Whilst forging the foundations of future friendship
Most puppies think cats are great.
And the very first reaction of many pups to a cat, is to lunge toward this potential new furry friend, in an enthusiastic attempt to play.
Cats are usually less easily impressed. They vary in their reaction to puppies
Some cats disappear for a few days after a puppy arrives, others move discretely upstairs for a few weeks and refuse on any account to breath the same air as this offensive intruder.
It is tempting to try and force the friendship, perhaps by making the two share a space in the hopes that they will ‘get used’ to one another.
However, if your cat has access to the outside world as most cats do, this is likely to result in him packing his bags, and moving in with one of your neighbours.
Some cats are quite bold with puppies, even a little aggressive.
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This can work quite well, especially with larger, boisterous puppies.
The pup quickly learns his place and is unlikely ever to pose a problems to the neighbourhood cats
You do need to take a little care here though.
Very small ‘toy’ puppies are occasionally mistaken for prey by cats.
Disasters are uncommon but they do happen.
Even a disciplinary cuff from a cat can hurt a puppy quite badly if it catches him in the eye.
The answer is
- Supervise all interaction between the puppy and the cat for the next few weeks
- Prevent chasing
- Give the cat an escape route
An escape route
Baby gates are a great way to separate cats and puppies. Most cats can walk through the bars or hop over the top with ease.
It may seem that the cat will never get used to the puppy if he keeps disappearing, but in fact, your cat is far more likely to be willing to spend time with the puppy if he knows he can leave whenever he wants to.
It may be quite entertaining to watch a small puppy set off in futile pursuit of the family cat, who hops nimbly on to the back of the sofa, tail twitching.
But cat chasing is a really serious problem in dogs and you don’t want to encourage it in any way.
Failure to teach your dog not to chase cats can result in serious trouble later on down the line.
The problem is, chasing is intrinsically satisfying to dogs and the more your puppy does it, the more he’ll like it. You can quickly end up with a dog obsessed with chasing any moving object, and it won’t be long before a chase takes him into a road or gets him lost.
How to prevent chasing
You can prevent chasing in two ways
- By preventing access to the chase
- By teaching to puppy to pay attention to you whilst the cat is in the room
Preventing the chase means using barriers and/or restraining the puppy.
Barriers and restraints
We have already mentioned baby gate. These ensure that your puppy cannot pursue the cat very far.
With a determined puppy, you may also need to put the pup on a house line. This is like a short trailing lead which you can pick up when you need to intervene or prevent unwanted behaviour.
This enables one person to control the puppy, whilst the other brings the cat into the room with him, or plays an attention getting game with the puppy
Teach your puppy to pay attention to you and to obey simple commands using food rewards. Then gradually help him do these things for very short periods whilst he is restrained from chasing the cat and whilst the cat is in the room.
He may find this difficult to begin with, but be patient.
If he cannot get at the cat, he will eventually get bored and begin to focus on you. You may need a friend to hold the cat as far away from the puppy as possible, whilst you focus on waiting to get your puppy’s attention and rewarding him for it.
You will need very high value rewards to start with, roast chicken works well. You will be able to ‘fade’ these as his arousal levels drop. Over time, you will be able to move the cat closer to the puppy and still keep the puppy’s attention firmly on you.
Many wonderful, lifelong friendships have been formed between cats and dogs. Many of them got off to a bit of a rocky start so try not to worry if your cat and puppy are not ‘best mates’ yet.
You can help teach your puppy to be calm around the cat but it is very important to prevent a chasing habit from getting established.
Never let your puppy chase your cat, no matter how amusing it may be.
And teach the puppy to pay attention to YOU whilst the cat is nearby.
Don’t begrudge the time it takes to do this right, it’s well worth the effort and will help you establish the foundations of good behaviour for the future.