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Is it a Dog Eat Cat World at Your House?

Dear WOOF:

I need advice on my new dog and older cats introduction. Can you help me? My newly adopted dog chases my cats. He wants to play and they are terrified of him. The dog is only 15 pounds, and they have
swiped at him, but not enough to teach him to stay away. They will not come down stairs. I have had to put their food and litter box upstairs and I feel horrible that they are so frightened. I am now wondering if bringing him home was a bad idea! They are miserable!!

Do you have any ideas on this subject? It has been four weeks and it doesn't seem like the situation is settling down. I have tried using a squirt bottle on the dog and that keeps him from going upstairs, but
he is so quick when he chases them... it usually winds up with him chasing the cats and me chasing him!!



Most dogs and cats learn to live together peaceably after a proper introduction. All you really need to do is give both animals the chance to get used to one another by having positive, non-threatening experiences.

The key to success will be to expose them to one another gradually in controlled circumstances, always being careful to avoid situations where the cat runs away and your dog's chase instinct is activated.

You have an adult dog who has never been socialized to cats, and a cat that has never been socialized to dogs, so the introduction MUST be a very gradual process, potentially lasting up to 30 days. The
following program is designed using several steps; proceed to each step only when you feel your dog and cat have "mastered" the previous one.

  • Day 1, confine your new cat to his or her own room at first. After a few hours, confine the dog in a separate room, and allow the cat to explore the rest of the house. Then put the cat back in his or her own room, so the dog has an opportunity to become familiar with the cat's scent. Put a baby gate up but leave the door closed.

  • Day 2, open the door to the cat's room a couple of inches and allow the dog to sniff and see through the opening for a few seconds. Reward the dog repeatedly and generously for appropriate behavior. Repeat this step a couple of more times during the day. Continue to give the cat the opportunity to explore the house when the dog is securely confined out of sight.

  • On day 3 and all subsequent days, increase the "viewing intervals" by short increments until the dog can watch the cat calmly and quietly for a few minutes. Reward the dog generously for appropriate behavior.

  • Allow the dog to view the cat with the door completely open, with the baby gate still in place, for a few minutes at a time. If the dog is tolerating the cat, go into another room. Call the dog to you and
    play a game with him or her. Then ignore both animals (but keep attuned to them!) and engage in some other activity. The dog will start to lose interest in the cat.

  • Eventually work up to leaving the door to the cat's room open, with the baby gate still up, whenever you are at home. Always close the door when you are not present! Some pet owners will always need to keep the dog and cat separated when they aren't around to supervise, but others will find that after a couple of months probation, the dog and cat are OK together by themselves. It's far
    better to err on the side of caution to prevent a tragedy. Even after your dog and cat are peacefully co-existing, make sure that the cat's food bowl and litter box are out of the dog's reach.

Be patient and remember to move slowly. The longer you take helping them get used to one another, the better.

I hope that this helps!

Best of Luck,

Lisa Patrona,  Dip. CBST, CPDT-KA, ACDBC, AABP-CDT

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