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The bichon frise is a friendly, happy-go-lucky little companion ideal for anybody willing to give them plenty of playtime and not willing to leave them alone for long periods. They are also alert balls of fluff who love to bark at anything out of the ordinary, including cats.
So if you already have a bichon frise and are thinking of getting a kitten or cat, or vice versa, you are probably wondering if the two will get along. Continue reading to find out.
Are Bichon Frises Good with Cats?
In general, the bichon frise is good with other animals, including cats. If they are raised together with a cat, they will likely become best friends and see the cat as another pack member. Most bichons frises—but not all—have a low prey drive, making them less inclined to harass other animals like cats. Their friendly nature makes ideal cat companions if they are introduced correctly.
However, how good your bichon will actually be with cats will largely depend on how well socialized it is. Ideally, your bichon frise should be introduced to a wide variety of sights and sounds during the critical socialization age between three and sixteen weeks. During this time, they should be introduced to dog-friendly cats and have a positive experience to help them see cats as friends.
It should also be noted that bichons frises are exuberant dogs. This means that they may charge a new cat, barking, or try to play unless they already know how to approach a cat politely. This excitement can scare or upset a sensitive cat, so bichons and cats must be appropriately introduced to get along well.
How to Make a Bichon Frise Get Along with a Cat
When it comes to making the two pets enjoy each others presence, there are a few different things to keep in mind.
#1: Provide the cat with at least two safe spaces
Make sure your cat has a safe space to retreat to if it feels overwhelmed. It could be a laundry room or a bathroom, or any area that can be sealed off, and your bichon can’t reach it.
Ensure that the safe space is stocked with all your cat’s favorite things, including:
- A litter box
- A scratch post
- Food and water
- A baby gate or pen to make sure your dog can’t get inside
- An open window or area that allows your cat to come and go as they want
#2: Do not introduce them immediately
In the beginning, allow your new dog or cat to become used to the new environment without forcing them to interact. Allow at least three to five days to pass, where they can become aware of each other’s scent and desensitized to the idea of having another animal in the house.
#3: Work on teaching your bichon frise distraction cues
While your cat is shut away, use your bichon’s intelligence and playfulness to teach them basic obedience commands, such as to look at you. This can be done by using a clicker to “mark” the behavior of focusing on you and rewarding them with treats.
You can also build their focus on other items, such as playing with a favorite squeaky toy.
#4: Spend time with your cat when you have your dog’s scent on you
After playing with and working on your bichon’s training, you can spend some alone time with your cat, allowing them to smell the dog and helping the desensitization process.
#5: Use the “focus” or “look at me” command to distract your bichon
After a few days, when you trust your bichon to give you their attention when you ask for it, you can allow your dog to go up to the room where the cat is. Make sure they don’t go inside! They should just be able to smell the cat. Before your dog starts to get excited, ask them to focus on you and be quick to reward them. Continue to practice getting your dog’s attention while the cat is still safely behind doors but close enough for your bichon to smell.
#6: Be more interesting than the cat
A bichon unused to cats might feel compelled to charge at the room they smell the cat in and bark excitedly, making the cat nervous! To avoid this, you must spend at least several days becoming far more interesting to your bichon than the cat. Luckily, bichon’s love attention, so this will be a fun bonding experience for both of you.
Different ways you can reward your bichon for giving you attention instead of the cat may include favorite toys, lots of praise, or yummy treats.
#7: Wait until your bichon doesn’t seem interested in the cat anymore
It may take a day or a few weeks, but a good sign that it’s time for your bichon frise and cat to meet face-to-face is when your bichon doesn’t seem interested in your cat’s safe space anymore. Ensure there is a baby gate between the dog and cat, so they still can’t reach each other.
You can also have your bichon on a long loose leash for extra protection. Allow your bichon to approach, so long as they are calm. If your dog starts to act excited, quickly get their attention with the “look at me” command and reward them when they do.
#8: Work slowly and with loads of positive reinforcement
All early interactions shouldn’t be overwhelming or harmful for your dog and your cat to get along. So, be careful not to punish your dog or yank the leash unnecessarily, as they may transfer this negative experience to the cat. Also, be sure to take your time as the two get used to each other.
Short meetings built up gradually over time is best.
#9: Allow the cat to meet your bichon frise on its terms
By now, your bichon should be able to smell and see your cat through the penned-off area without getting excited. It should also give you their full attention when asked, even if the cat is nearby. This is the time to leave the door open—but keep the baby gate in place—so that your cat can enter the room where you and your dog are.
Let your cat choose when to do this.
As soon as your cat does, focus your dog’s attention on you with praise and rewards. This allows the cat to come and retreat without feeling threatened by the bichon. You can also give your cat certain calming products during this time to help them through the process.
In short, bichons are naturally friendly dogs who not only get along with other dogs but should also be more cat-friendly than most breeds. But, if your bichon is meeting a cat for the first time, it might be a long process to get the two feeling comfortable with each other.
During this period, you want to be sure that your cat has a safe space to get away and that it can meet your bichon on its own terms. At the same time, you want to work on getting and keeping your dog’s attention. This is so that they become desensitized to the cat, and your cat is never flooded with unwanted canine attention.