Harmonious living between household cat and dog!

Just like every cat or dog is different, every behaviour case I see is different and my advice does vary. This gives you an idea of the sort of help I can give to you during a behaviour consultation to help cats and dogs get on.

If your cat is not getting on with the dog in your home then I am sure you are trying to give him a means to have as good a quality of life as possible, no doubt being able to live away from your dog with everything he needs. It is often the case that the cat is not getting as much fuss and attention as it used to but as affection is not a necessity for a cat to be happy then they do seem to adapt and cope with less, some better than others depending how much they liked human companionship to start with.

Here are some guidelines that I will normally give to ensure the household cat starts to accept living in closer proximity with your dog, that is, assuming the dog is fairly well trained. If your dog displays aggressive or boisterous behaviour with the cat then further training would need to take place initially.

Initial steps

Wherever your cat has found as a safe place away from the dog is probably where you feed him and give him everything he requires. Initially I would try to get your cat to be able to see the dog whilst eating. This is usually achievable by placing your cat in a wire or see-through crate/basket at mealtimes with your dog in a crate placed at a distance where you think your cat will cope without becoming too anxious. This is usually at the opposite end of the room to the dog. Place your cats food in here and place him inside to eat 2-4 times a day. It is imperative that no other food is given at any other time of day. Your dog will need to be trained to accept a crate which can take time. When he will happily go into the crate with no major fuss then you can start to put him in just before you bring the cat into the room to put in his crate. Ensure your dog is occupied with something which will take him a while to eat, a bone or rawhide chew. The idea is he will be so engrossed in chewing and so will not be too bothered about the cat.

At the consultation I might suggest changing your cats food to something more palatable. The food must be particularly tasty so as to bring about a pleasant association in your cats mind with eating whilst the dog is present. We want your cat to really start to enjoy its food whilst the dog is around.

You can let your cat out of its confinement area after eating to escape back to its safe place but I do try to set things up so that the cat will need to pass the crated dog on the way. This will slowly start the cat getting used to passing and seeing the dog without the dog being able to chase at this stage which can be a common problem when cats run.

Fuss and treats

Giving your cat some fuss and feeding really tasty titbits such as pilchard or salmon whilst the dog is crated allows the cat to start associating being in the same room as the dog and getting something enjoyable at this time. The idea is that your cat will eventually start to look forward to being in the same room as the dog! You can throw titbits towards the crated dog so that the cat has to get closer to the dog for the treat. It is of course necessary to build this up gradually over several weeks, depending on how well the cat is coping.

Each day when the cat is in its crate/basket, you can gradually move it closer to the crated dog. If the cat becomes anxious or will not eat you will have to move the cat back to feed at a distance it is happy with. This needs to be continued 2-4 times a day until eventually you are at the stage where your cat is happily eating its food very close to the crated dog.

It is paramount that all the while you are carrying out the guidelines above with your cat you need to ensure he doesn’t get any food, treats or fuss elsewhere and at any other time unless it is somewhere where the dog is close by or the cat will hold out for food at these times.

Removing the crates

The next stage is to start feeding your cat at a distance but in the same room as the dog but with your dog out of his crate. Depending on how well trained your dog is I might have been asking you to reinforce some sits and stays with your dog during the previous few weeks so that we have him reasonably obedient for when we get to this next stage and also teaching him a leave command.

We will then progress to encouraging your cat to stay for a little longer in the room, possibly on your lap having a stroke if that is something you know he enjoys. The dog needs to have been trained to settle down in his bed (something I would teach you in a consultation) and then you will start to see your cat staying for longer periods in your company whilst your dog is present.

Eventually both animals will start to accept the other, although a lot depends on your dogs behaviour so you might need to carry on training him to leave the cat if the cat ventures in or out of the room. In time you are likely to get to a stage where both cat and dog are far more settled and happier in each others company!