Cats Dogs Harmony: Getting Along

Today makes one week that my son gave me three kittens, bringing my feline count to nine. Three senior cats: Honey, Tiger, PJ. Three young cats: Tulip, Muffin, and Clover. Three kittens: Marble, Oreo, and Captain Jack.

I kept the kittens secluded in my bedroom closet for approximately 5 days to keep them safe and to help them de-stress from the transition. During that first week I did allow one or two cats to come into the closet to sniff them and leave their scent. I also introduced one leashed dog at a time for about 2 minutes each.

Jordi, my husky lab mix has proven to be pretty amicable around cats. Although he did have about two weeks in which he was slightly preoccupied with following (stalking?)and pinning down Tulip, I have nipped that habit in the bud and the presence of the cats doesn’t evoke much reaction from him anymore.

Biscuit on the other hand, was much more affected by the presence of the kittens, much like he used to be with the presence of the cats. He was visibly agitated at the side of them. My daughter joked that he was probably wondering why I was teasing him with such cute appetizers! Learning to be around the kittens has been a lesson in restraint for him, and I’m proud to say he’s done well.

In my reading of the Cesar Millan book, Be The Pack Leader, I learned about the importance of dogs meeting each other from nose to tail. I thought this method might be helpful in acclimating my resident pets to the kittens as well. With the kittens vision blocked, tucked inside my shirt or covered with my hand, I presented there back sides to each animal member of the household.

The two main reasons I chose to cover the kittens’ faces are so they wouldn’t get frightened, and thereby scratch my hands and arms to shreds; and so they wouldn’t react to the bigger, strange animal, there by causing an unfavorable response from said animal. It worked like a charm. 3 kitten tushies X 2 dog and 6 cats noses resulted in a very civilized meet and greet.

Due to the holiday, I had an extended weekend in which I could dedicate all my free time to observing and supervising the animals and their interactions. Each dog had an equal amount of intense kitten interest in the beginning. Biscuit’s nose stayed pressed underneath the outside of my bedroom door sniffing for the kittens who were well out-of-reach. By day three their interest had reduced itself to mild.

Anytime they got too close for the kittens’ comfort, or I felt they were exhibiting undesired behavior, (Jordi pawing at one, Biscuit “guarding the ball” at another) I quickly intervened with a strong ‘NO’, or the distraction of some toy or edible treat. The dogs obeyed and the continued exposure resulted in more and more harmony between the two species.

One observation that I’ve made is that the sooner a cat shows its courage to a dog, the better the relationship is between them. When I brought Tulip and Muffin home, Muffin showed his fear. He continues to be fearful around the dogs today. Tulip on the other hand, never backed down and today walks among them confidently and comfortably. Clover is also fearless around the dogs, as he was as a kitten.

Captain Jack, a boy and Oreo, a girl have showed only small, healthy amount of fear towards the new giants they now reside with. But day by day I see them getting comfortable enough to walk alongside them without trepidation. My other girl Marble on the other hand, looks like another Muffin, scaredy cat supreme. She could learn a lot from her brother and sister. A cat that isn’t scared isn’t going to run away, triggering any prey drive the dog may have to chase them. Now that’s harmony.

Getting the cats to accept the kittens wasn’t an easy process by them being the same. ALL the cats hissed at the newcomers in the beginning. Neither Honey nor Tiger care for the new additions, avoiding them whenever possible. PJ likes the girls, but still hisses at Captain Jack. Muffin was scared of the kittens then and only rarely interacts with them now. After giving them the customary stranger-danger hiss and growl on day one, Tulip and Clover now dote on them and keep watchful eyes on there comings and goings.

The process isn’t over. It will be weeks or months before I completely trust Jordi with the kittens as I do with the older cats. It may be years before I’m fully comfortable leaving Biscuit out with them. Until then, the dogs are put away while I’m at work or come along with me when I need to run errands, leaving the cats free to roam without dog intervention. For a glimpse into my animal world, check out my YouTube video with the same title: Cats Dogs Harmony.

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Until next time,

“Keep the harmony!”

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