Our cat, Lily, was really good friends with our previous dog, who recently passed away. Now we have a four-month-old puppy and he won’t leave Lily alone. She hates him! How can we make them be best friends?
Denise Price advises...
recently lost a dog. With the arrival of your new puppy, there’s been quite a lot of changes at home for you – and your cat – to cope with. We can’t train animals to be best friends, just as we can’t make children be best friends. At the end of the day, relationships develop over time and vary between individuals. So, your puppy and Lily may never have the close bond you hope for. Give it a little more time, though, as it may blossom. You can certainly train your puppy to have better manners around his feline housemate. When working with dog-cat introductions, always make sure the cat has plenty of places to be comfortable and to escape to. Access to any cat-flap should be a dog-free zone so that your cat can come and go freely without running the gauntlet of being harassed by the puppy.
Baby gates are a godsend; they give a cat the freedom to move about the home just as she did before the puppy arrived. It is important for Lily that she can eat, drink, use her litter tray, hide, climb and rest undisturbed. For now, while you are training your puppy how to behave around Lily, keep an eye on all of their interactions. If you don’t supervise them, the puppy will have great fun chasing her. This will make him want to do it more, and make her hate him more!
In the early days, when you are all together, consider using a house line. This is a light, long lead and will help you keep your puppy under close control. Praise and encourage all calm interactions. For example, if your puppy looks at Lily, say his name and then reward him for being able to respond to you. This is teaching your puppy that it pays to always listen to you, even if your cat is near. Teach your puppy some calm positions, such as a sit or a down, working up to practising them in the presence of the cat. When the puppy gets over-excited, or Lily looks like she’s had enough, practise recalling your dog to you with some brilliant treats (using the house line to prevent him from running away from you). If your puppy is in a playful mood, use that time to interact with him yourself, playing with or training him. With enough repetition, your puppy will learn that the source of entertainment, fun and rewards is you – not poor Lily!