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Past President, NC Veterinary Medical Association
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> Training and Behavior
> The Canine - Feline Peace Process
The Canine - Feline Peace Process
Is there really a centuries old undeclared war between these two species? Why is it that some "mixed species couples" get along famously, while others seem to verify the stereotype? During this month of thanks, can't we all just get along?
Like everything else in life, prevention is easier than treatment. If introducing a NEW individual of the opposite species for the first time, make SURE there is no chase. Initially keep the cat isolated in one room for a couple days with food, water, toys, bed and litterbox. That way they can sniff each other under the door, and some of the mystery is gone. When ready, introduce the cat inside a closed portable kennel. Praise the dog for gentle sniffing, and interrupt any pawing or barking. When the dog loses interest, put the cat (free) up on a surface, and keep the dog on a leash. Let the dog see you petting the cat. Have the dog wear a head halter and drag a lead around the house for a few days, so if a chase breaks out, you can step on it to stop the process. If you already have a home turf war going on, here are some tips on how to achieve peace:
- Separate the parties for a "cooling off period" ranging from a day to a week.
- While isolated from each other, introduce each other's scent. Rub a towel on the dog, and place it near where the cat sleeps. Do the reverse for the dog. Bathing each in the scent of the other is part of the desensitization process, and starts building a bond.
- If the dog is not really sharp on obedience commands, join a refresher course to be sure you have a strong positive leadership position and verbal control. Work on the LONG DOWN STAY command. If this command is difficult for your dog, teach "Close Tethering" where the dog is tethered on a 6' chain leash with a chew toy, close to a person, and praised for quiet resting.
- Give "off the property" leash exercise to the dog, and drag a string to exercise the cat. Exercise relieves a lot of tension.
- Get a large molded plastic portable kennel, and feed the cat in it for at least a week. Feed meals, not "free choice" and between meals, leave the door open and a comfy bed inside.
- Begin feeding both pets at the same time, within eye contact but otherwise from a distance. The dog is either tethered or on a long-down-stay, and the cat is inside his or her "safe place" portable kennel, with the door locked for safety.
- In addition to the meals, prepare some REALLY special treats. Use these to reward relaxed posture, and ignoring the other being. Move the kennel closer to the tethered dog, as long as BOTH are relaxed. If either gets tense, move the kennel farther away.
- During these desensitization sessions, give special attention to each while the other watches. The goal is for each to think, "The big boss seems to like him, and all the good things seem to happen when he is near by." During the peace process (except during this feeding treat and praise, "happy hour,") give each pet the "cold shoulder" treatment, so that they become motivated for attention, and associate getting attention with the former enemy.
- Once the cat in the kennel can be right next to the dog, and the dog loses interest in sniffing, let the cat patrol while the dog is tethered. Next mealtime, reverse, and leave the cat in the carrier, and let the dog patrol. Be there to interrupt but not physically punish barking, or pawing or gnawing the kennel. Praise the dog and give treats anytime he ignores or acts relaxed around the cat.
- The next step is to have the dog tethered, while you play with the cat. Try dragging a string or other toy designed to get the cat to run. If the dog gets excited and tries to pull on the tether, you are going too fast. Back up to previous steps, and try simply holding the cat on your lap, giving special grooming and petting and treats, while the dog watches YOU "accept" this being. In difficult severe cases, this peace process might takes weeks or longer. Trying to push it too quickly will cause the problem to worsen, instead of improve.
If problems persist, seek the services of a qualified professional
By Rolan Tripp, DVM