Vol 10 No 2

Spring Flowers

Spring 2008

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Features in this Issue:

Friend... or Foe?

The Faces of Rescue

Photo Contest

Thank You

Recent Adoptions

Fond Farewells

Letters to GRRI-NJ

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Tales of Gold

Friend... or Foe?

We’re all familiar with the term “fighting like cats and dogs” but is this really a true statement?  CAN dogs and cats live together peacefully and be best friends?

Bronwyn & Mariah
Bronwyn & Mariah McFadden

According to 2007 Market Research statistics gathered by the American Veterinary Medical Association, 37.2% of the households in the United States have one or more dogs and 32.4% of the households have one or more cats1.  Many of these households have both dogs and cats.

MOST dogs and cats can live together in perfect harmony if some pre-adoption research is performed prior to bringing your new dog home.

The biggest problem between a dog and a cat is that in most instances, a cat will run when it meets a new dog.  And the dog will run after the cat.  It’s key to know if the chase is for the joy of the chase or with the intent to harm the cat.  So the first and most important bit of information to determine when adopting a new dog is if the dog has lived with a cat, is friendly with cats, or if it has a strong prey drive and might harm a cat. If the dog has a strong prey drive or if the dog has a history of killing small animals, then it is not a suitable companion to add to a cat-friendly home. Likewise,  if you know your cat does not like dogs, it’s not fair to bring a canine companion into your home – after all, your cat lived there first and his/her needs should come before that of a new pet.

O'Hara & Sonya
GRRI Rescue Golden O'Hara & Sonya McFadden

GRRI makes every attempt to determine if our rescue dogs are cat friendly. Our intake questionnaire asks if the Golden is good with other dogs, cats, children and/or other animals.  The answer to this question will determine the foster home we select for the dog and the potential applicant we choose to adopt the dog. If the dog has never been exposed to cats then we will not place it in a foster home with cats nor will we adopt it to an applicant with cats unless we can safely assess the Golden's behavior with a cat or another small animal prior to adoption.  

So now it’s time to take the big step. You’ve been matched with a beautiful female Golden that will be the perfect addition to your family. Some upfront planning is required to ensure that the transition goes as smoothly as possible. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can introduce your new dog to your resident cat immediately and that they’ll become pals instantly.

Monty & Sonya
GRRI Rescue Golden Monty & Sonya McFadden

  • Before bringing your new dog home, move all of your cat’s food bowls and the litter box to an area that will be off limits to your new dog. Many homes have “cat” rooms that are set aside as a “safe haven” for the cats when they want or need some quiet time.  A baby gate placed about 6 inches above the floor allows the cat to come and go as it pleases but will block all but a small dog from entering the room.  Another option is to install a small pet door so that the cats can move freely in and out of their designated room.  It’s a good idea to place your cat’s litter box in this safe room.  Dogs LOVE to eat litter box contents…need we say more?
  • When you bring your new dog home, make sure your cat is safe before bringing your new dog into the house.  While leashed, let the dog explore her new home so she can become familiar with all the new sights and smells.  After she’s done investigating her new surroundings confine her to a room behind a baby gate. Your cat should then be allowed to resume full access to the home.  The dog and cat will be able to see each other and smell each other but not physically come in contact with each other (unless the cat - or dog - jumps the gate!)
  • After several days leash your dog and bring her into a common area in your home where your cat is. Do not hold the cat in your arms and bring it into direct contact with the dog.  Make sure the cat has enough room to escape if it needs to.  If the dog lunges at the cat, tell the dog to “LEAVE IT”, then SIT, STAY; reward and treat.  Be prepared to take a step back and wait until both the cat and the dog relax.  Move a little closer and repeat the commands, reward and treat.  If the cat responds by hissing and spitting do not punish the cat.  Do not reprimand the cat if she decides to smack the dog on the nose if she comes too close. Your cat has the right to defend herself.  Continue to focus on the dog, reinforcing positive behavior, and ignoring the cat. Do not force the cat or the dog to meet each other.  Take your time and be patient.  You may need to stop and repeat these sessions over the course of several days.
  • Sometimes it helps to exchange blankets or towels that the dog and cat have slept on to allow each of them to get used to the scent of the other animal.
  • Always feed your dog and cat separately.  Cat foods are very enticing to a dog because of their strong scent.  Additionally, because cats are carnivores, their food will contain a higher level of protein than a dog food would.  For this same reason, a cat should never be fed dog food. Both species have different dietary requirements and deliberately swapping their foods could lead to serious health problems.

Putting the time and effort up front to help your pets become acclimated to each other will reap great rewards down the road. One day you’ll discover the perfect Kodak moment when you find them curled up together on their favorite bed or piece of furniture.

Huntley & Sunny Raicer
Huntley & Sunny Raicer

1 American Veterinary Medical Association’s 2007 U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographic Sourcebook