dog chasing a cat

Unsafe at Any Speed

Question:
My girlfriend and I are mature adults who want to bring our pets together. Chewie is an eight year old dog, sweet, sensitive, and friendly, but inclined to chase small furry creatures. My girlfriend has a five year old reclusive and somewhat scaredy-cat, Roo, who is deathly afraid of Chewie. We would like them to become comfortable together, to develop an ease and rapport, and maybe even learn to cuddle.

Dr. Nichol:
I won’t argue your maturity, only that the collision course you are contemplating would certainly put it to a test. While there are lots of cats and dogs with strong friendships the idea of Chewie and Roo following their owner’s simpatico relationship is entirely unrealistic. Chewy’s delight in the thrill of the chase could turn deadly if he corners Roo. These tragedies are not rare.

The deck is already stacked against a trusting relationship between these two. Each of them experiences an immediate adrenalin release when seeing the other. It’s fight for Chewy and flight for Roo. With Roo’s deeply-rooted fear of that big fuzzy dog she panics when seeing him. As a natural predator, Chewie cannot help but to react with glee when she bolts.

Your responsibility when combining households will be to protect Roo’s security and well-being at any cost. Create a safe indoor space for her where Chewie cannot go by locating an Invisible Fence Indoor Avoidance Shield (505-474-7387) next to the doorway into Roo’s “safe room”. Chewy will wear a receiver collar to prevent his access. A floor-to-ceiling cat tree, positioned against a window, and some well-placed hide boxes would allow Roo to safely enjoy feline-specific climbing, scratching, and perching behaviors. When her arch nemesis is in the yard she can expand her horizons and roam the house.

I urge you and the good woman in your life to abandon any thoughts of holding Roo for Chewy to sniff or sitting with her in your lap while feeding the big guy nearby. You’d be throwing gasoline on a fire. There is no potential for kumbaya in your current plan. Cuddling and canoodling are off the table for these pets.

Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog, or a Facebook Live to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.