Behavior – Mixing dogs with cats

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Dear Your own Vet, I recently bought two (beautiful!) 4-month old Devon Rex kittens and they are settling very well into their new home. The only issue is that our neighbour has a 7 year old Labrador – a very loving and gentle beast – but he LOVES to chase small furry things, cats in particular. He is in the habit of coming round to see us every day and likes it a lot at our house, and I enjoy his visits a lot too.

The first time the dog saw the kittens, he was outside, looking in through a glass door. He immediately lunged for the door, growling and banging against it. The cats were very shaken up and hid themselves away for a while. The cattery I got them from had a dog so I was hoping the cats would be okay around dogs, but it was a much smaller and older one  – and the Labrador’s reaction was a bit extreme so they are very nervous about him now.

I’d really like them to get along as I like the dog’s visits and it’s a shame to have to banish him from the house. He is also unfortunately not the most obedient dog, so I worry that when he sees the cats, he will ignore any commands and just go for them. Any advice on how to make them get along?

Thanks a lot !


Introducing dogs to kittens

Introducing a dog that has never lived with cats to kittens

Dear Will,
Unfortunately, dogs that have not been brought up with cats will show this kind of reaction – despite it being a Labrador, this doesn’t mean that it is going to like cats.  Dogs need to be socialized with cats at a very early stage otherwise they will probably go into “prey” drive.

Labradors and cats

All dogs need to be socialized with cats when they are young

The only thing I can suggest is that you put the kittens in a cage and bring the Labrador in on a lead. If he lunges at the cage he is given a sharp tug on the lead with a strong growl “UH UH”. If he calms down then give him a really nice titbit – like biltong/jerky or chicken vienna/sausage (sliced small). You to keep doing this controlled introduction as much as possible until the dog doesn’t lunge at the kittens but wants the treat.  Over time if the dog is calm with the kittens in the cage, then bring him on the lead into the room with the door shut and the kittens out of the cage. If he lunges again a really firm tug and growl.
It is possible over time to get a dog to accept a cat/kittens when a human is around to control the situation. HOWEVER, when a human is not around and the cat/kittens run, then it is highly possible that the dog will chase in prey drive. It is in the genetics of a dog to chase prey (some breeds more than others).
If this doesn’t work, then I’m afraid he is going to have to be separated from the kittens.

mixing cats and dogs

Try putting the kittens in a cage and giving the dog treats when he is good


Kathy Clayton

Accredited Companion Animal Behaviourist &Professional Dog Trainer

011 783 3042   082 454 1750

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