Cats and Dogs: felines are friends not food

”Fight like cat and dog” – it’s a tale of tails that’s as old as time.

I’m a dog person, that’s a given. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never had anything against felines, I just found my calling with canines, yet here I am typing whilst sharing my seat with my purring prince…

Our little rescue cat Zoro (who hails all the way from Argentina) has been with us for 8 months now! It’s been a delightful adventure filled with laughter and heart warming moments. My only regret is that I did not adopt a cat into our lives sooner.

Our personal reasons for getting a cat were diverse. I wanted company for Kygo, a natural mouse deterrent and to be completely honest, the challenge that came with training a German Shepherd to NOT chase the cat.

Finding a kitten was a minefield of disappointment. I wanted to adopt an adult cat originally, however I was a little aprehsvie that a cat already set in it’s ways would prefer to avoid Kygo at all costs. That was a huge risk to take and in our home, once an animal leaves the shelter, they stay. I then discovered that the shelter did infact have kittens for adoption – apparently, the start of Spring was kitten season. However, there was a catch. You had to take two – they were adopted out in pairs. But I really didn’t want to have two cats before I know what having just the one was like…

I searched the internet for hours looking for a kitten or a young cat in need of a home. I reached out to a few ads online but the moment the advertisers learnt I had a dog (especially a GSD) they refused. (Fair enough but surely the fact I am a dog behaviourist counts for something, right?)

So the search continued until one night over dinner and cocktails, I received a message from one of my favourite clients. She and her partner had found a lovely lady named Celeste that travelled all over the world rescuing cats and kittens, nursing them back to health and rehoming them here in The Netherlands. I immediately contacted Cat Rescue Diaries and our adoption process began.

When you read about how to introduce cats to dogs, there’s much to be found about keeping the kitten in an enclosed area for a period of time. Their world starts small and you gradually increase their access to other areas of the house. Swap scent between your dog and cat. Use a crate for management and supervise interactions etc.

As you know, I tend to stray off the trodden path when it comes to guidelines . Upon Zoro arriving, we did indeed set up the office for him. It’s quiet, a no-dog zone and we wanted him to feel as safe and secure as possible. Kygo knew something was happening – he sniffed every inch of the cat basket we brought Zoro home in like there was no tomorrow. He kept waiting at the bottom of the stairs looking longingly up towards the office door. Whenever we went to go and play with, cuddle and check on Zoro, Kygo would be asking permission to follow. We made the rule that our dog would not be allowed to invade Zoro’s new sacred space.

Fast forward a day and I decided to test the waters a little. I bundled Zoro up in the yellow blanket he came home in and slowly went downstairs with him snuggled close to my chest. I instructed Kygo to go to his bed (something we have implemented and proofed with all manner of distractions since he was young)  and walked into the living room. Surprisingly but of course naturally, Kygo was overstimulated by the scent and sight of a tiny little kitten head and broke his command. He rushed to me which resulted in Zoro instinctually hissing and immediately pooping all down me! Of course, a 40 kilo dog (no matter their intentions) approaching with speed is going to freak the heck out of any cat…

I redirected Kygo to place and put him in a down stay. I didn’t want their last memory being around one another as ”negative” so I set a goal of 5 minutes place work for Kygo whilst I went to the sofa (just out of sight) with Zoro and calmed him down with lots reinforcement before returning him to the office. Baby steps – scent and sharing space first before sight. I practiced this ritual daily – each time becoming easier and smoother than the last. Once I was happy, I continued to increase the duration, reduce distance and added sound, sight and movement. Zoro being able to see Kygo move around was a challenge (I noted Ky’s heavy footsteps and breathing was making Zoro uneasy.) Desensitizing Kygo to the quick movement of a kitten playing also took some training!

My main goal from the get-go was to ensure that Zoro was not afraid of entering Kygo’s downstairs domain. I did not want my cat to be afraid of walking the floor, nor did I want my dog chasing or herding the cat. As with any training, it took many repetitions and consistency but within 10 days of Zoro arriving, they were comfortable sharing space and were showing signs of positive engagement.

Now, Ky and Zoro have a wonderful relationship. They chill, cuddle, steal toys from one another, share chews and they really do fight like cat and dog. It’s comical to watch and just what I had envisioned through my rose-tinted glasses. They have never, ever harmed one another. As Zoro grew in confidence (and in size) he became the instigator of playtime. He stalks Kygo, jumps him and they even wrestle.  I couldn’t be prouder of the two of them. This dynamic duo are fantastic fur friends.

For those of you searching for a cat or kitten, I highly recommend Cat Rescue Diaries!

Celeste and her partner are so passionate about their work and socialise the kittens they rescue with great care. It was obvious that Zoro was very used to human contact.

Of course, if you need a helping hand with your cat and dog’s relationship, don’t hesitate to contact us: harlie@nerodogtraining.nl.

My client that gave me the details of this wonderful organisation has also had great success with her kitten Thom (Zoro’s brother) and their Golden Retriever, Dexter. They are the best of buds! You can follow their adventures on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dexandthom/

We also had another one of our Nero Squad members adopt from Cat Rescue Diaries! They welcomed Bronx the kitten into their family not too long ago and Bucky their Border Collie is buzzing to have a feline friend at home:

 

 

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