The idea that pets fight like, well, cats and dogs, is a popular one, but it’s not always grounded in reality. We’ve known plenty of pets who had interspecies friendships, sharing a bed or sofa, grooming each other and playing together. Even when animals aren’t buds, they often coexist comfortably.
But conflict can bubble up any time people live with more than one animal of any species. Maybe one is old and grouchy, while the other is a young whippersnapper. Or, one is bossy and the other is too mild-mannered to stand up for herself. Whatever the case, the secret to helping them get along is to understand their behavioral differences and work to meet the needs of each of them.
Here we take a look at four situations that can cause problems, with tips to help all of you live in harmony. In most cases, the secrets to conflict resolution call for good management of resources and space, training, behavior modification or separation.
Your cat’s got no interest in your dog’s food, but the dog growls every time the cat walks by his bowl. When it comes to meals, dogs don’t like to share, and your cat’s mere presence may be enough to set off his guarding reflex. Take the simple route to solve the problem: Feed them separately. That’s a good rule of paw any time you have multiple animals. It’s stressful for our domesticated predators to eat in the presence of another animal, even if normally they get along. Feed each animal in a separate room or in their crates, ideally placed so they can’t see each other eating.
A not-so-merry chase
Dogs like to chase moving objects. Cats run when they see danger (i.e., dogs). It’s tough to extinguish such an instinctive behavior in dogs, but a couple of techniques can help to minimize the problem. Work with a trainer to improve your dog’s recall (come when called), even in the face of a fun distraction, such as a running cat. Give him a great reward so he thinks coming to you is better than chasing the cat. Be sure your cat has a place he can escape to, such as under the sofa or up a cat tree. The best solution, when you can do it, is to bring up a puppy with a cat so he learns respect from an early age.
Whose is it?
Whether we’re talking beds, toys or other high-value objects, one pet may lay claim to an item the other wants. The easiest solution is to purchase duplicates, so there’s one for everybody. You should also teach the “give it” or “drop it” command so you can remove the bone of contention and put it away when pets fight over it. With resources such as your time and attention, try to do fun things at the same time with each pet. Take dogs on walks together, pet animals at the same time and give treats at the same time.
Battle of the bed
Who gets to share your sleeping quarters when a new pet moves in? An animal who is used to sharing your bed with you may not be willing to share space with a newcomer as well. And it can get crowded with more than one pet on the bed, even if they’re small. Your original pet should take precedence, but a better solution may be to give all the animals their own beds and reclaim yours for your sole use.
Q: My Maine coon seems to be throwing up more hairballs than usual. What causes hairballs, and what can I do so my cat doesn’t have so many of them?
A: When cats groom themselves, some of the hair that’s removed by their tongue goes down the hatch. That’s when you hear that awful hacking, gagging sound that presages the delivery of a wet tube of hair. Not surprisingly, hairballs tend to be more common in longhaired cats like your Maine coon, but any cat can have them.
There are several steps you can take to try to reduce the incidence of hairballs. The first is to help him out with his grooming. Comb or brush him daily to help remove excess fur. When you finish brushing or combing the cat, wipe his coat with a damp cloth or paper towel to remove any remaining fine loose hairs that your cat might otherwise swallow. Make sure your cat stays hydrated. Feed canned food, which is high in moisture, and provide a pet fountain to encourage him to drink more water. Hydration helps to improve his gastrointestinal motility, which in turn increases the likelihood hair will move normally out of the stomach and intestines.
Give a daily hairball remedy – many cats enjoy the malt flavor. You can also find treats and cat foods that contain fiber to help move hair through the digestive tract. If these tips don’t help, your cat needs a full workup from the veterinarian. He may have inflammatory bowel disease, internal parasites, asthma, pancreatitis or some other serious problem.
English setter Shadow Oak Bo has already made history – twice. In 2013, he became the first setter in 43 years to win the National Championship for Bird Dogs at Ames Plantation in Tennessee, a February competition dominated by pointers. He pulled a repeat this year, becoming the first setter to win back-to-back titles since a dog named Sioux in 1901 and 1902. Will there be a three-peat?
▪ It’s that time of year, when homes are filled with beautiful but toxic holiday plants. Lilies, amaryllis, cyclamen, Jerusalem cherry, mistletoe and yew (often used in wreaths) can all be poisonous to cats and dogs. Signs of poisoning include decreased heart rate, seizures, drooling, tremors, loss of appetite, severe stomach upset, weakness, difficulty breathing and potentially fatal kidney failure. If you catch your pet nibbling on one of these plants or anything else that might be toxic, call your veterinarian or a pet poison hotline such as ASPCA Animal Poison Control (888-426-4435) or Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661). Both charge a fee for consultation.
▪ A new treatment may help the up to 500,000 cats annually who suffer from feline idiopathic cystitis, a chronic urinary blockage. Cats with the condition may have a defective layer of glycosaminoglycan (GAG) lining their urinary bladder. A pilot study of a drug called A-CYST, placed directly into the bladder via a catheter, showed promising results, according to the Winn Feline Foundation. In the randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial, three of seven placebo-treated cats suffered a repeat obstruction, but the nine cats who received A-CYST did not.
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton, author of many pet-care books. The two are affiliated with Vetstreet.com. Dr. Becker can also be found at facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.