Saturday, 10 May 2008

dogs and cats

Penny spends part of her time in Melbourne, in the suburbs, and the rest of her time in the mountains east of Melbourne. At each place the neighbour has a cat. The two cats are allowed to roam freely and enter our property. I don't mind in either case, but Penny does.

She seems to hate these intruders. Normally a peaceful and amicable kind of creature, she is transformed into a barking, lunging, frenzied maniac when she sees them outside her house. Both cats appear to understand just which parts of the garden Penny can't reach. That's where they sun themselves or stroll around in a leisurely fashion.

I've tried desensitising Penny by standing in full view of her, holding and stroking the felines, but I don't think it's doing any good. Or, if it is, it's going to be a long process.

In view of all this, I was interested to get an email today from Dr Jon, from PetPlace.com, about the difference in cat-tolerance between different breeds of dogs. Their guest columnist, The Irreverent Vet, has contributed an article that says, in part:
The dogs that are best around cats are dogs that are not predatory and were raised around cats. Especially, dogs raised and socialized around lots of different cats, including your cats.
Dog Owners Guide at canismajor.com has an article called "Making peace between dogs and cats; is co-existence possible?" in which they say that the level of prey drive in the breed or individual dog can give an indication of how hard it will be to teach the dog to live with a cat. Having watched Penny leap on her soft toys and shake them to "kill" them, I'm pretty sure her prey drive is high. She is, after all, some kind of terrier, even if we're not sure what kind.

I'm not fond of the method that was suggested to acclimatise a dog to a new cat, as it involves 'correcting' the dog by having her on lead and jerking the lead if she moves to investigate a cat being held by an assistant. However, it does mention the alternative, having the dog on lead and rewarding for quiet behaviour around the cat, thus associating cats with pleasant experiences. This seems to me a more long-lasting method of changing behaviour. The idea is that the helper will bringthe cat closer each time, with the whole process taking as long as necessary. It may take weeks or more.

There was a further link on this page to "Fighting furry furies? Dogs and cats don't always have to fight like cats and dogs". It doesn't go along with the idea that cats and dogs are natural "enemies", but points out that they are both predatory species. There are a number of ideas about how to teach dogs to accept cats.

After thinking about all this, I reckon I'll continue with my method of holding the cats where Penny can see them, but I think I'll get a helper to feed her treats whenever she is quiet and calm. The problem is, of course, that I'm never going to put it to the ultimate test, because I wouldn't want to bring someone else's pet near enough to be frightened by Penny. So, I guess unless we decide to have a cat ourselves it'll never be resolved.

14 comments:

Sparky said...

Cats - they can't be trusted. I've lived with three of 'em for 6 years, and I'm still not used to them.

Sparky

The Aphasia Decoder.... said...

I would not want to be the one holding the cat, no matter what method you use. They can get spooked so quickly.

Levi's mom

Anonymous said...

When my Mum brought her Mother's cat to live with her, she had a 10 year old Shepherd and the cat was 4. Neither had had any contact with the other species. At first my Mum kept the cat in a large crate with her bed etc in there and let the two animals get used to each other. One night while the dog was asleep on the couch, the cat scratched to get out. When she was let out, she went to the dog to sniff around her and after that they both seemed fine together. Occasionally they had a wild chase around the house but it seemed always at the instigation of the cat. Cat and I are good friends, but I won't let her sit on my Mum's lap. I get my nose under her and push her off. Every evening sfter tea, the cat begs me to chase her about the house, but when she springs up onto the book case, the chase is over!!
Jabari

parlance said...

Sparky, I think Penny will be like you. I think it's an issue we'll never quite feel relaxed about. Though it's encouraging to hear that you actually live okay with the cats.

parlance said...

Levi's mom, I agree with you. I can't see how I could put a cat through such a scary experience, though if I had to bring a cat to actually live here, because I was rescuing it or something like that, I guess I'd have to do something like what Jabari's mum commented that she did.

parlance said...

Jabari, what I'm wondering is this.. was the 10-year-old shepherd the kind of dog that went ballistic when it saw a cat, before the new cat came to the household?

Amber-Mae said...

