Where the cat goes the dog will follow. Please help me stop the dog.
November 30, 2012 9:42 AM   Subscribe

My cat doesn't want my new dog to follow him everywhere. But they are of a size so that's an issue. Help?

Here's the thing. We have this new dog, Cocoa, who is roughly the same size as our cat, Mister (photo for comparison). Now, when it was just Brandy and Mister, there was enough of a size difference that I could use this pet gate to give Mister a portion of the house to himself. But it's a different story with Cocoa. Wherever Mister goes, Cocoa can follow, and it's stressing Mister out. He's jumpy and not as affectionate as he used to be. He's not hissy or hiding under the bed, but I'd still like to see him not jump at every sound.

What I want to do is give Mister a place to go that Cocoa cannot follow. I'm at my wit's end. Cat trees won't work with Mister. He doesn't fit on them. We took him to several of the pet stores in town just to be sure and he seriously will not fit on them. The ones he will fit on cost several hundred dollars and we just cannot afford that right now. Same thing with shelves. Even those cat shelves that clam to hold up to 20lbs are still too small for him to fit on. He's a big cat. I had cobbled together something with sturdy cardboard boxes before we got Cocoa, which Mister liked, but Cocoa loves the heck out of it, and now Mister hardly goes near it anymore.

So, any ideas? I'm at a loss.
posted by patheral to Pets & Animals (15 answers total)
Neko Feeder? It's technically for feeding but can be set up as an escape for Mister.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:48 AM on November 30, 2012

Can Mister jump over that gate? You could just put the cat on the other side of the gate and shut the pet door portion so Cocoa can't get through.
posted by something something at 9:49 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

How handy are you? Has the cat been declawed? If not, I would get a piece of shelving and staple a carpet remnant over it to make a steep ramp up to the top of a dresser. There has to be an angle that the cat can make it up without the dog being able to follow. You could probably scavenge this together for no money.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:53 AM on November 30, 2012

We tried getting Mister to jump over the gate but he either cannot or will not (I think the former because of his size). If we put chairs or other things to allow him easier access then Cocoa can also get over the gate. I meant to put this in my original post.
posted by patheral at 9:54 AM on November 30, 2012

Can't you just put them on opposite sides of the gate, at least part time? If you set it up so that neither one of them can get over it, they'll be apart. Yes, it means that they can't be together ever, but it will give them some time apart that might relax the cat.
posted by decathecting at 10:01 AM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Why not take the time to train Cocoa never to go or follow the cat into certain rooms of the house? It only took my simple-minded dog two days to reliably learn something similar. Does Cocoa know No and Come? Is he food or toy motivated?
posted by halogen at 10:13 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

How long have you had the new dog? Sometimes cats adjust to changes, but it takes them ages to do so. (I feel you - we moved before Thanksgiving. Our cat is pissed and planning to be pissed for the foreseeable future.)

For now, can you physically separate them? Put cocoa in one room and Mister in another and close the doors. Especially when the animals will be unsupervised they need to be separated. I know this is a suboptimal solution for animals which are accustomed to having the full house to roam in, but for now they need their own turf.
posted by 26.2 at 10:14 AM on November 30, 2012

Cat tree. Ideally in front of a window outside of which you've put a birdfeeder.
posted by vers at 10:15 AM on November 30, 2012

One of my cats is larger than Mister and he's certainly capable of clearing that gate. Maybe a lower gate without the pet door will be low enough for Mister to get over? That seems like the least complicated fix.

Otherwise I think that I would make Cocoa wear a cone of shame for a short while. The last time my small dog had to wear one I noticed that it greatly foiled his desire to follow after the cats. He won't be able to get through the small door with it on and Mister will have peace.
posted by crankylex at 10:16 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

My dog doesn't like kids and WILL nip at them, so I have learned to make sure whenever I have kids around at my house that my dog knows not to go anywhere near them. It was the only way I could relax, knowing that my dog would leave the kids alone. For this and many other reasons, there are two commands that are super helpful.

The command "leave it" - That means, don't even look at it, don't go near it, don't touch it. And also the command "away" - anytime he came near an object I didn't want him to be near, I'd say very forcefully AWAY and walk up to him, forcing him to move backwards.

It might take some time but they're great commands. Now he pretty much will just go in the other direction if there's a kid in the house.
posted by HeyAllie at 10:25 AM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

As someone with one of the pricier cat trees, put it on a long term wish list. I stalked mine for about two years, and finally picked it up half-price.

Otherwise I think it's just a matter of training Cocoa to stop thinking about Mister as a companion. Mister will eventually set some of the boundaries himself, but you should also see if you can't provide some time consuming independent play for Cocoa. It's been ages since I've had a dog, but I've seen people suggest frozen peanut butter kongs.

And I think splitting up the house for a while would be a good start. It would give Cocoa some time to learn how to be alone and entertain herself.
posted by politikitty at 10:47 AM on November 30, 2012

We've tried training Cocoa to stay out of Mister's area of the house using "out" but whenever we turn our backs or leave the house, he's right back in that area of the house... the draw of the forbidden I suppose. We've also tried closing the little door and leaving Mister back there as a retreat, but Mister was not happy about that arrangement at all.

It's not that Cocoa doesn't have anyone to play with, and he has tons of toys. He plays with Brandy all of the time, something else that stresses Mister out because dog play sometimes sounds like dogs fighting and Mister is kind of learning that there's a difference. At least he's not fluffing up every time they play any more. Poor thing. Brandy does get between Mister and Cocoa and shepherds Cocoa off whenever Cocoa starts to bark at Mister, so there's that.

I believe we've had Cocoa for about a month now.
posted by patheral at 11:10 AM on November 30, 2012

I'd suggest closing the cat door, and do a steep carpeted ramp over the dog gate. At college, our dorms had transoms above the doors, the hallway doors were always open (california) and allowed people to own cats. Most people who had them had a steep carpeted ramp leading into the transom and another going to the floor. By steep, I men about 2-3 feet for the 7 feet of height. One of the cats was a 25 lb guy, and he didn't have difficulties getting up or down. I think the ramps were about 6 inches wide; definitely less than 8.
posted by nobeagle at 11:12 AM on November 30, 2012

This is extreme, but: if Mister can fit through a cat flap, how about installing a microchip-specific cat flap in one of the interior doors (the bedroom door, say) and then always keeping that door closed? If you only program the flap to remember Mister's chip, and not the dog's, then the dog will not be able to follow.

If Mister isn't chipped, then you can get a flap that responds to a magnetic thingy on their collar.
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:49 PM on November 30, 2012

You can build your own cat tree or cat shelves and make it big enough for Mister. And do it very cheaply. I built one that is bigger than anything I saw in the shops, even the $200+ ones, and it cost me about $30 in materials.

I had never even used a hammer or saw before, and I managed just fine.

The guys at the hardware shop got really into the idea when I told them what I planned, and helped me tweak my design to be more stable and to choose the right stuff to build it out of. I used wood covered with carpet scraps that I nailed on (and used screws to attach the wood pieces), but if I did it again I'd consider using drainpipes for the vertical bits, as they are so much lighter and slot together into interesting shapes. You can wrap rope/jute around bits that you can't cover with carpet.

The most important thing is to make the base very wide and heavy so it doesn't tip over when heavy cat is leaning over one side.

If you are designing yourself, you can plan a design that works for kitty and not for doggy (steep ramps, for example, as suggested above).

And if all that sounds too tiring, you could just implement the steep ramp solution for the pet gate - then Mister could climb over it and Cocoa could not.
posted by lollusc at 5:39 PM on November 30, 2012

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