An opinionated feline in Edmonton, Canada who lived with a retired cat behaviourist, Greyce provided behavioral advice to cats in need until her death in July 2014. Because her entries are useful even today, the blog remains posted.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tyrone the Cat Gets More Advice on Living with a Puppy

Hello Tyrone,

I promised to advise you further about dealing with the new puppy who will soon become a part of your household.

In my last entry to you (published on 10/3/13), we reviewed:
- Getting you used to puppy sounds and smells in advance.
- Getting your folks up to speed on what it takes to raise a puppy and how to decode cat talk.
- Paying special attention to making sure puppy understands that you are much higher up in the family hierarchy, so you will be treated with respect (and be safe).
- Moving your food and water to a place puppy cannot reach.
- Bringing the kennel that puppy will sleep in into the master bedroom now so you can get used to it; locating it in a way that still makes your favourite sleeping spot accessible and safe for you.
- Using Feliway to enhance your sense of calm.
- Putting a puppy barrier to block access to your litter box so you can use it in peace.

Since writing that entry, I consulted with two colleagues who are experts on this matter because they have had to adapt to several dogs and one very rambunctious puppy in their household: Bud an elder with years of experience, and his much younger companion, Jasmine.

Bud: Senior Adviser
Here is what they told me.

My point about hierarchy is right on. Puppies and dogs must know their place, at the bottom of the family ranking system. Otherwise they could decide to boss you around, discipline you and generally dis-respect you. Since canines are happiest when they know where they rank (even if it is at the bottom), everyone will be doing puppy and you a great service by enforcing this rule. It will make for happy puppy and happy and safe, you.

Both cats agree that household access is very important to you. Since the kitchen is an important area and one in which puppy will be housed, they encourage the use of chairs or step stools to allow you to get in an out of the area when you wish, without having to disturb the barrier(s) that keep puppy safely confined. They stressed the importance of having shelves, stools, cat tree or other items to which you can easily jump if you want to be in the area puppy is, but not have puppy bug you.  They also recommend that there be areas in the house which are off-limits to puppy but not to you so that you always have a safe place to which to retreat (and just be by yourself). 

One of the biggest issues between canines and felines is that of being chased. If you don't believe me, have a look at Timmy's long entry (Timmy the Brave published on 8/28/13). When you are wary, your first instinct is likely to run away - especially if puppy approaches you too quickly or tries to invade your space. Puppy will believe that this means you want a game of chase, when in actual fact you just want puppy to retreat. Indications that chasing is a problem include the following: 1) You are reluctant to enter the area where puppy is because puppy runs after you; 2) every time puppy sees you puppy runs after you and you leave the area or retreat in some way. Cats who learn to be calm and walk by puppy slowly, do not get chased. To help you learn this strategy, it is very important that you get to know puppy in your own time and on your own terms (no forced meetings) and that puppy is restrained (in some fashion like a leash) to be kept at a distance apart from you, until YOU are ready to come closer. Of course, should you and puppy become fast friends, you may agree to games of chase - but that is play and an entirely different matter.

Last but not least, make sure that family members do not get so drawn to the needs and novelty of puppy that they neglect you. Someone should be assigned to ensure to your comfort, playing and petting needs on a daily basis.

Bud offered further advice. He is a senior cat with mobility issues; yet he is fed on the kitchen counter - something your folks ruled out because you are less that graceful at jumping. Here is his solution for your consideration: use a two-step step stool such as one with resin steps or in plastic (available from department and hardware stores) to get up to the counter. It gives enough of a boost to safely reach the counter at which you can dine in peace.

Jasmine Review Her Advice
 And Jasmine endorses blocking access to the litter box. She directed her purrsons to modify their baby gate in a manner different from what I suggested. They purchased the kind of gate that can be fixed with hinges to the door frame (so it is permanently installed) - an example of which is shown in the link. But instead of installing it flush to the floor, they raised it high enough for her and her feline colleagues to slip under but too low for the dogs! This saved them the effort of making an entryway in the gate itself. This kind of gate can swing open like a door, so it is easy for humans to get in an out to clean your litter box.

I wish you every success in training your puppy (and your purrsons) to meet your important requirements.

Do let me know how it goes,