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Dear Your Own Vet,
My cat is about 7 yrs. old, neutered, male. He was just recently introduced to my live-in boyfriend’s dog, a 8 yr. old spayed female hound. It has been about a week and a half, and the cat has seemed to become more aggressive towards the dog. The dog is excessively passive and non-aggressive, and has not antagonized the cat at all. The cat started with just angrily meowing but has now progressed to swatting at the dog and hissing! We don’t know what to do! We live in a very small one bedroom house, so it is difficult to separate them! What should we do? We have tried separating the cat in the bedroom as “punishment” for his behavior, but is this the right thing to do? Thanks for ANY help!!
Introducing a cat and a dog to each other is very difficult, especially if one or both of them have never been in contact with a dog or cat before. One good thing is that the dog is not aggressive that would be more difficult.
It does not help to “punish” the cat by putting it in the bedroom. Animals do not understand our forms of punishment, and in fact you are doing the cat a favour by taking it away from the situation.
I always suggest when introducing a cat to a dog that the cat is put into a cage and the dog is brought into the room. The dog can sniff the cat but not hurt it and the cat can’t hurt the dog. I think you should start doing this – put the cat into the cage and just let the dog lie nearby. Feed really nice titbits to both the dog and the cat so it is a pleasurable experience.
If the cat continues to hiss and spit, then take a water pistol or a spray water bottle and “spritz” the cat. This let’s it know that the behaviour is not acceptable. When the cat is calm and quiet, quietly praise the cat and feed it something nice- a piece of chicken vienna, or even some liver (small but tasty). If it gets aggressive, then give another spritz. The cat will soon learn that aggressive behaviour is not pleasant, and calm behaviour gets a reward.
Another thing that you need to do is take a wet chamoise leather cloth and rub this over the dog to get its smell on the cloth. Then take that cloth and rub it over the cat – this puts the dog’s smell on the cat. When the cat grooms itself, then it will smell and taste the dog.
There is a product on the market called Feliway which is a synthetic pheromone which calms down a cat. It comes as a spray which you can spray in strategic places around the room. It also comes as a diffuser. You plug it into the wall and it lets off this pheromone. It can certainly calm a cat down. You will have to get this product from your vet.
Just remember it takes time to get this right.It is not something that will happen in one day. Keep doing everything and it should eventually work.
Accredited Companion Animal Behaviourist &Professional Dog Trainer
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