Is (fill in the name) good with cats?
We are asked this regularly.
This excerpt is taken from an article written by Heather Mohan-Gibbons of the ASPCA. It explains why dog-cat introductions done at the rescue are unlikely to inform us about behavior in the home.
Using dog-cat introductions can be a VICE and are not recommended due to the following reasons:
V = Variability. Behavior is variable between two individuals of different species during any interaction. How the introduction is conducted and the room design can also affect behavior of both the dog and cat. It is difficult to make broad generalizations about how each dog would behave with the adopter’s cats in the home due to this amount of variability.
I = Inhumane. We want to ensure that our efforts are in the best interest of the animals in our care and do not cause harm of any kind. Most dog-cat introductions require the cat to be contained while a dog approaches. Limiting a cat’s choice for escape changes the cat’s behavior and is not humane for the cat.
C = Cats. They have behavior, too! A cat may behave differently with each dog based on their past experiences with dogs, how the introduction is performed or the way the dog approaches. The cat’s behavior can then affect how the dog responds. We also don’t know what behaviors would make a good “helper cat” in order to have a standardized introduction.
E = Environment. A dog’s behavior is based on many specific cues in the environment and his past experiences. For example, if a dog only sniffs a cat who stands still, it doesn’t tell us what he will do when the cat runs away. If the cat is in a crate for the introduction, the dog’s behavior could be a result of the barrier, a result of a novel situation, or even the dog’s experiences with crates!
The danger is if we give recommendations based on behaviors seen during these introductions, there is a false sense of security that the dog would do well with cats based on the dog-cat introduction, and the adopter may go home with unrealistic expectations.
As you can see, introducing the dogs in our rescue to the resident cats would NOT answer the real question– Is he/she going to be good with my cat(s)?