We are absolutely okay with cats. Since the 1st day we came to live here with our hoomans, when we saw the cats, we were friendly towards them. BUT, we did chase them around a few times well that's becoz we just want to play with them but the cats don't seem to be all that happy about it. We got scratched in the face left, right & center few times already but we still don't want to learn our lesson. Chloe used to chase both our cats all the time but after the harsh scoldings she's got from my hoomans, she's now learned to leave them alone. Now our black kitty sista even comes towards us & rubs herself on our legs. We still like to go after kitties in our neighborhood though like as though we've not seen cats before. Chloe is crazeee about them! Maybe it's becoz they're small, fluffy & they move-FAST!

My mommy knows one way of desensitizing a dog that loves to go after cats either to attack or just want to chase after it. Both dog & cat won't get hurt. Put a cat in the cage, put the cat & the dog in one room alone. The dog will obviously go crazy about the cat but will not be able to get the cat. For better protection, put fencing around the cage so that the dog won't be able to bite the cat's paw when the cat tries to scratch the dog. After a while, you'll notice that the dog will calm down once it's sick of it.

My mommy always tells people that if the dog wants to get the cat then let it have the cat but don't let it hurt or kill it & the only way to do that is to put the cat in the cage for safety. Coz if you keep restricting the dog & then the dog can't get to it, this prob will never solve or it will take forever to solve.

You can also be in the room to watch. Once she has quieten down, pet her & reward. Will need to do this everyday until she's sick of the cat but this problem will not be cured 100%. You'll never know one day she loses her mind again & will this time, hurt or kill the cat if she's ever allowed to get close to one. No dogs with any problems can be cured 100%. Most of them time 50% only the maximum...

Love licks,
Solid Gold Dancer

Anonymous said...

No, Gemma did not go ballistic but she did chase cats out of our yard. At 10 she had mellowed considerably and did not care when a lovely grey Tom used to come into the yard and chase the weeds my Mum was throwing out of the garden bed. So I guess Cat was lucky to start with Gemma and not me - cos I just love to chase cats!!
Jabari

parlance said...

Amber_Mae, I'm grateful for the info your mum has written on this subject for me. After considering what she's said, I think I'll assume that I can never be quite sure Penny is safe with a cat. It would be the MOST AWFUL thing if she killed or hurt a neighbour's kitten. I'll just have to assume both cats have enough sense not to come into the fenced section of the yard, or they are quick enough to get back over the fence.

parlance said...

Jabari, I think your cat was lucky to start living in the household when Gemma was alive. I guess when you were a baby you just got used to having a cat around. I'm glad that you and the cat still have fun running around together, though.

Johann The Dog said...

Mum got me as a puppy because she had two cats before me. They were both larger than me when I came to live with them, and they easily managed me, even though I'm a herding breed.

Wiggy won't run from either Gracie or me. Wolfie will, but he is incredibly agile, and always gets to a high place.

I think a lot of getting along depends upon the cat, like Wiggy can get a mean stalk going on Gracie and me and we will run for the hills. Shhhh, don't tell anyone.

But Gracie and I both dominate Wolfie, because he stares and runs. Mum is still working with him to not run and stare. It's slowly working.

Oh, and I grab a stuffy and shake it till it's dead too. And Gracie and I are both herding breeds.

Now Mum can let Wiggy out in the yard with us and we all three have fun - Gracie and I run around with zoomies, and Wiggy is eating grass and rolling in sage.

It's a nice site to see...

Have a great weekend!

Woofs, Johann

parlance said...

Johann, we went over to visit Jabari today and she lives with a cat. The cat was up high in the loungeroom, on a shelf, and Penny coped well. Jabari's mum told Penny to leave the cat alone, when Penny started to bark at her and that seemed to work. So perhaps, as you say, it's a question of whether the cat is moving or stationary. If I can only teach all neighbourhood cats to stand like statures when Penny is around, there'll be no problem.

Bibi said...

Hi, Parlance! I'm not a cat person, and Bibi loves to chase them.... If one stands its ground, she backs down.

Tomorrow sometime I'll try to find a recipe for "krem pita" that you saw on my site, and post it under that posting. Check! It's not too vanilla-flavoured; only slightly.

parlance said...

Thanks. Came over and saw the recipe and it looks delicious.