In the mornings, I am the middle to a dog sandwich; one dog on each side, me in the middle and a kitten on top!
I think sometimes as dog trainers we are expected to have an allegiance to dogs over cats, but sometimes I think I am the opposite! I am a cat lover, and I am in love with a 3 pound cat that has absolutely no dog social skills at all.
This poses a distinct problem for me, being a dog trainer, I have dogs in and out of my house all the time and my cats need to keep their wits about them but this one just has no idea how dangerous the world of “dogs” can be.
We call my other cat “CARNAGE” because she can bring the screaming and the pain to any other living creature without ever touching it. Just look at her wrong and she begins to summon the devil from the depths of hell. She is the perfect cat to temperament test dogs.
It only takes a moment with Carnage for me to see if a dog is cat aggressive or cat respectful and she has been known to chase the “cat fearful” dogs from the room.
But my newest cat doesn’t have any of these skills and it poses a problem for me; even with my own dogs.
Meet Noella the Garbage Cat…
I have 16 acres of training space at my house and I usually hit the training field a few times a day.
I gathered my Dutch Shepherd together and we headed out the back door.
That is when I heard the violent foraging coming from the trash can.
I thought perhaps one of my rescued raccoons had decided to make an easy meal but was surprised when I lifted the lid to find a three pound kitten sifting through my trash.
I plucked her out and put her on the ground, figuring she belonged to a neighbor, I gathered Fury’s leash and headed out to get started training on our field.
With Fury tripping and bumping into me, I looked down to see a tiny kitten weaving in and out of her legs.
It was clear at this moment she had no dog skills, she should have been terrified of the big black hairy dog! Thank goodness Fury has a very motherly spirit.
This was also the moment I decided she should be mine, don’t worry I scoured the neighborhood for a possible owner.
Actually I am not sure how she survived as long as she did, you see when I took her to the vet, assuming she was an 8-10 week old kitten I was shocked to discover she was already an adult cat. It seems she had been starved during her growth period.
I figured perhaps after a few weeks of good nutrition and living with other animals she would gain some interpersonal animal skills. But I was wrong.
Perhaps She Loves the Dogs Too Much….
At night I carry her to my bedroom where she often wakes me up around 2 a.m. rubbing her stinky cat lips on my nose, purring and lovingly scratching me with her paws; the problem is that she does the same thing to any nearby dog. She can sometimes be seen ON my Fury’s back scratching like the cartoon cat Pussyfoot from “Feed the Kitty” with Marc Anthony the Bulldog.
This is not normal or “safe” kitty behavior! And, it means I have to trim her claws regularly!
She also romps through the house nearly climbing my one year old Malinois, who wants to play WAY too rough with her. I often see his gigantic mouth inch closer to her cranium simply because she looks like so much fun and has no fear of or respect for him.
In some ways, I know he can’t help it because she moves so fast and erratic that it kicks his prey drives and instincts into over drive, but I also don’t want a deceased kitten/tiny cat due to an accident. Thankfully he is the only dog in my pack I have to watch so carefully!
And, to be clear I am not worried he is going to kill her. Some dogs are not able to live with cats or other small animals because they are not able to control their prey drives. I already have a cat that he has been raised with and I know that he can control himself, it is just difficult for him right now. Safety first, never add a cat or another small animal if you think your dog is likely to kill it!!
How Can I Keep My Kitten Safe and My Puppy Happy?
- I know that morning time is “wild kitty cat” time so I also make that “exercise your puppy time”.
- This gives me an opportunity to get him out, work on obedience, play ball and in general get him to exercise to the point of near exhaustion.
- It’s funny, but a kitten is much less exciting when you are totally exhausted!
- Obedience gives me the edge
- If I can work on getting my dog to listen to me, when exciting things like flying kittens aren’t whizzing by his head, he will be more apt to listen to me when exciting things like pogo cats jump towards him!
- Should the desire to chase become overwhelming, I can control his behavior with the basic and advanced obedience commands we have worked on together! For more on obedience click here.
- I make sure my kitty has Puppy Free Zones.
- There are baby gates throughout the house that make for dog free zones that only cats can get into.
- Not only do I keep cat boxes in these areas, I also make sure there are places for cats to enjoy a good sun beam and a cat nap.
- I Keep an eye on my puppy all of the time!
- If I let him get out of my sight, he might have a chance to chase a cat who wouldn’t know how to defend herself, so I make sure to keep him with me and in my line of sight all the time.
- Allowing him to chase her builds his prey drive and that prey drive can get out of hand, so I don’t allow him to engage in that activity.
- By keeping them from playing these games my dog learns to control his impulses which will later set him up for a successful life with her.
- I crate him when I leave, or can’t keep an eye on them.
- Again I must keep the chase games from happening, so when I cannot watch him; he either spends some time playing outside or he goes into his crate.
- This ensures everyone’s safety!
Surprise! And, Good News…
- These techniques will work no matter what little animal or person your dog has an over eagerness for!
- Exercise, obedience, safe zones, and keeping an eye on my dog makes sure that everyone gets along in a safe environment!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.