Alli and her catpuppies – getting dogs and cats to co-exist
When we first were fostering Alli, I soon feared that she just was not going to be able to live with cats. Alli had been a street dog in Taiwan and it just made sense, small fuzzy things equaled food, not friends. My husband Adam encouraged me to not give up on her but I was worried our cats were going to get hurt. Any movement from our cats and she would go into prey mode. One time she actually came away with a mouth full of hair, which really scared me. Luckily early on we went to a meet up with other people who had adopted Formosan Mountain dogs from Taiwan and received some great advice.
“Don’t give up! My dog was like that at first also and now the cats and dogs coexist just fine.”
“Talk to her, tell her what you want, these dogs have an amazing ability to understand.”
So began our journey from this –
To this –
So what did we do?
- First and most important – make sure your cats are safe. We made sure Alli was in the bedroom when we were not home or not close by. Crating would also be a good option. We bought a bunch of baby gates and when Alli was out with us she was gated in the living room. The cats could jump in and out but she could not follow them. We always had a leash on her so that we could grab her quickly.
- Don’t let the chase happen – every time a cat would jump in the living room with her we would go sit with her and give her positive praise for not chasing. Some treats were used in this process also and given when she would look at a cat moving and then look back at us.
- Explain what you want – Formosans are smart. So are many other dogs. Alli had puppies when she came to this country – she took good care of them. We explained to her that the cats were like puppies. You didn’t want them to walk all over you but you had to take good care of them and make sure they did not get hurt. We started calling the cats “catpuppies.” This got us in the mindset of believing that she would be able to take care of the catpuppies and not hurt them. Dogs look to us for their cues and if we believed it she would to.
- Make sure she knows that you are in charge of the situation and house. Alli is a smart dog, if I am not in charge, she will be. Everytime Alli would look like she was about to chase a “catpuppy” or even thinking about chasing a “catpuppy” I would stand in front of her and say “Mine, leave it!” in a stern voice.
- Don’t give up. It was a lot of work and took about two months but we now have a dog who loves her “catpuppies.” We knew we were there when a friend brought her puppy over to our house. He gave chase after one of our cats and Alli jumped in front of him and backed him down growling, “Mine, leave it!”
Note – there are some cats and dogs that absolutely can not coexist. If you are in doubt get a behaviorist out to help you figure out if there is hope and make sure to not put your cats in danger.