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23 Kees & Cats


This article is from the Keeshonden Breed FAQ, by keashoo@ix.netcom.com (Kimberly J. Eashoo).

23 Kees & Cats

Dogs and cats can exist in the same home. Mine do quite
happily. Matter of fact I think all the animals enjoy each other and
their company. It's not a rare sight to see a cat walking underneath a
dog's chin, tickling the dog with it's tail, or Breeze scratching BJ's
back and neck with her teeth just so.

However, whenever you introduce a cat to a dog you're going to have
some problems. These problems focus around the fact that dogs are
predatory animals. Many people can't imagine Poopsie ever chasing or
killing an animal but they certainly can and in some instances will. A
dog not raised with cats can have problems adjusting to the fact that
this small critter is to be treated with respect. And not like another
dog either!

When introducing a kitten or cat to a dog, it pays to set up a 'safe
zone'. This can be any room in the house you can block the dogs out
of. In this room you should place a separate water dish (side note:
kitties tend to drink more out of ceramic dishes, spring water is also
a good idea) a food dish, and the litter box. The litter box should be
located as far from the food dishes as possible. The doorway can be
barricaded with a baby gate or if you own your house you could place a
cat door in the door (THIS is the absolute best option, all my dogs
can clear a baby gait without a 2nd thought..) The dog is never, ever
allowed in this room. The cat is allowed to stay in there as much as
it wants. As the cat gets used to the new family member it'll start
joining you more and more. This is the point that can break or make a
relationship. As soon as a dog or puppy joins your household you need
to set down rules. This means: NO chasing the cat. NO pinning the cat
to the floor, NO growling at the cat, NO defending bones and toys from
the cat. IF the dog chases the cat or does another thing deemed
unacceptable. For most dogs this doesn't come naturally. Instead you
must teach the dog to live with the kitty.

To do this:

The first few meetings will lay the groundwork for the relationship
overall. Make sure that the dog is on leash and preferably lying down
when the cat first meets him. I like to sit on the ground with the dog
next to me on leash either sitting or on a down stay. If the dog tries
to attack or gets too excited I restrain them and tell them to
settle. When he does, I praise him and give a treat. I also praise any
other reaction, ie ignoring the cat, watching me, relaxing, chewing a
bone etc. I repeat this for a few times until the dog is getting used
to staying calm and not focusing on the cat.

For the next few weeks I keep the dog on a lead when the cat is
around. You don't have to hang onto the dog, just let her drag the
lead. If the dog threatens the cat in any way, jump up, grab the dog,
tell her down and praise when she focuses on you NOT kitty. Having
treats handy is helpful. The point is to make the dog think that any
interaction with the kitty is unacceptable. At NO time should the dog
be allowed to chase the cat, growl at the cat or snap at the cat. If
she does, place her in a down and remove the cat.

A clicker is an invaluable tool for teaching kitty/dog
relationships. Click/treat the dog for any activity not involving the
cat, ignoring the cat etc. Dogs who are familiar with clicker training
will figure out the point right away.

Eventually the dog will be ignoring the kitty during it's trips
out. The cat will start to get more confidence in the dog and realize
the dog isn't going to hurt it. Their relationship will start to
change, at the very least will start to tolerate each other in the
same room. The cat still has her homebase room that she can get away
from the dog in, (which also prevents the dog from stealing snacks
from the litterbox..) and the dog has learned that kitty is the true
alpha in the pack (something all of us already knew!!

Written by Heather Campbell


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