By Amy Ammen
Properly introduced, dogs and cats usually end up being the most devoted of friends. On the other hand, on rare occasions, the combination can be deadly for the cat. So it’s not a decision to be made lightly.
Your dog’s breed should be a factor in weighing the possibilities. Even if your hyper dog was bred to ferret out small game, the combination may be surprisingly solid. In most cases, you’ll simply have to devote some time up front to supervising them both until he’s proven his trustworthiness.
A herding breed can be disastrous for felines – or ideal. If the dog is mesmerized by the cat and her movements, he may find it difficult to rein in his herding instinct. That’s not necessarily a problem if your cat is confident, bold, and enjoys teasing, playing, and racing around. In fact, such a cat may become his best friend within a few days of their introduction. But a timid cat will be miserable.
My Hip Ideas for Hyper Dogs coauthor Kitty Foth-Regner has found the Oriental breeds, such as Siamese and Burmese, to be particularly well-suited to such cross-species relationships; they’re energetic, mischievous, and love to tear around the house with a dog in close pursuit. More docile breeds such as Persians are less enamored of such antics; but that fact may make these cats less interesting to a hyper dog and therefore less likely to be a victim of canine fascination.
The easiest introductions are between puppies and kittens. If they grow up together, they may almost behave like siblings instead of different species. If it’s too late for that, try these suggestions.
* Choose a cat who is young enough to be adaptable but old enough to defend herself. Six months is an excellent age. Don’t declaw her; instead, either teach her to use a scratching post or get over your need for perfect furniture. Give her a few days to explore her living quarters and get to know the human household members before introducing her to the dog.
* When your new cat is feeling at home, bring her into a room where she’ll be able to quickly get out of harm’s way if necessary, by racing behind a couch or jumping up on a counter. Then leash your dog and bring him in.
* The cat may well take this opportunity to hide. That’s fine. Stay in the room and do some obedience work or tricks. Have a seat and read or watch a little television. Let them get used to being around each other. Stay alert. If the cat decides to dart out of the room, you’ll want to be able to short-circuit your dog’s pursuit by grabbing or stepping on his leash.
* On the other hand, if she holds her ground, that’s great. Let him sniff while you praise the cat soothingly to relax her. Keep him leashed and watch for an opportunity to correct him for overstepping his boundaries or being impolite. Treat the cat like any other distraction; if he’s pulling on the leash, use the Sneakaway(TM) technique until he’s willing to greet her politely.
* You may have to do this twice a day for a week or a month before they’re ready to live together peacefully, and it may take many more weeks before they actually become friends. But chances are you’ll come home someday to find them cuddled up together, and all your efforts will be worth it.
* In the meantime, until they’re at least tolerating each other, use a closed door or baby gate to separate them whenever you’re not there to intervene. That way, they’ll be able to become accustomed to each other’s presence at their own pace.
* Once they’re friends, don’t stop them from roughhousing with each other. Let them enjoy each other, unless it becomes apparent that one of them isn’t enjoying the game.
Amy Ammen is among the nation’s foremost authorities on training unusual breeds and solving confounding problems. She has trained thousands of dogs through Amiable Dog Training, Milwaukee … hosts Your Family Pet on WRRD-AM 540 … regularly appears on TV. Her dancing dogs are headliners at popular family-friendly festivals.Amy has written five books in addition to her latest, Hip Ideas for Hyper Dogs – as well as in a series of DVDs and articles for major dog publications.This is her first book with Kitty Foth-Regner, a Waukesha, Wis., freelance copywriter. The author of scores of business-to-business brochures, white papers, and direct-mail campaigns, as well as The Cure (Main Street, 1987) and Heaven without Her (Thomas Nelson, 2008), Kitty is also a pushover dog owner. She first sought Amy’s help back in 1987, desperate for a way to stop her first Bassett Hound from chewing. Amy’s techniques instantly provided the needed relief.
For details, visit http://www.amyammen.com or call 888-875-4321.