While some cats and dogs get along well, others may not. In serious cases, your dog might even chase and try to attack your cat. If your pup is showing signs of aggression toward your cat, behavior modification is in order to prevent a possible tragedy.
Separate your dog and cat physically in different rooms. Make sure that each of them have food and water and for the cat, a litter box. Set up the spaces so that each animal is comfortable.
Teach your dog basic obedience commands that you can use to keep him away from the cat, or to interrupt a situation that could escalate into attack. "Sit," "Stay" and "Leave it" are three useful commands to work on with your dog. Consult a trainer if needed, and work up to training the commands in situations with distractions. A certified professional dog trainer also can help evaluate your dog's behavior and provide suggestions to manage a dog with a high prey drive. Enrolling your dog in obedience classes provides a good way for him to learn manners.
Exercise your dog daily with a walk or jog and play such as fetch or hide-and-seek. A dog who is pent up in the house all day with nothing to do becomes bored, frustrated and sometimes acts out. Puzzle toys filled with tasty dog treats keep your dog occupied during the day and engage his mind as well. A tired dog, both mentally and physically, is less likely to chase or attack your cat.
Reintroduce the animals to each other over time, which can last a few weeks to a few months. Allow them to smell each other's scents through a closed door for a few days, watching for signs of prey aggression in your dog, including growling, snarling or snapping. Once your dog remains calm in your cat's presence with a closed door, prop the door open just a crack with a heavy object such as a paperweight so that the animals can see, but not access, each other for a few minutes at a time.
Give each of the animals treats during their reintroduction meetings only if both show no signs of aggression; don't reward bad behavior. Yummy treats help to associate the presence of the other animal as something good. After meetings go well through the slightly open door, allow your dog to be near the cat while on a leash and under your supervision. Use verbal commands to keep your dog focused on you and not the cat.
Continue to reward positive interaction with treats for both furbabies. Eventually you might be able to allow your kitty and pup to interact without a leash.
Dogs with a high prey drive might always require supervision and should not be left alone with your cat, even if they behave in your presence. Again, consult a certified professional dog trainer if needed.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Dogs Chasing Cats
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Predatory Behavior in Dogs
- A Lawyer's Guide to Dangerous Dog Issues; Joan Schaffner
- Vetstreet: How Do I Stop My Dogs From Chasing My Cat?
- Veterinary Partner: Killing Animals
- VetInfo: Why are My Dogs Attacking My Cats?
- Daily Mail: Why Does My Dog Keep Attacking Cats?
- Spay or neuter both the cat and the dog. The animals' hormones make each animal more apt to fight and display aggression.
- Bring your dog and cat to the vet for a checkup. Sometimes a medical condition can lead to increases in aggression.
- Crate train your dog and put him in the crate when you aren't around to supervise the cat and dog.
- Wall-mounted cat shelves or other high perches can provide "safe" spaces for your cat to avoid contact with your dog.
- While he may not mean to, a dog can easily kill a cat, and you may have to consider re-homing one of the animals, or keeping them separated permanently, if the behavior doesn't improve.
- Punishing your dog for attacking your cat serves only to heighten his aggressive behavior and prompts him to associate your cat, not his attack, with something bad.
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.