Dogs and Cats Living Together - Mass Hysteria
July 29, 2007 11:46 PM   Subscribe

What are the odds that I can successfully introduce a cat into my household, given the presence of a high strung dog?

There's a sweet little stray cat that's been hanging around our yard recently. I don't know if this particular puss would be a good choice for us, borderline feral as it seems to be. But my son (and I) love the catses and the question keeps coming up. How can we introduce a cat into a house with a skittish, cat-chasing sighthound mix? Impossible, or not?
posted by maryh to Pets & Animals (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

My Manchester terrier thought cats were for chasing until we did pretty much what B(oYo)BIES' link suggested. She -still- thought other cats were for chasing but she accepted that cat, and the next who was feral, as exceptions to the rule.
posted by jet_silver at 2:54 AM on July 30, 2007

..skittish, cat-chasing sighthound mix

I'd say you are going to have to set up some serious supervision for both parties here.

Scroll down to the Meeting Dogs part of this page.

It'll be a long, slow process. You'll need to ensure that the incoming cat has plenty of high up, safe refuges if you go ahead. Providing the cat with it's own room for the inital period would be a good idea, with plenty of 100% supervision for the inital meetings.

Sometimes sight hounds are just not able to get over their instinct to chase movement, even if they do accept the new cat into their pack.

Calmness, praise, rewards and allowing both animals to have enough space to learn to relax are going to be the key. If you don't feel at anytime that it's safe to leave the cat and your dog alone together, then don't risk it.

Good luck!
posted by Arqa at 3:17 AM on July 30, 2007

A lot of times the situation will resolve itself due to the cat popping the dog on the muzzle/nose a couple times with claws extended.

My cat (she is a psychotic kitty, though) has both my dogs thoroughly bamboozled. It only took about 2.5 seconds for each dog to realize who is the boss. One of my dogs is a rather high strung chihuahua/pug mix and the other is a pug/german shepherd mix. The chihuahua/pug is far more interested in chasing/harassing the cat than the pug/german shepherd (to be fair the pug/german shepherd seems to think he is a cat). The chihuahua mix does realize the limits to the game and that she will get her ass kicked by the cat, though.

The cat chasing aspect of your dog might partially be there because he has never been around cats of his own...introduce the dog to the cat slowly and be patient. And do not be surprised when you hear yelping because the dog has been beaten upon the face.

It's completely possible for you to introduce a cat to the family mix. You are just going to have to pay close attention to the dog's reaction. (Possibly get the cat on a Friday when you have the weekend off OR at a time when you have a few days where you will be there to gauge reactions from both pets.) This is a situation you will want to watch closely but both animals may pleasantly surprise you. Good luck and I hope you are pleasantly surprised!
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 4:30 AM on July 30, 2007

Leave the claws in. Only takes most dogs one bat to the nose with claws. ;) Also, separate them when you're not home. You really don't want to have the dog decide he wants a snack and kitty looks good.
posted by SpecialK at 4:53 AM on July 30, 2007

As fluffy battle kitten and SpecialK mention, the cat will kick the dog's ass. It's likely that a feral cat has some experience defending itself. I wouldn't worry so much about the safety of the cat itself as the sanity of your household if your dog is going to constantly chase it/bark at it.

The cat does not care about being in a social pecking order with the dog. But the dog must know its place with respect to the cat. In your household, it should be You (and other humans) >> cat >> dog. The dog *must* become submissive to the cat, and to accomplish that, the dog must be submissive to you first. If he's really that skittish and hysterical, he's not getting enough exercise or discipline or something. In the dog's mind, you are supposed to be the leader of the pack, so you introduce the cat with the mindset of "this is your new pack member, deal with it."

We have two shepherd/chow mixes who love chasing squirrels, chipmunks, etc. We also have two cats who are firmly entrenched as the dogs' superiors. We did this by firmly scolding the dogs if they exhibited any aggressive behavior towards the cats. Also, we put the dogs in a submissive position (on their backs) and literally let the cats walk on them. This reinforced the dogs' role. As far as the dogs are concerned, the cats are just small dogs in the pack, but the cats think they are above all this hierarchy crap.

I don't think separation is the answer. You want them to be able to live together, and not have a (literally) divided house. The only way to do this is to practice peaceful coexistence when you are home. You can't really discipline a cat, especially one not used to human contact. Cats don't really care if you like their behavior or not. The dog, however, is looking to you for approval so it's your job to show him what's okay and what's not.

However, definitely make the litterbox inaccessible to the dog, since dogs like eating out of it. (Sorry, but seriously.)
posted by desjardins at 10:04 AM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

However, definitely make the litterbox inaccessible to the dog, since dogs like eating out of it. (Sorry, but seriously.)

desjardins speaks strong truth. The toughest challenge we had in integrating cats and dogs was keeping the dog from snacking on cat poop- and we could only solve it by putting the litterboxes in the basement, behind a cat door.
posted by COBRA! at 11:02 AM on July 30, 2007

A baby gate and a spare room (laundry room?) is an easy answer to the litterbox issue.

Also, they may try to steal each others' food - cat food can be put out of reach, but if the dog doesn't guard his own food, he'll have to eat elsewhere.
posted by desjardins at 11:48 AM on July 30, 2007

Sometimes sight hounds are just not able to get over their instinct to chase movement, even if they do accept the new cat into their pack.

Arqa's point bears repeating; sighthounds present some special challenges in this regard, compared to other dogs. It is deeply ingrained in their nature to chase and kill small furry moving things, and not all of them are willing/able to get past this.

I don't know what breed of dog you're dealing with here--my knowledge related to greyhounds, and there are some useful sites on getting greyhounds to co-exist with cats: here, here, here, and here.
posted by Kat Allison at 1:52 PM on July 30, 2007

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