How are cavapoos with cats?

Cavapoos can live harmoniously with cats. However, cats can easily be terrified by the presence of an inquisitive cavapoo and so introducing these two animals to one another should be done with care. Socialising a bold kitten with a friendly puppy is likely to bear the best results.

Ah, the old question! You have a dog – perhaps a cavapoo, but hey! A dog, and in this context, we need to talk about dogs –  and you would like to introduce a cat into the household. Or you have a cat and would like to bring home a puppy. Surely life with a dog and a cat will ensure your health and wellbeing from sunrise, when the dog places your slippers by your feet on the bedside rug, to sunset, when the cat curls up on your lap and purrs and the dog slumbers and twitches on the hearthrug? Not if the fur flies…

What cats and dogs give us

Cats and dogs have lived alongside us for centuries, cats serving us as mousers in the house and dogs guarding the property or herding on the farm. And over those centuries, they have endeared themselves to us. We are more likely nowadays to buy or rescue a kitten for those lap- and heart-warming cuddles than because it will clear the pantry of mice. Studies have shown that stroking a cat can lower blood pressure and induce a feeling of relaxation. Dogs still work on farms and with the police, the military and as companion dogs to the disabled, but what do they do for the rest of us? Most owners will tell you that their lives have improved ever since the arrival of the dog. They take long, healthful walks in the country. They meet like-minded people and their dogs at rally, agility, heelwork to music, training. Above all, no dog owner returns to an empty house. At the sound of the key in the latch, the dog is transported by delight. Dogs place their paws around your neck. They kiss. They roll over in their joy. They make you understand that you’re the centre of their universe.  

A cat and dog life

Our mediaeval forebears were familiar with the expression “cat and dog life”, which usually referred to a marriage marred by constant snarling and disagreements. Think for a moment of the characteristics we associate with cats and dogs. Cats are relatively independent. They evolved from a wild cat that tended to live and hunt alone. The modern cat may be affectionate to its owners but many combine this with an air of condescension. They are willing to accept the caresses as the tribute due to them, or because they choose to be magnanimous and allow us to approach them. Like their ancestor in the wild, they become attached to their territory and may prove difficult to settle elsewhere if you move home.

Dogs are sociable creatures. They live in packs in the wild, or have the tendency to form packs if abandoned as strays in urban surroundings. By the way, I do not subscribe to the idea that I am the pack leader to my four dogs. The very term smacks of 1960s Brownies and their Brown Owl. Worse still, if a woman in her sixties poses as an Alpha Male, any dog worth its salt will detect the imposture at once and conclude that she is barking.  Absolutely barking. But you follow the argument.  The different behaviours cats and dogs have inherited are deeply rooted.  How realistic are we to expect them to share a home?

Yet we have all received those cute greetings cards with puppy and kitten sporting festive bows and smirking from the same Christmas hamper.  It can be done.  It requires careful thought.

Some Considerations

Know your dog! Whether this is the dog you already have or the dog you would like to introduce to your household, this is vital. Pastoral dogs such as collies are likely to herd your cat, although my first collie lived peaceably enough with a couple of Siamese and then with a semi-stray.  The Siamese, however, rang rings round him. After his first night, I went downstairs to an overturned standard lamp and cushions scattered across the room.  The cats had trashed the joint but were hoping to crown their achievements by blaming it all on the puppy.  Lady and the Tramp it was not. They were Siamese, if you please. They were also quick to smack the pup’s nose with a stiff paw. Be aware that cats may pose a risk to the new puppy. They can paw-bat and claw at the pup’s face and eyes before skimming up furniture or curtains to escape retribution.

Dogs bred for hunting may be not merely pests to the cat, constantly chasing it, but positively dangerous.  My lurcher distinguished herself on her very first walk off the lead by sprinting across a field and returning with the hindquarters of a rabbit.  I have no idea whether she killed the rabbit herself or took the leavings of a fox or bird of prey, but her behaviour marked her as a dog with a strong hunting instinct.  Greyhounds, Italian greyhounds and whippets are dogs that hunt by sight (“grey” may be a corruption of “gaze”).  They can reach the speed of a car.  There is a very real risk that, even if the hound and the kitten have grown up together, that the dog will forget its bond with the cat as soon as its instinct to chase and kill takes over. Dogs bred to guard can include the family cat among those it will protect with its life, but leave you with egg on your whiskers if it turns on the neighbours’ cat instead.

At this point, you may wonder whether the cavapoo is a good candidate, since both the poodles and spaniels in its cross-breeding are hunters. The answer is: yes. They have an excellent reputation for gentleness and tolerance. The poodle was bred to retrieve waterfowl, the spaniel, game birds. In other words, it is highly unlikely that your cavapoo will want to chase an animal, especially one not much smaller than itself, as its parents’ prey consists of birds.  If the cat is already master – or mistress – of the house, introduce the pup on a lead as it is bound to be curious.  Do not leave them together unsupervised.  If they are to share a room and you are absent, the cavapoo should be in a crate.  As long as your puppy associates the crate with treats, toys, warm bedding and a cuddle, he should regard it as his den and feel safe, not deprived.  You might consider removing it from the room if he receives threatening overtures from the cat, however.  

If the cat is to be introduced, follow the same cautious procedure.  Your dog may be used to living with a cat, but the new cat may have had nothing to do with dogs.  Consider installing dog gates that prevent either from harming the other but allow them to adjust in complete safety.  

A smidgeon of psychology

With domesticated animals such as dogs and cats, we tread a tightrope. They retain many of the characteristics of their untamed forebears.  Think of your indolent, well-fed cat.  It has no need to hunt birds and mice, but the instinct remains, however gratuitous the killings, and it is useless to behave as if the cat is being greedy, heedless or forgetful of that last lavish meal you set out.  Your lurcher may fix you with huge, liquid eyes of adoration but hunt and kill an animal you cherish, and it is simply unfair to expect it to understand your admonitions or your grief.  However – and this might seem a contradiction – they often show signs of a psychology more complicated and human than we expect.  They are certainly capable of jealousy towards a newcomer and they are shaped by their experiences.  Because your previous dog and cat behaved like candidates for sainthood in a monastery, their successor(s) are not bound to be the same, even if they are of the same breed.  Caution, every precaution and homework are essential if you are to inhabit that idyllic sitting-room of the Christmas card, with your cat and dog asleep in each other’s paws.