D ear Old Trainer: My granddaughter is coming to live with me while she goes to college. I have Sally, a Shih Tzu, and Willie, a Lhasa Apso, and she has Moody, a 4-year old cat. I want this to work because she is so much company to me, so I don’t want the dogs to bother the cat. They are both trained and never cause any problems, but they have never been around a cat. Do you think there will be a problem?
– Anita, Reno
Dear Anita: Don’t worry, Anita, there is no genetic enmity between cats and dogs. The public believes there is because when a dog sees a strange cat both of them obey natural impulses. The cat flees for the nearest tree, the dog’s pursuit reflex kicks in and he chases the cat.
The belief is so widespread society uses the perceived hostility as a metaphor for any groups who don’t get along. But millions of people have both, and the dog never bothers the cat.
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I am one of them. Bob the cat came out of the woods one day and joined the pack while we were on our walk. He just walked up and started loving on the dogs like they were old buddies he hadn’t seen in a while.
Now he eats and sleeps with the dogs, and they treat him like a member of the pack. He picks a different one each night to sleep with and they let him curl up next to them. They stroll around the yard together and if the dogs mark, he marks too.
There are three reasons you have no worries. One, your dogs are trained. If they bother Moody just tell them no. Two, both breeds are gentle and loving, and will welcome a new member of the pack. Three, Moody can take care of himself. He will box their ears if they get uppity.
To prepare the dogs and make the transition easy, here is all you have to do. Tell Sally and Willie that Moody is coming to live with them and you want them to behave. Talk to them every day and use the name Moody each time you talk to them. When Moody arrives, let both dogs approach him and sniff him while your granddaughter holds him and strokes him. Be calm and relaxed while they meet. If you are tense, the dogs will know it and think it is because of the cat.
Give them time and space to work out the new arrangement. Moody may spit and hiss a little and the dogs may give a few perfunctory barks to warn Moody to respect their territory, but let them work it out unless you have to settle a squabble.
Feed Moody on a chair or bench where the dogs can’t get to his food, and fix him a place he can relax away from them. Pet them all and let them know everything is fine and you approve of the new arrangement. Within a few days they will be friends.