Dog and cat living in harmony?
They have moved in together, he with his black cat Jet and she with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Gracie.
Unfortunately Gracie is much too interested in the cat and if Jet moves will chase him given the chance. It’s just possible she’s a little scared of him also.
The rest of the time, when Jet is not about, Gracie is peaceful lapdog. She is sweet and friendly.
The cat is now restricted to the utility room unless Gracie is out of the house. Unfortunately the little dog is able to get in the cat flap and Jet understandably feels unsafe in what should be his sanctuary. He sleeps up on side.
Gracie scratches at the side trying to get to him. She gets very aroused and she pants.
Jet is scared.
They had started trying to introduce the dog and cat six months ago when they lived apart, by taking Gracie to Jet’s house. The couple had tried everything they could think of. They told her off. They restrained her and they tied her lead to something so she couldn’t chase the cat while he was lying on a chair nearby.
Nothing they tried worked.
They may well have inadvertently increased anxiety and reactivity.
They will gate in the utility room doorway.
And they will prevent Gracie from going through the cat flap.
The dog and cat should be able to see one another with Jet remaining safe as his confidence grows and while Gracie is helped to feel differently about the cat. She can be taught what she should do rather than what she should not do.
The utility room can then be a proper sanctuary for Jet while they work hard on integrating the two animals jointly into their new lives.
Gracie is deaf.
In order to make progress with her reactivity to Jet, it’s necessary to be able to get Gracie’s attention. At the moment it is impossible to call her away or even to get her to look away.
She can’t hear a click and she can’t hear a whistle blown loudly. She relies upon picking up on smallest movements.
They will use a light. A single flash of a torch or a laser light. They need to be careful with this. It’s too easy for a dog to become obsessed with light chasing if a light is moved about.
They will start by flashing the light onto the floor about nine inches in front of her nose, just once, and immediately drop food. They can flash the light on the floor before putting her food bowl down and before giving her treats. The light means food. They will do this until, when they withhold it, she looks around at them to see where the food is.
It’s then not a big step to teach her that when the light appears in front of her nose she should look around at them.
Jet will be given time to relax and feel safe in the utility room, confident that Gracie can’t get in there.
Then the work will start, with the gate between them and it will involve food – special food. Confidence-building and calming work will be done with both animals at the same time.
Later, when Gracie looks at the cat, she will be flashed and fed.
The flash can be used like a clicker to tell her ‘Good’.
Dog and cat should learn to associate each other only with good stuff – no anxiety and no scolding.
I have worked out a step-by-step plan. It can simply start with small bits of chicken sprinkled about, in each room and well away from the gate. They should not be tempted to jump ahead even if things are going well, but go through all the stages.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, given time and patience, both dogs won’t be sleeping curled up together on the couple’s bed at night one day.