When you have to Dogsit a whole Human
How to Dog‐Sit when You Have a Cat
Often as a gesture of courtesy, individuals may volunteer (or are asked) to pet-sit for their friends, co-workers, or relatives when the individual is leaving town. If you already own a cat and are asked to pet-sit a dog for any length of time, you may be concerned about the potentially tense relations between the two animals. Before you bring the dog into your home, check with its owner and make sure it doesn’t have a history of aggression with cats. From there, you’ll need to introduce the dog to your cat, and make sure that your cat has a dog-free place to spend time and sleep.
Introducing the Dog to Your Cat
Bring the dog to your cat.When your cat and the dog you’re pet-sitting meet in your living space, it’s important that it’s in a controlled environment. Bring the dog in on a leash (so it can’t chase the cat), and slowly walk it towards your cat. Let the two animals slowly examine each other; don’t rush interactions between them.
- Once the animals have sniffed noses and the dog has calmed down (if it was initially excited), you may let the dog off the leash. Continue to keep a close eye on the dog for the first 30 minutes—make sure it doesn’t become hostile.
- If your cat initially runs away or hides, that’s okay. It will take time for your cat to feel comfortable around the dog—but as long as neither animal is aggressive, this is a normal process.
Give the animals time to acclimate.Especially if either animal is not accustomed to being around different species, it may take them some time to feel comfortable around each other. Assuming that all interactions are peaceful (no barking, biting, hissing, or scratching), you can leave the animals alone to grow used to each other’s presence and smells.
- The best outcome may be indifference between the animals. Often, dogs and cats want little to do with each other, especially if the dog can play outside while the cat naps.
Watch the animals’ body language.When a dog and cat are meeting for the first time, their body language can indicate how well they’ll get along. Your cat will show anger or fear by laying its ears flat back against its head and swishing its tail, or puffing up its fur.If your cat exhibits this behavior, remove the dog from the room. Try to introduce them again later, once they’ve both calmed down.
- The dog may exhibit predatory behavior near your cat, indicating that it intends to chase or attack the cat. Signs of predatory intent include: stiffening body, an intent stare, and barking or whining.
- Remove the dog if it exhibits these behaviors, and don’t bring it near your cat again without putting the dog on a leash.
Ask if you can watch the dog at their house if things don't work out.If your cat and the visiting dog aren't getting along, it may be best to reconsider your plans. Let the dog's owner know that things aren't going well between the animals, and ask if you can pet-sit the dog at their house instead. Offer to spend the night and visit multiple times throughout the day. That way you won't have to deal with the stress of keeping the dog and your cat separated.
Giving Your Cat Safe Space
Make a room off-limits to the dog.Even if your cat and the dog you’re pet-sitting get along reasonably well, your cat will still need a separate space, away from the dog, where it can retreat and eat, nap, and spend time alone. Cats generally have less social energy than dogs and will be less interested in constantly playing. Set your cat’s food, water, and toys in a room that you can keep the dog out of.
- Giving your cat space and time to be alone will be especially important if it’s old. Older cats move slower and are less playful, and will quickly become exasperated with a new dog.
- If you have child-proof gates or other devices that can block doorways in your home, set these up outside of your cat’s room.
Give your cat an emergency exit in case it feels stressed.If you're keeping your cat and the dog in the same room, it's important that your cat has somewhere it can escape to where the dog can't get to it. Set up a tall cat tree that the dog can't reach, or a piece of furniture that your cat can hide under. Your cat will feel more comfortable if it knows it has somewhere to hide.
Keep your cat’s routine consistent.Bringing a new dog into your cat’s life—even temporarily—will seriously disrupt its daily routine, so you should try to be as consistent as possible with your behavior around the cat. Feed it at the times you usually do and make sure to give your cat the same amount of attention that you normally do, if not more.
- Schedule some quiet time to watch TV or read a book with your cat and the dog so they're both involved.
- Your cat may initially treat you with suspicion even when the dog is not around since you’ll likely pick up the dog’s smell.
Restrain or distract an aggressive dog.If the dog you’re watching starts to growl or snap at the cat, you may need to keep the animals separate. Since your cat is likely used to having freedom to roam the house, you don’t need to infringe on that freedom—try shutting the dog outdoors (if the weather is warm), or shut the dog in a large room with food and water, so your cat can move through the rest of the house.
- Alternately, if the dog’s hostility is mild, you could distract it with a treat or a new toy.Take the dog outside and throw a ball several times; when you bring it back inside, it may have forgotten about the cat altogether.
