Dear Critter Corner: I just brought home a new dog, Moe, and while he is pretty easy going, he is a little too interested in my cat. My cat is curious of Moe but does run away when she gets spooked. What can I do to help my cat stay comfortable while Moe learns the rules?
Helping your cat and dog adjust to each other involves a combination of management and training techniques to ensure that both stay safe while working towards building a peaceful relationship. In terms of management, a key step is making sure that your cat has access to areas that your dog does not. Place baby gates in certain rooms so that the cat can hop over them, but the dog can’t get through, and place a tall cat tree somewhere central in the home so that your cat can climb up out of the dog’s reach when she’s had enough. If needed, keep a leash on Moe in the house for a while so that you have the option to pick it up and lead him away from the cat.
Training should involve both the cat and the dog. Teach Moe the “leave it” cue so that you can instruct him to leave your cat alone. Also practice rewarding Moe when he is calm around the cat to help him learn to settle in her presence. Additionally, it’s important to do some training with your cat, since you do want to change her overall feelings about Moe. By rewarding your cat when Moe is in sight, she will start to have a positive association with him and over time will feel less inclined to run and hide. Gradually, you’ll find that they can stay calm in closer proximity to each other. If at any point, you are concerned for the safety of either pet, contact a professional trainer like those at Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA.