Helping Cats get Along with Dogs

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Cats and dogs are very different animals, but since they both live with humans, people often like to think of them as being more similar than they really are.  The truth about cats and dogs is that they're almost complete opposites in terms of their psychology.  Tasha L. writes:

We moved from California to Las Vegas. My two year old spayed kitty named Tyga now has a half sister female two year old pit bull named Lady. Lady is very soft never aggressive and all she wants is a playmate but Tyga won’t have it. Tyga bullies Lady and all we really want is for them to coexist, but if they become friends it would be great. Is there anything we can do or things we should not do to help the process along?

Tasha, you have a couple of issues with Tyga, both of which are related to her insecurities.  She's feeling very insecure and that's why she's lashing out.  We're going to give you some suggestions as to how you can help her with these issues, but you need to accept that Tyga may never like co-habitating with a dog.  If you think about Lady's behavior from Tyga's point of view, you'll see just how Lady's actions could be misconstrued.  For example - Lady will probably wag her tail when she's happy, but in cat language, a wagging tail means a cat is agitated.  Cats are all about manners and distance and dogs are very in-your-face.  You get the picture.  Just accept that while you may well be able to get Tyga to tolerate her canine house mate, Tyga may never want to be friends with Lady.  Those felines who do get along with dogs have often been raised around them and have more submissive personalities to begin with.  Neither of those apply in Tyga's case.

The first issue is your big move.  Cats like things to stay the same and a move is the most jarring change there is.  It's hard on all of us, but it's the most difficult on cats.  They need to have a well-established territory, so that's the first thing you can help Tyga with.  Make sure she has vertical space and places where she can relax and be out of Lady's reach.  This is relatively easy since most dogs aren't great climbers.  Tall cat trees are a perfect start, but you also want to look at your space and see if you can rearrange things to make a sort of skyway for Tyga.  Maybe she could have a cat tree that gives her access to the top of a bookcase or an upper shelf in a closet.

In addition, Tyga will greatly appreciate it if her food, water, and litter are far away from where Lady gets fed.  If her resources can be elevated out of Lady's reach, even better.  Your goal is to give Tyga her own space and her own territory.  If you can help her access window sills that Lady can't get to, that will help her to feel more secure.  She probably hasn't gotten much deep sleep since the move so she's probably very stressed out.  It's your job to help de-stress her by making sure she has her own private spots in your home.

The second issue is Tyga's bullying behavior.  It's our experience that effectively dealing with the first issue often makes the second issue go away, or at least diminish.  You can further aid the cause by training Lady to leave Tyga alone.  Tyga's trying to tell Lady to keep away now, but Lady isn't receptive to the message.  Lady will be more receptive if the message comes from you, her pack leader.  We don't specialize in dog behavior, but we recommend Cesar Millan's work in that field.  It's relatively easy to train Lady to back off if she's bothering Tyga.  

Get to know the signs of agitation in Tyga before they become actions.  If Tyga is rapidly swishing her tail back and forth or holding her eats down close to her head, you can diffuse the situation by moving Lady away and playing with Tyga by herself away from Lady.  Make sure both pets feel your love, but at separate times in separate places in your home.

With a little effort, we're sure you can settle both animals down and end this little civil war.  We wish you and Tyga and Lady all the best!