My cat and dog fight like, well, like cats and dogs. In one corner of the ring is Spike, an 8-year-old, black, long-haired catzilla, weighing in at more than 16 pounds. Sure, a few of those pounds come from too much snacking and catnapping. But he’s also just big-boned–really! He has paws like kitty-asaurus.
In the other corner (cowering) is Clyde, a 90-pound, 3-year-old Plott Hound wuss. He is ruled by his nose, which often leads him into the vicinity of the cat food. And so the trouble begins. First, we hear a growl, low as faraway thunder, vibrate through the house. That erupts into a frenzy of hissing, screeching, and RWARRs, and soon after, Clyde is seen fleeing, tail between his legs, to the safety of his crate, baying mournfully the whole way. It’s pathetic really. He’s the laughingstock of the neighborhood dog park.
Both Clyde and Spike are pound pets, and they’ve only been living together for about a year. And while I’ve had a few roommates of my own I’ve wanted to growl and claw at myself, I feel like Clyde and Spike should be friends. Growing up, I had three dogs and three cats. And they got along famously. One dog would curl up asleep on the couch and a cat would lie curled asleep on top him–yes, on top of him.
This proves to me that amicable inter-special relationships are possible. But how? Is there anything I can do to establish such a furry friendship between Spike and Clyde? I spoke to my veterinarian, Cristina Gutierrez, at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, and she gave me these tips:
• Start them when they’re young. “Kittens and puppies can grow to become best friends much more easily than pets already set in their ways,” says Gutierrez. With older pets, as in my case, introduce them to each other slowly. For the first month or two, keep the dog in one half of the house and the cat in the other (by using a safety gate, for example), so they get used to having this other, somewhat-alarming critter around. The dog learns the cat isn’t food, and the cat learns the dog won’t eat him. Slowly, under supervision, start bringing them into the same room together.
• Keep the cat’s food and water in a place the dog can’t get to. This will minimize territory conflicts and the cat’s need to defend his food.
• Have safe areas to which the cat can retreat (for instance, a pillow atop a bookshelf). This will help the cat feel secure and ease any anxiety. Let the dog learn “the law of the claw,” Gutierrez says. One or two swipes from the cat will teach the dog a healthy respect for the cat–and that he needs to keep his distance a bit.
If these tactics fail, don’t fret too much, and practice acceptance. “Nothing in nature says dogs and cats have to be friends,” she says. You do need to make sure the dog doesn’t injure the cat, however, so if the aggression escalates, you may want to keep them permanently separated, she says. This week, I’m going to try some of these suggestions, and I’m crossing my fingers that the lion (Spike) will lie down with the lamb (Clyde). Failing these strategies, I’ll move on to plan B: Dousing Clyde in a bottle of catnip.
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