Cats and Dogs

Cats & Dogs

When one has dogs and cats one wants them to live together calmly – even if they don’t want to be friends. Keeping them apart is no solution because you will have to do it all the time and sooner or later someone is going to leave a door open and then you may have serious problems. Dogs can kill cats very easily, even if they are only playing. One shake is enough to break a cat’s neck.

Bringing them together, however, can be quite difficult. If the dog or the cat or both are young it usually is a lot easier than with an older dog or cat.
It must be remembered that puppies are babies and are very curious about cats and will want to get as close to them as possible. Chasing cats for them is a fun thing and is very natural for all dogs because their prey drive (instinct to chase and catch) is triggered by movement. While the cat is sitting still the dog may ignore her, but in motion, she becomes something quite different and exciting and the dog will obey his ancient instinct without thinking. Dogs usually want to chase and play with cats, and cats usually become afraid and want to run away. Kittens are especially vulnerable because they are so much smaller, curious and trusting. We need to provide a better alternative to chasing cats otherwise the dog will simply continue doing so.
Once a dog has experienced the thrill of a “kill,” especially in a pack, he is very likely to do it again.

When introducing a dog that has previously chased cats into a home where an adult cat is the resident, the dog must and can be taught fairly quickly to tolerate cats, but only if the owners are willing and patient and consistent in their training.

Firstly, you will have better control of your dog if you have taken him to obedience classes. Otherwise, you need to start obedience training as soon as possible. He should be able to reliably perform “Sit”, “Down”, “Stay” and “Leave it.”

Secondly, cats’ lives are never the same after the arrival of dogs, so their living arrangements must be changed for a while (at least weeks if not months). Their food and litter trays must be up and out of the way so that they have “safe” places to go to. The cats must have free reign of the house and the dog and cats must not see each other for a few days. Do not be tempted to “stage” a meeting! The dog should be supervised at all times until they meet. Above all avoid fearful and aggressive meetings. The longer the problem continues, the longer it will take to resolve. Punishment will only make matters worse.

Stroke the cats and then let the dog smell and lick your hands and then go to the cats and let them smell your hands. Take a blanket or towel that the cats slept on and let the dog smell it. Likewise take a dog’s toy or blanket to the cats to smell.

Later take the dog into a room where the cats have been. Let someone look after him and play with him for 20-30 min.. Bring the cats to sniff under the door. Do not force them to stay if they want to run away. Let the dog out and after a while, encourage the cats back into the room where the dog had been. Play with the cats for a while. This switch allows them to experience each other’s scent without a face-to-face meeting.

If possible, wrap a cat in a blanket and hold her against your chest so that she looks over your shoulder and cannot see the dog. Now, without the cat realising it, you may be able to get close enough for the dog to sniff the cat’s tail (this is something the dog wants to do quite badly) and at the same time the dog must see that you are one with the cat.

Now, far away from the cats, you do a “crash course” (about 10 times a day) on “Leave it!” Take a tasty tidbit between your fingers and sit down near the dog while holding it about the height of the dog’s head. Play with the food so that he can see it. As soon as the dog tries to get it, close the food in your fist and firmly say, “Leave it!” (This is my bone). The dog is likely to ignore you, lick your fist or even nibble at it, so you stare at him and repeat, “Leave it!” When the dog realises that you are not going to release the food and backs off, open your hand and say, “Take it.” (It usually takes up to four attempts from the dog to get at the food before he realises that you mean business.) Repeat as often as needed until the dog understands what “Leave it!” and “Take it” means. What you are aiming to achieve is for the dog to immediately back off when he hears, “Leave it!

When you are confident that the dog understands the “Leave it!” command, play with the dog and let someone bring a cat some distance away. Have treats and draw the dog’s attention away from the cat. The moment the dog notices and “stares” at the cat, you MUST act and say, “Leave it!” or “Watch me!” and distract with a tidbit. Instead of chasing the cat, the dog must realise that nice things happen around you when he sees a cat. Love and praise the dog when he obeys you.

Feeding can next take place on the opposite sides of the door. This may have to be a gradual process in which you gradually bring the food closer to the door.
When they are comfortable eating while exposed to each other’s scent, a face-to-face meeting can be attempted at feeding time. At first, they are fed on opposite sides of the room.

The cats must be high up and the dog on the floor and on lead, held by you. As soon as the dog has finished eating he must leave the room. After a few days he can be allowed to stay, but in a “Down” position. The cat can now be distracted with some food or catnip in order to relax and forget about the dog. Repeat this step several times until the both the cat and the dog tolerate each other’s presence without fear. By coming together to eat they begin to develop a social habit that bonds them together.
Avoid punishing the dog while the cat is near. It simply teaches the dog not to chase cats when you are near. You want them to become friends and not resent each other.

Always consider the safety of your cats! When I built my barbeque area I included an escape door or “Cat’s crossing” for them.

Other helpful ideas:

A Basic Obedience class will help you to get better control of your dog in establishing yourself as a leader to be respected.

By tying the lead of the dog to your waist you can ensure that while you are walking about, that the dog cannot chase a cat and the cats can see that they are not being threatened by the dog. When the dog thinks of sniffing the cat you say, “Leave it!”
Making use of a drag line when outside can prevent the dog from molesting the cat when he is not very close to you.

Separating the dogs and cats by means of a glass sliding door can be very effective. They can see each other, come very close to each other and even smell each other. With the feral kittens that we are at present fostering for TEARS, the rescue organisation, it has worked very well. The dogs, Coyote and Juno, have been able to see us play with the kittens and that they are additions to the family. This, however, does not apply to Minette or Sparky, two of our resident cats who are not yet ready to make friends. Felix does not seem to mind them at all.

Remember to give your cats extra attention during the period of introduction. Talk to them a lot and fish out their favourite food.