Can Cocker Spaniels and cats live happily together?

So, are cocker spaniels good to have with cats?

Our family was very much a “cat” family, but our children were keen to bring a dog into the household. 

We spent lots of time considering and researching the best dog to get - after all, as first-time dog owners, we didn’t want to bring an animal into the household that would upset the dynamic of a busy house, with parents, two relatively young children and two very contended domestic cats.

Not upsetting our cats was a really important consideration for us and we wanted to make sure we carefully considered the type of dog, what we needed to prepare and how we would go about introducing the new family member to our two - and very comfortable - cats.

He is our story and the process we followed…

Firstly, we should mention that both our cats are relatively relaxed and don’t really get spooked by noises, other animals or anything out of the ordinary. You might not be so lucky, so please bear that in mind.

We spent a lot of time researching and speaking to friends that already had dogs and specifically cocker spaniels. We were sure that a cocker spaniel would tick the box and be able to live with our cats - amongst the other things you need to consider when looking to get a dog; are they ok with children, how much exercise do they need, can we dedicate time to them, etc, etc.

With the decision being made we searched for and found our cocker spaniel puppy.

Cocker spaniel first, or cats first?

In our case, it was always going to be cats first, but after some research and having gone through the process we believe this to be the right way around. It’s simply way easier to integrate a young spaniel into a household with cats than the other way around.

Cats are set in their ways and are much better when they hold the upper hand - let’s face it cats never belong to an owner, they own you!

In the future, we would consider getting a spaniel puppy and kitten at the same time, on the assumption that they would bond whilst growing up together. But, that’s a long way away, and might never happen.

Tips for helping your cocker spaniel build a lasting relationship with your cat

Plan the introduction

This might sound obvious, but it’s definitely worth thinking about the process to make sure you give your animals the best chance of getting along, and ultimately becoming great friends…or just tolerating each other. Tolerating works by the way.

Prior to bringing your dog or cat home, make sure you’ve considered where they are going to sleep, eat, and spend their time.

It’s even as basic as making sure the doors are shut when you first arrive.

I promise you, a little bit of planning will go a long way.

Integrate them early

The younger they are the better, obviously making sure that they are 8 weeks old if not born in the same house and have the correct and appropriate vaccinations. 

For any young animal, the world is one of discovery and exploration and introducing them to new things is the best way for them to learn and, importantly get used to their new environment.

In many ways, it’s the same principle as socialising a puppy with other dogs, the more they socialise, the more they get used to it, and the better they behave…in most instances, obviously.

In our case, we introduced our cocker spaniel to our cats (who were 2 and 3 years old at the time) when the spaniel was 8 weeks. 

Initially, the cats kept their distance, but in a matter of minutes, intrigue took over and they sniffed around the young pup. A safe and good, albeit relatively short introduction.

Introduce them gradually

We were very careful to manage the introduction and not leave the animals on their own in the early stages. 

A few times a day we would give them time together and monitor their interactions and behaviour. 

On a number of occasions, the young spaniel got over-excited and either the cat or we would have to intervene. In all honesty, we tried to leave them to their own devices, but cocker spaniels can’t always control their excitement!

Our cats simply found a high point on a window sill or shelf to sit if they’d had enough, but don’t be surprised if your cat will give swipe the dog with its claws if things are getting a bit out of control. 

There’s nothing wrong with this it’s natural behaviour and simply the cat putting the dog in its place.

This time together certainly helped and as time went by they spent more time together and actually started interacting and playing. 

Give each animal a “safe space” where it can be alone

Cats will naturally find a space to oversee and monitor any newly introduced spaniel puppy, but it’s important that you give each animal some space where they can be on their own, relax and chill - which is much easier for cats than spaniels in our experience.

This might be simply closing the door to a room or introducing a cat tree where the cat can sit without being pestered by the spaniel.

Your spaniel will have its own safe place, whether it’s a crate, as it was in our case, or a dog bed. Give them time in there and try not to let your cats in there until they are comfortable with each other.

Monitor feeding time

Initially, you should avoid feeding your cats and spaniel at the same time. Your dog, particularly, can become territorial over its food bowl and it’s best not to tempt fate until they’ve had some time to settle.

Over time and as the animals got to know each other we became very relaxed about feeding time and are happy to feed them together. In fact, it’s lovely to see them all tucking into their food at the same time.

Feeding depends on each individual animal and you should let them guide you as to whether it’s OK to feed them together.

Give them time

This is one of the most important parts of the process. 

Don’t force it or go too quickly. If you give them the time and space, they will decide how they want to live together and how close they will be. Some spaniels and cats will be super friendly, play and spend time with each other. Others will learn to tolerate each other.

Ultimately, either way, works.

Final Thoughts

Cocker Spaniels are wonderful, engaging and friendly dogs and they can certainly live with and become great friends with cats. Our new cocker spaniel and cats got on famously from day one, which meant we were either super lucky or were super prepared and planned things well. I guess we’ll never know!

Cats and spaniels can also learn to tolerate each other, which is absolutely ok and will mean they can live in harmony with each other for years - that’s certainly the case in our household.

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