How to co-habit in a small space with a new pets that I just took in
July 20, 2013 3:58 PM   Subscribe

I offered to take in my friend's cat and dog to my very small studio apartment, with a separate kitchen.

(my friends, the pet's "parents", have had a really, really intense run of bad luck). So, I currently have the cat, and the dog is coming next week.

The cat was a suburban, indoor/outdoor cat before the move, but my apartment is on the third level with a private entryway, so there's no way that I can just let the cat "go" because there would be no way for me to know when she wants back "in" (cats don't ring doorbells :). Also, I live in a fairly traffic-busy urban environment, and that might put her in danger if she tries to cross a street.

I've been thinking about trying to slowly introduce her to the back yard portion of my 14-unit apartment building, as the building abuts a bunch of residential back yards that she would probably enjoy, I can't leave food outside because urban raccoons and skunks will consume it.

One more thing; I have to figure out some way to keep the cat from jumping on my kitchen table, especially right after she uses her litter box (yuck!!)

The dog is a small dog and I think that will be manageable; he likes to chase the cat, but I am going to keep them separated with a folding gate door. The major challenge once the dog comes is taking him out in the morning to "do his business". I'm am owl - late to bed, and late to rise.

The way things are looking, I may have these animals for a long time. I want to find a way to accommodate them - and my friends - in a way that is least stressful for all concerned. All ideas are greatly appreciated.
posted by Vibrissae to Pets & Animals (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I personally wouldn't leave the cat alone in the back yard, but I would try putting her on a harness (if amenable) and sit out there with her so she could sniff around safely but not run away. Cats can climb fences alarmingly quickly. Also, with you there, she would not just be tethered prey for a bigger animal.

Re: the not jumping on table thing--what worked for me was spray bottle training. Every time she's up there, spray her. When you're not home to supervise, or you're sleeping, put her in the bathroom with food, water, litter box and a soft thing to lie on. Yes, it's a pain, but it trains them quickly.

You're a kind, generous person to do this for your friends.

That said, I hope you enjoy your borrowed pets! They can be great company.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:13 PM on July 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

You can try to get the dog closer to your schedule. As long as it can go out regularly, it won't care if it's 3 pm or 3 am. I have two little dogs in an apartment, and I alternate little pee breaks with longer walks throughout the day. When I'm away, Mr. Trixie takes them out on his schedule which more like 11 am to 3 am.
posted by trixie_bee at 4:16 PM on July 20, 2013

Cover the kitchen table with pieces of aluminum foil. Don't tape it down or even try to smooth it out. The cat will quickly learn that the kitchen table is not fun to be on at all. You can move the foil when you need to use the table, after a while you may be able to leave it off.

I've been thinking about trying to slowly introduce her to the back yard portion of my 14-unit apartment building, as the building abuts a bunch of residential back yards that she would probably enjoy

Is there some reason that being on the third floor and cats not being able to ring doorbells isn't an issue with the backyard?

I'm guessing the issue with the dog is that it's too dangerous to be out late at night before you go to sleep? If they backyard is enclosed, maybe you could walk him there. You should be picking up after him wherever you walk him. There are also things like puppy training pads and fake grassy areas to use as a doggy version of a litter box.

If the dog and cat weren't kept separated before, you don't need to do that now. You won't be very successful at keeping a cat out of an area with one of those baby gate type doors anyhow.
posted by yohko at 4:25 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ahem ... where are the obligatory pictures?

Just chiming in that, if the dog and cat haven't lived separately in the past, separating them now may not be necessary, except maybe at feeding time. In fact, I've known cats and dogs who both enjoyed the chase and took turns instigating a catch-me-if-you-can play session. It's good exercise and stimulation for both, as long as neither feels in danger. Even if the cat doesn't want to play, a healthy feline typically just needs a couple safe (and approved by you) places of escape to be perfectly secure. Provide a carpeted high perch or cubbyhole in each room that the dog can't reach. Sunlit spots are ideal.

Also make sure that the litter box is placed where the cat won't be harassed and keep it scrupulously clean. Many dogs think the litter box is a snack tray, while others just enjoy interrupting its use. A cat whose litter box isn't a safe place will find another place to do its business.

