Dog & Cats

Dear WOOF:

We have a Soft Coated Wheaten terrier, he is 14-weeks-old. We also have a 6-year-old cat. They don't get along. What can we do about it?


Hello:

You don't give much information in your email, but I assume that you are concerned about the interaction that you see between the two as being aggressive?

I'll hopefully put you at ease by saying that most often, thankfully, this is not the case. Your pup needs to interact socially and he is most likely just trying to get your cat to respond and play. The cat though, does not see the interaction as anything joyful, and probably swats and bats at the pup, thinking she's going to drive him away! The pup however does not take the hint and remains engaged (the cat is literally reinforcing the pup to continue, but she doesn't understand that she is!)

You would also be wise to check out a quality daycare program for your Wheaten. The more social interaction he gets with his own species in addition to the exercise he'll get, the less likely he'll be to want to chase the cat!

I once saw an older (declawed) cat really believe that they were giving a pup the beating of his life! She swatted and swiped and hissed continuously as she sat atop the table. The pup however kept playing with her and clearly saw this interaction (it certainly wasn't painful to him) as an open invitation to continue to have chase, and fun interaction time with her!

Interaction between different species like this is the most fascinating to watch. Cats communicate in an entirely different manner than dogs, and it's usually only a matter of time until they learn to trust and understand one another, then calm coexistence becomes reality.

One very common mistake that people make is isolating the pup from the cat, which tends to create an even more reactive response when they do come in contact with one another. Keep in mind as well, that you're cat has far more fleeing options than perhaps you're giving her credit for. Cats are very agile (far more so than any dog will ever be!) and your cat will quickly get herself to safety if she feels that she needs to. I suggest that you have them together in the same room more often together - perhaps put your pup on a leash to prevent his chasing her, and reinforce him for appropriate interaction like staying calm while she's around.

Cats and dogs usually just need time and interaction together to learn about each other. If you still feel worried, contact a behavior professional for more counsel. We at WOOFology are happy to direct you to someone if you do not live in the Detroit Metro area.

Good Luck and thanks for writing!

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