Dog and Cat relationship
October 4, 2012 10:47 AM   Subscribe

How do I get the dog to play with the cat like its a cat?

I have a mutt, probably herding breed, 40lb 1 yr old dog. (she)
My boyfriend has a cat. (he)
He plays pretty well and rough with her but she trys to play with him like hes a dog and bites at his neck. This concerns us, as we dont want her to accidentally hurt him. She shows no aggression toward him, she very obviously just excited to play.
She often wants to play more than he does and feels the need to chase him (the cat).

How can I get her to stop mouthing his neck and chasing him?
posted by misformiche to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Cats are very good at setting their own boundaries. I wouldn't worry about it too much (although your dog might end up with a scratched face at some point).
posted by oinopaponton at 10:58 AM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, gotta agree with oinopaponton: if the cat thinks the dog is getting rough, the cat will start with warning the dog (hissing, spitting) and if need be escalating to sharp pointy bits. Just give them time to work things out.
posted by easily confused at 11:05 AM on October 4, 2012

I'd let them work it out for themselves. I have 2 dogs and 2 cats, and despite all of our worrying and attempts to get them to play nice, the only thing that's improved their relationships is time spent interacting without any human help.
posted by Fig at 11:05 AM on October 4, 2012

Does your cat have claws? If your cat has claws, he will be perfectly capable of teaching your dog how to play with him. I would not leave them unattended for a while, but I would let them work it out unless the dog is actually hurting the cat (shaking him, breaking skin). Be sure to give the cat high places to escape to.
posted by jeather at 11:06 AM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

As long as the cat has claws and higher ground to escape to, he should be fine. I'd intervene if the dog is picking up the cat in her mouth or otherwise lifting him, but if they're not playing like that the cat will probably defend himself okay.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 11:07 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree that the cat will defend itself, but I would say make it very clear to the dog that chasing is not ok. Triggering prey-drive instincts can end badly for everybody, and it can be super stressful for the cat. (My eldest and I lived for a couple of years with a total beta Aussie, which was fine, and a super-hunter spaniel mix, which was much less fine. Dottie had a lot of problems with stress - overgrooming, puking, inappropriate peeing - that went away as soon as the obnoxious dog did.)
posted by restless_nomad at 11:09 AM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

My dog and cat are bestest friends, they play a LOT. They play a lot of chase together, dog chases cat into the bedroom, cat chases dog back out into the living room. When my cat doesn't want to play anymore or is uncomfortable with the type of play he is more than capable of letting my dog know about it.

In actuality it is usually my dog that gets tired of playing faster than my cat and my cat is not nearly the listener my dog is.

What I'm trying to say is, they'll work it out.
posted by magnetsphere at 11:11 AM on October 4, 2012

The cat is declawed.
The cat whines when she goes to far. But she doesnt always let go. Often we find the cats collar off. The cat does escape to high places or the tub.

The dog is terrified of all other cats because they have claws.
I think the cat is just having a hard time getting her know when to stop.
Its harder to train a cat then it is a dog. And I cant magically give the cat his claws back.
posted by misformiche at 11:12 AM on October 4, 2012

My cat and my husband's dog play well with each other, but it's not like how two dogs play or how two cats play. Sometimes, cat will walk up to dog, meow in dog's face, and take off running. This tells dog, "Chase me!!" Cat then hides under things and on things head high for the dog and gently bats at dog. Dog then does the happy puppy stomp and mouths at cat. They will happily chase each other around for a while until somebody gets bored or tired.

Other times, dog stomps at cat and barks. Cat either runs off or swats dog, depending on how he feels.

Regardless, the cat is the one who sets the tone of play. When he's not in the mood, his claws let the dog know.
posted by teleri025 at 11:13 AM on October 4, 2012

Also its been almost 2 months and they havent just worked it out. Also, the neck biting makes my boyfriend extremely uncomfortable.
posted by misformiche at 11:14 AM on October 4, 2012

Oh, since the cat is declawed it may be best to not leave the two of them alone for a while. You can teach the dog the "Leave it." command which you can then use to make the play stop when it seems that the cat is uncomfortable. My cat rarely uses his claws on the dog, but he did have them to make the first enforcements happen.
posted by teleri025 at 11:15 AM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

If the cat doesn't have claws, then you can't count on him being able to set boundaries your dog will respect.

You don't want to have this escalate to your cat getting into biting behavior, which is what comes next when a cat has no claws and feels that s/he needs to be defensive.

Is the dog crated during the day when you're not home? Can you guys supervise them and immediately correct the dog from this kind of behavior? It sounds like a training issue at this point, for the humans to sort out, since the cat's main avenue of correction has been literally removed.
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:18 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Create a safe place for the cat to go without much trouble, perhaps in a room the dog can't get to, or in a crate with an opening too small for the dog. Make this place nice and cozy for the kitty. When he doesn't want to be bothered by the dog, he can go in there and know that he'll be left alone.

And, like teleri025 mentions, teach your dog "leave it" and enforce it every time she mouths at the cat.
posted by phunniemee at 11:31 AM on October 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

Sounds like you need to separate the two of them while you're not home, since the cat has no way to defend itself. While you're home, enforce the 'leave it' rule, until the dog learns the cat is not a play mate.
posted by zug at 11:34 AM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Our cats and dog got along really well together -- Jack, my husband's cat, in particular would play with our dog Bacon, and if Jack tried to run out of the house Bacon would heard him back in, if the cats were scratching furniture Bacon would tell them to stop, and oh we would laugh. Three and a half years later, Jack has decided that he HATES Bacon to the point where they absolutely cannot be in the same room together ever. We're starting to regret the fact that we didn't step in more with some of their play and establish better boundaries.

