prey or chase drive (or any drive for anything apart from eating and sleeping if I'm honest) so that works brilliantly in a house with cats (and foster kittens). She's a dalmatian by the way.

    Sadly, my cats didn't know that the dog had zero interest in them, so of course it took a few weeks for them to come round. One of my cats moved into the alleyway next to my house for 3 weeks when the dog moved in, during December, which made me feel incredibly guilty - but she slowly started coming back indoors and it took probably 3 months before she was happy and relaxed being in the same room as the dog.

    I set up loads of stairgates (pretty much one on every doorway) so no chasing action could happen if the dog did suddenly show an interest and I think this helped the cats get over it more quickly as they felt safer. That and lots of high places for them to watch from when they felt worried.

    My opinion for the OP is that you might have to be flexible on breed if your priority is getting a cat-friendly dog. They do come into rescue, as mine did, but the chances of a cat-friendly rescue dog of the breed, age etc of your choice coming up when you are looking is less so. I wasn't fussed about breed at all (this is the first non-cross breed I have ever owned) so my only stipulation was that he/she needed to not be a small dog and would need to be OK being left for a few hours. Definitely down to individual animals as much as there being a specific breed that is best for cats, but you might want to be more wary of sight hounds, any terrier breeds and things like huskies/sled dogs often have a strong prey drive.
  • VetVet Forumite
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    If you're planning on getting a young dog/puppy then it will be easier to get the dog used to the cat. Your cats on the other hand may dislike immensely a new active animal in the house, especially a dog.

    Identifying stress in cats is very difficult as they are likely to just hide away or leave the house during stressful times. The use of calming agents like Zylkene, Feliway, Calmex Cat etc may assist in your cats accepting a new animal to the house, but nobody can make promises with a situation like this.
    Allowing the cats to visualise the dog prior to meeting may be useful as well e.g. on a lead in the house, rather than allowing the dog to chase or go directly to the cats.
    In this situation, your cats come first and if they do not take to a new animal in the house, then I would avoid a new dog completely.
  • bouicca21bouicca21 Forumite
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    It is now many years since I introduced a pup to the resident cat. But we took it gently, never forced anything and they ended up fast friends. The problem was then that the cat thought all dogs were friends.

    You have never seen anything so funny as the reaction of a dog when a cat strolls up to say hello. They start off thinking about chasing. Then you get the !!!!!! look of amazement, promptly followed by turning tail and fleeing.

    The dog also became cat friendly. When he met the vet’s dog friendly cat they were both fine.
  • DD265DD265 Forumite
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    Thanks all.

    The cats haven't lived with a dog, but they're very calm generally. We've had my in-laws dog in the garden and even when she barked, they didn't flinch, though they were observing from a few feet away and she was tightly held on a leash.

    I think when we're ready, we'll put our names down at a few rescues (there are a lot of breed specific ones we can start with if OH still has his heart set on a German Shepherd, I'm more open) and go from there. :)
  • thriftytraceythriftytracey Forumite
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    We tried to adopt a jack russell from The Dogs Trust and we have a cat (and a dog). The jack russell failed the "cat test" when they took it to the cat protection league next door to their premises. Apparently it looked anxious. Our cat is very placid and our existing dog ignores her (and likewise from the cat). We gave up in the end every time we saw a suitable dog on their website we would go there and it had been reserved in the interim. We adopted from Doodletrust and have a lovely dog from them who likes to lick the cats ears (cat not keen!).
  • Most dogs live happily with most cats, as long as the introductions are managed sensibly and any teething issues are dealt with before they cause problems. Once your new dog has settled in as part of your household, he or she will regard the cats as part of the family - and the same goes for children if you do start a family. Some breeds of dogs are calmer than others but generally it depends on the individual dog and what kind of background it has come from.

    Rescue centres are sometimes reluctant to rehome dogs with cats or children, as they want the best possible new life for their dogs and are keen to avoid any disasters or situations which would cause the dog to return to them. I know of a lady who let an ex-racing greyhound into a room where her parrot was loose. The inevitable result was that the parrot lost a few feathers and made a lot of noise and the poor greyhound was returned immediately to the rescue charity, through no fault of its own. Some rescue centres are more flexible and helpful than others so feel free to register with as many as you wish and make it clear that you already have cats so that they can give you the best advice on how to introduce your particular dog to your household and help you choose a dog who will either already be used to living with cats or will be able to adapt safely.

    Every dog is different, but it will help to take your new dog on a long walk before you bring him or her home for the first time, so that he/she is calmer and more used to you. Keep the lead on for the first introduction, just in case the cats get nervous and bolt which may make the dog excited and boisterous. Some excitable dogs may need a lead on for the first few times they see the cats until they come to understand that the cats belong there and are family.

    Let the cats have a room or area which is their own, where the dog can't go, even if they all get on immediately - at least for the first few weeks/months while they settle, so the cats have their own space if need be. Dog/baby gates are useful for this, or cat beds placed high up on shelves/cupboards so they can feel relaxed and safe. Any change in the household may temporarily prompt insecurity so this will always help. You can also buy plug-in pet diffusers to calm and reassure animals through any household changes and your vet or pet shop can advise on these.

    Keep calm during the introduction and through any teething troubles, this will reassure both cats and dog and be patient, it may take time, but if you persevere it'll be worth it. If you do have problems, don't be afraid to consult an animal professional.

    Good luck.
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