When people ask me whether I’m a dog person or a cat person, my answer is always easy:
I’m a pet person.
My first pet (the first pet I actually owned, cared for and paid for myself, rather than a family pet that my parents were ultimately responsible for) was my orange tabby cat, Fez. We had always had a family dog growing up, but because cats are easier to own when you are in college (much less maintenance than a dog), I adopted Fez as a college junior. I knew that I would someday most certainly adopt a dog, as well, because, after all, I was a pet person, not a cat person!
Two years later, with a house and a yard of my own, I adopted 4-month-old Reux, my border collie, black lab mix.
I wasn’t really worried about dog and cat getting along, because Fez had always gotten along very well with both cats and dogs prior to
me bringing Reux into the home. Fez and my parents’ dog Holli had even taken to snuggling together on Holli’s bed when Fez and I would stay at my parents’ house. Because Reux was still a puppy, I figured it would be easy to acclimate him to life with a cat and train him to behave with Fez.
After about a week of watching the dog tear through the house chasing the cat, I realized that I may have been a bit mistaken.
While there’s really no hatred between dog and cat, there certainly isn’t love. Fez attempts to do his typical cat routine of sitting on the back of the couch and gazing thoughtfully out the window, but is often rudely interrupted by Reux leaping up onto the couch and throwing himself at Fez. The silver lining is that the dog isn’t trying to rip the cat into a million tiny little pieces; however, he does enjoy pestering him and nibbling on Fez’s fur, much like he would with another puppy. Reux is also a 1st degree chaser, constantly chasing Fez any time his kitty paws are on the ground.
Fez, on the other hand, refuses to fight back: He never hisses at Reux or even threatens him with a swipe from his claws. Fez is so sweet that he merely pins his ears back and wraps his tail around his body in an attempt to endure the onslaught. However, he is clearly stressed, and clearly dislikes the dog.
Regardless of how many times I tell him “no!” or “off!”, Reux always persists.
After 5 months of waiting for Reux to calm down and lose some of his puppy craziness, I decided to do a couple of things to help Fez out.
Using a baby gate, I now block off the upstairs part of the house from the downstairs so that Fez has at least SOME space where he feels safe.
I also keep Reux in his kennel or in the backyard during the day while I am at work so that Fez has a solid 8 hours in the house that are dog-free.
When I bring Reux into the house from the backyard or let him out from his crate, I keep him on a leash and walk him calmly through the house to minimize the excitement of chasing the cat. This gives Fez enough time to get to higher ground that is out of dog range, and allows me to calm Reux down a bit before releasing him into the house.
Keeping the peace in a multi-pet household can be tough.
How do you handle pets that don’t get along? What are some tricks you use to calm the situation and ensure that all of your pets feel comfortable?