Pit bulls have a strong prey drive, and you can be sure cats fall into a category of quarry rather than companion. If Rover thinks Fluffy should be a chew toy instead of a friend, bring harmony to your home by training each pet to tolerate the other.
Separate the kitty and pit bull by confining your feline companion to her own room, complete with all of her necessities -- a litter box, toys and filled food and water dishes. You want to reset their relationship from a clean slate, retraining each pet to enjoy the company of the other as if they'd never met.
Train your pit bull to understand and obey verbal commands like "Sit," "Stay," "Come" and "Leave It." Pit bull breeds including the American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier and Staffordshire bull terrier are large pooches with powerful jaws. You'll need to have full control over them around your kitty. These breeds and breed mixes are quick learners. They respond well to training, according to the Minnesota Pit Bull Rescue website.
Allow your pit bull to interact with your kitty for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, one to two times per day for a week or two, with the pup on a leash and the cat on the other side of a baby gate. Don't force the pets to have direct contact; you merely want them each to react to the presence of other without aggression. Reward both kitty and pup with treats if they don't react with growling and snarling, Even whining by your pup or his staring at the cat are potential signs of aggression. If either pet does exhibit aggression, end the session and start again in a few hours.
Put your pit bull on a leash and let your feline friend out of her room. Sit calmly with the pup and use voice commands to keep him sitting with you as the kitty wanders around in the vicinity of the two of you. Reward calm, nonaggressive, interaction between the two pets with treats. If necessary, use the leash to restrain your pit bull if he does express any signs of a potential attack. These may include lunging, barking or attempting to chase or nip at your kitty. Similarly, keep your feisty feline from trying to swat or pester your pup if he's behaving calmly.
Let the kitty and pup interact off-leash with supervision. Continue to reward positive interaction, and control any potentially aggressive interaction with voice commands. Without supervision and at night, separate the two for your kitty's safety -- even a perfectly behaved pit bull might have a slip-up -- by confining the kitty to her own room or crating your pup.
- Pit Bull Rescue Central: Cat/Dog Households
- The Rescue Train: Pit Bull Education
- Cesar's Way: Problem of the Month: Prey Drive
- Pit Bull Rescue Central: Desensitizing a Cat-Aggressive Dog
- Animal Humane Society: Understanding Dog Tolerance in Pit Bulls
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: The Truth About Pit Bulls
- WebMD: When Dog and Cat Meet
- Veterinary Partner: Cats and Dogs Can Live Together With Proper Introductions
- Consider enrolling Fido in some obedience classes to teach him proper manners in a positive environment in which you can bond with your pup and even socialize him to other dogs.
- Exercise your pit bull outdoors with some rousing games of fetch and jogging for 20 to 30 minutes each day, twice a day, to keep him from misbehaving and pestering your kitty indoors due to boredom and pent-up energy, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends.
- Discourage play between your pit bull and kitty, recommends Pit Bull Rescue Central. Even seemingly innocent play can excite your pit bull; he could accidentally injure your kitty by mouthing or biting him. Instead, encourage snuggling and calm behavior.
- Unfortunately, some pit bulls who haven't been properly socialized to kitties as puppies may have too high a prey drive and will attack your kitty even with positive, reward-based training methods. In these cases, consider rehoming one of your pets.
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.