Of course there are probably a million counter stories where everything worked out ok, but just something to think about.
posted by Kimberly at 11:41 AM on October 4, 2012

The neck biting is kind of worrying to me, as is the chasing. An overexcited dog with a high prey drive can kill a cat and think nothing of it, and since this cat has no claws, it has no way to defend himself.

I'd keep them separated when unsupervised, and keep the dog leashed when they're together.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:43 AM on October 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

Brothers dog killed their cat playing with it and that cat had claws. The dog however had a lot of serious issues and had previously also killed a small dog, which my brother was unaware of at the time he took the dog in. So be careful it can happen, though it doesn't sound like your dog has any of the issues that poor dog did, but just be aware it can happen in a second.

I'd set up a safe haven for the cat that the dog can't get too, and maybe some higher play areas it can sit out of the dogs way. Reinforce the leave it command and try not to leave them alone together. Crating the dog might be a necessity or setting up a room for the cat while you are away with water and a litter box, assuming they are sharing the same house. If not supervise them while they are together and draw a very strict line in the sand on what is acceptable and not and stop play firmly and quickly the second it crosses the line, not meanly but with a strict no nonsense approach of that's it.

Also at a year old the dog is still a big puppy and a lot of this could settle down in a year or so as the dog hits adulthood.
posted by wwax at 11:54 AM on October 4, 2012

My friend has a big lazy cat and got a curious and friendly puppy, the cat was too lazy to teach the pup not to hassle it so she brought the puppy over to our house and our cat taught it to beware. Can you get the dog to spend some time with a more aggressive cat who still has its claws, so it reinforces the idea of boundaries around cats?
posted by biffa at 12:01 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

In addition to the good advice above about teaching and enforcing "leave it." Herding breeds are usually very intelligent, high energy dogs that need a lot of stimulation and attention, or they will channel their energy in other ways. More exercise and more playtime with your dog outside the house, away from the cat will result in a tired, less aggressive puppy at home. At one, she'll have a lot of energy to burn off, but she should burn it quickly.
posted by gladly at 12:02 PM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

My dog will play with really small dogs this way and I definitely watch her because she gets over excited and swats them and they just go sailing across the room. She doesn't mean anything by it, she just forgets that she weighs 65 pounds and they weigh 11 pounds. She backs right off if they yelp but I don't like to let it get that far.

Although it is funny to see an infuriated shitzu pick itself up, dust itself down and go kick some big dog ass!
posted by fshgrl at 12:16 PM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Neck biting in cats is related to play-fighting, sexual behavior, and kitten transport. In dogs, it's an instinctual dominance display--wolves and dogs bite necks and mouths in order to ascertain pack rank.

In this situation I'd try training the dog. Something like this:

1. Train the dog the "drop it" or "leave it" command using a tennis ball or a soft toy or something. Use your preferred reward system to enforce the command--clicker, play time, excited voice, bacon, what have you.
2. Transfer this training to dropping the cat. Obviously you can't shove the cat in the dog's mouth to train the dog, which is why I recommend training "drop it" with an inanimate object first. Use your reward system to reinforce the new desired behavior.
posted by xyzzy at 12:17 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

i used to have a 15lb cat when my dog was a puppy (he's now a 75lb weimaraner). he LOVED our cat, and wanted to play with him all the time. the cat, eh. as a result of this early experience, my dog tries to play with all the neighborhood cats—which, yeah, they're not down. but i also think this is why he prefers small dogs to bigger dogs at the dog park. last year i got a mini dachshund. she's full-grown now at 8lbs. she's obsessed with him and loves playing with him. she plays with him by nipping at his face and neck. he swats her around. they look like they both enjoy playing immensely. but when one or both of them is fed up with it, they walk away and play time is done (till the next round). but yes, in the beginning, i did keep an eye on them and i kept them separated when i couldn't be around.
posted by violetk at 12:39 PM on October 4, 2012

Oh geez, when I was a kid we had a cat and a dog that went after each other like gangbusters. It was terrifying. After, like, a year or two of them having loud, obnoxious squabbles throughout the house they learned to play together and even started lying around together and grooming each other. Most likely they will work it out. For now I would, as violetk mentioned, make sure they have separate spaces when you aren't around and just keep an eye on them. It's not so much like rabbits where if they get at each other they will literally kill each other with extreme prejudice.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:24 PM on October 4, 2012

For the neck biting, why not try a bittering agent on the back of the cat's neck? The cat won't be able to get to it, so no harm there. And the dog will find it very displeasing. You can pick up this stuff in spray form at the local pet shop ("no chew" spray).

For best results, it's good to subject the dog to the taste of it beforehand so she recognizes the smell/bitter flavor.
posted by samsara at 1:52 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you're gonna have to teach your dog "leave it" or some other command to get her to play more gently with your kitty. We also have a rather rambunctious dog who loves to play with our cat, but Mister will let her know when she's gone too far. We also gave Mister a room of his own (the laundry room in our case -- lots of high spaces in there) with this gate. The cat can go through, but the dog can't. It really cut down on the pet stress in our house.
posted by patheral at 4:46 PM on October 7, 2012

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