Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Your Cat and The Dog

Working with Great Pyrenees, we have had the amazing luck of being able to suggest their new Pyr will be great with their family cat.  Most animal lovers have many species at home, and their harmony together should be paramount to your desire to keep adding.  While we can advise someone on whether a dog is good or not with cats, you really need to consider your cat.  Great Pyrenees, as livestock guardians, should be great with your cat or other small animals.  Their job is/was to guard the farm and flock, and a Pyr who isn't cool with cats is a rarity.

I have run into many cat owners who give minimal consideration to their cats in many ways.  If you dote on your cats, or worry too much about how they'll react, you get labeled as "cat person", which label somehow suggests you address the health and well being of your feline unrealistically.  I am a cat and dog owner, and was first a cat owner, and my concern about them, or any animal which preceded any new animal, is my main concern.

Regardless of if your new dog likes cats or not, you need to consider the temperament of your cat.  The best dog in the world may still freak them out.  And if you know cats, you know they show this dissatisfaction in many undesirable ways.  Cats are extremely sensitive to change, and may often urinate in undesirable places (to say the least) as his/her main way to express their upset emotional state.

My cats were all seniors before they ever met their first dog.  I was nervous, but at the same time I was confident they'd be fine.  Why, is because all my cats are extremely socialized, which yielded highly confident, resilient animals.  I don't "treat them like ferns", where I clean up after then, water and feed, and am content to let them be.  I always ensured an optimal amount of affection, play, and talk.  When I introduced a dog, and then more dogs, I ensured I did not cut back on my time one on one with them. I also ensured they had plenty of places to jump up high to escape the dog tyranny and feel safe.

If someone has a cat who was rescued and perhaps isn't as confident as they should be to accept a dog, consider gentle ways to introduce them.  I know with new cat introductions, I was advised to allow my cats to be separated and sniff each other through a door for a day or two.  Never force socialization; never pull your cat out from it's safe place and demand it "gets over it".  Give them time, and be sure they have places to hide and high places to stand and look down on the dogs (which they inevitably think is their place in the order of things).

If your cat is really freaked out, maybe skip on the dog for now.  Your previous animals are your first commitment, and no level of selfish desire to add more animals should take precedence over their needs.
All the same, don't give up on your new dog right away if they don't respond ideally to your cat.  They may need your gentle guidance to understand what is acceptable.  My one Pyr, Cahota, growled at 1 of my cats for a couple of days when he came home.  It wasn't random, he growled when Mr. Gink (my cat) was receiving affection from me when Cahota thought it was all about him.  When I heard the growl, I did not put down Gink (in fear he'd realize his growl got it's desire effect), I stood, Gink in arms, and got a tall, strong body posture in front of Cahota.  I explained to him, "No, Gink is my cat and you don't growl at anything I own".  Eventually, in not much time at all, Cahota got it.  I was never afraid he'd hurt Mr.Gink, as he is a Pyrenees after all, and it'd be highly unusual.

I sometimes still need to correct one of my dogs with my cats.  Sometimes the running of a kitty is just too much for a dog to take.  My dogs smile wide and take pursuit, shocked that my cat didn't intend to play the whole time.  But, my cat finds it's safe zone where it can scowl down at the dog and reassure him that he, of course, is way smarter!

Great Pyrenees are my breed match for many reasons, and the main reason being is their lower energy level and acceptance of cats.  Higher energy dogs, I have found, tend to freak out cats more.  Cats raised with dogs seem to show a great resilience, but I would advise a new dog owner away from herding breeds or other nervous/high energy dogs unless their cats are well socialized or grew up with dogs.  I know my Pyrs and Bull Mastiff listen to me, and moreover I know they spend most of their day sleeping.. which my cats are extremely grateful for!


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