Cats are naturally afraid of dogs, especially if not exposed to them at an early age or if they've experienced an unpleasant encounter with one. If you want your feline friend to get along with dogs in your home, help her associate them with fun and food, not fear.
Separate the cat from the dogs in your home that she fears. This works for pets already exposed to each other in the home or with the introduction of a new dog or several dogs to a resident cat.
For a situation where your cat fears your existing dogs, this gives you a fresh start to "reintroduce" the pets to each other. During the reintroduction, your cat will learn to associate the dogs with positive things, rather than negative ones.
Rub a towel on your dogs and let your cat smell it. Scent is very important for cats and the strange odor may initially frighten her. Once she reacts calmly to the scent, or is pretty much indifferent to it, give her some yummy treats. Choose treats she really likes, like a bite of tuna or cheese.
Do the same in reverse to your dogs. If any of your pups are aggressive toward your cat, this will only enhance her fear of them. What you want to see is all of your dogs reacting without any type of aggression, like growling, to the scent of your cat. Now give the pups some delicious treats as well.
Allow your kitty and the dogs to see, but not access each other, through a screen door or a baby gate for 10 minutes. Keep your dogs on leashes to restrain them from going up to your cat and scaring her. At first your kitty may run for cover, but after repeating this exercise a few times, once she stays and observes the dogs and doesn't have a fear reaction, give her some treats. As long as the pups are behaving as well, and not attempting to chase or bother her, give them treats too.
Let your cat out of her confinement room and allow her to interact with the dogs while they are on leashes for 10 to 20 minutes. Don't force her to stick around to play with the dogs, but just let her see that they aren't a threat. Repeat this process until she doesn't try to run away or hiss at the pups and the pups don't react badly to her. As long as everyone is behaving, continue the introduction and treat both the cat and the dogs.
Remove the leashes from your dogs and let them and the cats freely walk around your home together. Always allow your cat to access a high spot, like the top of a cat tree and be sure that she has an escape route from the dogs to reduce her stress during her interactions with them. You don't want her to feel forced into confronting them.
Continue to supervise the animals together, praising and treating any non-fearful behavior from your cat and calm behavior from your pups. They might not become best buds, but at least your resident feline won't be living in fear of the pooches.
Reward your kitty when she is exposed to your dogs or any new dogs, such as those of your visiting friends. Praise and treat her if she sees or hears neighborhood dogs through the window as well. This way she will begin to view the appearance or sounds of any and all dogs as something to look forward to, rather than fear.
Ask that any friends keep their dogs on a leash when first meeting your kitty so that they don't react aggressively to her; this could scare your cat and bring you back to dealing with a kitty frightened of dogs. You want to keep all interactions with canines positive for your feline friend.
- Kindness Connection Animal Rescue: Cat Care Guide from CAP
- Partnership for Animal Welfare: Introducing a New Dog to a Resident Cat
- Animal Humane Society: Counter Conditioning and Desensitization
- Cat Channel: Helping Cat Overcome Fear Issues
- PetPlace: Introduction to Feline Fears
- Cat Channel: Cats and Dogs
- Spay or neuter both your cat and your dogs. Sometimes hormones can cause the dogs to behave aggressively around the cat and make her more prone to fear them.
- Exposing cats and dogs to each other at a young age, between 2 and 7 weeks for cats or 3 and 12 weeks for dogs, reduces the possibilities that the animals will view the other species in a negative light, recommends Cat Channel. Kittens and puppies adopted together may become close friends throughout their lives.
- Comforting a fearful cat can actually reinforce this behavior. You want to wait until the kitty isn't showing signs of fear and reward that behavior instead.
- If your kitty suddenly reacts badly around your dogs out of nowhere and had previously gotten along with them, it's time for a visit to the vet. Some underlying medical conditions can cause pain for your cat, making her more prone to fear reactions to the dogs.
- Never allow your kitty around dogs with known issues with aggression, especially toward cats. If one of your pups is terrorizing your kitty, this could explain her fear of dogs; it may be time to consult with a professional animal behaviorist.
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.