Oh, and the aluminum foil thing really works to discourage cat landings on surfaces where you don't want them. It's cheap, easily moved out of your way, and doesn't rely on you being there to catch the misbehavior.

In your place, I'd just keep the cat indoors from now on. IME, most cats adjust relatively easily to an indoor-only life, though some can learn to enjoy leashed walks as much as a dog does. The dog will also adjust to your schedule. I personally have not had good luck with indoor pee pads and the like, but I've had some not-too-bright canine companions who were as likely to shred the pads as use them -- and sometimes did both. Not fun.

Especially in the beginning, try to tend to their needs on very regular schedule: feed at the same times and in the same places, clean the box and walk the dog at the same times, and schedule play-and-cuddle sessions with each. Routine is the key to helping them feel safe and secure in new surroundings.

Enjoy your new buddies. It's nice to come home to a full house.
posted by peakcomm at 6:02 PM on July 20, 2013

Harness training takes months, which is not to discourage you from attempting it but just to give you a heads up that it's not an overnight thing. You can buy a regular cat harness and start now, then measure the cat's shoulders for a proper "walking jacket," which will not pose a choking risk. Even then, you're going to want to take your time with the whole thing, because she may freak out if you take her outdoors on a lead. And she may freak out when you put the harness on her. And she may freak out when you try to take it off. At least at first. Patience is key.

Until then, indoors cats are safe cats! You don't have to worry about fleas, worms, cars, or poison. She may meow at the door. (Mine did/does.) Try to keep her entertained with toys, both interactive things like the Cat Charmer and Cat Dancer and more independent stuff like balls and little fabric mice.

The kitchen table aluminum foil idea is a very good one. You can also try spraying some Bitter Apple on the table (test on the underside to make sure it doesn't stain). The cat will get it on her nails, and she'll taste it, and she won't like it. It needs to be re-applied every twenty-four hours. You can also apply it to any fabric items you value, like couches or armchairs. If couch-scratching is going on, place a tall scratching post opposite the targeted piece of furniture, so that you can pick the kitty up when/if she scratches and move her to the scratching post.

Also: get the kitty a perch that is specifically for her, and maybe rub it with some catnip or catnip spray so she knows it's a place she is encouraged to go. Make it high, possibly with little cat "steps" that allow her access. Later, when the dog is living with you all, the cat will have a place to go when she needs alone time.

Congrats on becoming a pet carer! MeFites love us some pet photos, should you get the opportunity to post a few.
posted by brina at 7:01 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just spent four months living in a TINY studio apartment with two younger, active (read that as "destructive") cats, so the realities of pets in confined spaces are fresh in my brain.

I would get a cardboard scratching toy, a little pack of cheapo kitty toys, and some catnip to keep the cat focused on something other than clawing up my furniture. If the dog isn't coming with a crate, but has the potential to be too "busy", a frozen Kong toy with something yummy inside can keep the dog occupied and your valuables intact.

If you don't mind spending $20-30 on someone else's cat, you can pick up a Litter Genie that will allow you to scoop the litter box all the time without making special trips out of the apartment to dispose of the litter separately from your regular trash.

As for how to keep the cat off the table, I'm partial to methods similar to this one (not my video).

Enjoy having a couple of pets around. It's very kind of you to take them in, and they can be especially fun when you know you get to return them.
posted by nobejen at 9:05 PM on July 20, 2013

The major challenge once the dog comes is taking him out in the morning to "do his business". I'm am owl - late to bed, and late to rise.

I was, too, when I got my dog. Then somehow I inexplicably became, well, not a morning person, but it's not nearly as hard as I thought to get up and take the dog out in the morning. Also, assuming you'll have the dog for a while, you can theoretically put him on whatever schedule works for you. My dog goes to bed when I go to bed and gets up when I get up. I walk him before bed, and then I walk him again when I get up. That said, I'm not sure if it's different for tiny dogs.
posted by Sara C. at 9:21 PM on July 20, 2013

Response by poster: These answers are all so VERY helpful! Thanks! I'm not going to rate any one as the "best", because I learned from every one of them! Grazie Mille!
posted by Vibrissae at 1:30 AM on July 22, 2013

« Older Do you recommend getting a PHR/SPHR certification?   |   Buy a new mac or upgrade the OS? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.