Address severe problems between the animals.In some instances of dog sitting, the dog may never feel comfortable around your cat, and may continually try to chase, attack, or kill the cat. The dog’s predatory instinct will be especially triggered if your cat frequently runs away from it.Keep the cat and dog separate in your house or apartment: shut the dog in the backyard or another large space, such as a living room, and keep your cat secluded in your bedroom or another small room.
- The dog may calm down over time, if given opportunities to smell the cat (from under the door or through a gate) and acclimate to the cat’s smell and presence.
- If the dog’s aggression and hostility do not diminish, you may need to call the dog’s owner. If you’re concerned about the well-being of your cat, ask if the owner can return and reclaim their dog early
- If the owner cannot return, ask if there is another individual who can take the dog off your hands. If not, you may need to temporarily take the dog to an animal shelter or a veterinarian’s office, where it can be safely kept in a kennel.
Return your cat to a normal schedule after the dog leaves.Even if the dog and your cat got along reasonably well—or were kept apart from one another—the dog’s presence probably disrupted your cat’s typical schedule. To help your cat feel comfortable and “back to normal” after the dog goes home, return it to the feeding and play-time schedule that you kept before house-sitting the dog.
- If you restricted or altered your cat’s access to rooms in your house or apartment while house-sitting the dog, return your cat’s normal access to rooms.
- Returning your cat to a normal schedule will be especially important if you house-sat the dog for an extended period of time (e.g. over a month).
Taking Care of the Dog
Familiarize the dog with your house.Although your main concern may be for the safety and well-being of your cat, you still need to take good care of the dog and pet-sit it properly. Keep the dog on a leash, and walk it from room to room within your house, giving it plenty of time to sniff and smell around each room.
- Ask the owner if he or she can bring the dog’s bed and favorite toys over with the dog. Having access to familiar bedding and toys will help the dog feel more at home, even in a strange house.
- Give the dog time to explore your house on its own before you introduce it to your cat.
Maintain the dog’s normal routines.As much as possible, help the dog adhere to the schedule that it typically follows at its owner’s house. This will increase its comfort with you and around your house and should result in the dog being more relaxed and easygoing around your cat. Follow a consistent schedule for feeding and exercising the dog: follow the number and frequency of meals and outdoors walks that the owner suggests.
- In order to find out the dog’s typical routine, you’ll need to check with the owner before they leave town. If the owner keeps to a complicated feeding or exercising routine for their dog, ask the owner to come to your house or apartment and demonstrate how to feed or exercise the dog.
- Then, stick closely to this daily routine once the owner has departed. Write down the routine somewhere so you don't forget it and have to bother the dog's owner while they're away.
Give the dog plenty of exercise.If you’re concerned about the dog having too much energy and overwhelming your cat with playful attention, focus on exercising the dog. This will help tire it out and take away some of its energy.Play with the dog in your backyard, take it on a walk or hike, or bring the dog to a nearby dog park so it can play with other dogs.
- Check with the owner ahead of time and ask when and for how long they exercise their dog. If they usually walk their dog for an hour a day, you’ll need to do the same; a single 15-minute walk will leave the dog unsatisfied and anxious.
Groom the dog as often as necessary.This will vary depending on the length of time for which you’re watching the dog. If you’re pet-sitting a long-haired dog, it may need daily brushing and other maintenance, including mat removal.Check with the dog’s owner ahead of time; ask how often they groom their dog, and ask to borrow any specialized equipment that the owner uses.
- In addition to grooming, it’s important that you spend time petting and/or cuddling with the dog, especially if it feels separation anxiety from its owners.However, don’t neglect your cat during this time either—it may feel neglected if you only play with the dog. You’ll need to spend time petting each animal separately.
Ask about special needs for the dog.Many dogs—especially older animals—may have a special diet, or need other daily accommodations. Check with the owner before they drop off the dog, and ask if the dog needs any special food, has unique grooming requirements, or needs to be given medication.
- Find out which veterinarian or veterinary hospital you should take the dog to if it becomes sick or injured. The owner may take the dog to a specialist, or may prefer that you take the dog to a vet that already has the animal’s health records.
Be extra cautious with dogs that have a high prey drive.Certain dog breeds, like herding breeds, working breeds, and hounds, are more inclined to chase prey-like animals. If the dog you're watching has a high prey drive, you'll need to monitor it more closely around your cat.
- If you're not sure whether the dog has a high prey drive, talk to its owner beforehand.
- Some dogs with high prey drives may not be able to coexist with cats. If that's the case, ask the owner if you can watch the dog at their house instead.
Video: Pet Sitting Tips
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