Foster homes and cat problems

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Foster homes and cat problems

Postby Red » Fri Jan 27, 2006 6:52 pm

Recently I have been reading of folks having difficulties with their dogs and cats.I had experiences like that with a few dogs and especially Tigger, now mine but came here as a foster dog.Tigger tried to kill my cat on the second day she was here.I do not do any interaction so soon, my husband left the laundry room open and the cat got in Tigger's face.The only thing that saved the cat was a furniture.Both me and my husband had trouble holding Tigger and we were on top of her.She was in lalaland, all she cared about was to get the cat.
So I thought of sharing my experience and what I did, for what is worth.It was about 9 months of work, it did not happen overnight and no mistakes.Maybe it can help someone and avoid a dog to end up kicked out of the house and a dead cat.This is especially for foster homes since we are responsible for the dog we take in and our own pets.

The first rule is to know the risks of bringing home an uknown dog.Your evaluation at the shelter, AC of whatever the dog comes from is only a little snapshot of the personality, habits and genetic of the dog. Once the dog is in a different environment all the "problems" show up, things might change.If the injury or even loss of a pet (it can happen) will buy the foster dog a ticket back to the pound or worse then don't foster.It is a risk, plain and simple, but good management and commitment can save troubles.

After the accident I kept Tigger totally away from the cat for about 2 months.She knew it was in the house but I did not allow her to see it.This is to try to take her mind off of it a bit and get to know the dog.
Then I started to show the cat to Tigger trough a baby gate and not knowing if she would jump it she was also on a lead.I had treats and solid hold of the lead.I was waiting for the moment she looked at me, to praise her.The first time it took 40 minutes for a quick look.Tigger knew no commands so before this I started teaching "watch me".I like positive training to teach commands but I am also not very positive when it comes to house rules.The cat is something the dogs here cannot touch and I enforce it.I don't get physical and hurt the dog but I make it clear that they cannot eat the cat.Tigger was "corrected" with voice and pulled back when she lunged at the cat.

When Tigger looked at me the first time she got her treat and the cat was put away.I started doing this every day.Tigger would see the cat for 5 minutes every day.The beginning was quite frustrating and things looked less than promising.There was lunging at open mouth, screaming and major fits.A strong and determined dog trying to do something can be an hassle. I kept insisting on it.
In the meantime I found out that she was very food motivated so I would do the "cat sessions" before a meal.
To one look a few more followed.After a few months the baby gate came down and I would have the cat loose and Tigger on lead and I would walk her around the house.By then she knew "watch me" and associated lunging at the cat with trouble while looking at me would bring treats and ball time.
I decreased the distance very slowly since she was still trying to see if there was a way she could get a hold of the cat.Than meant taking a step back and work from distance.

Tigger also saw the cat when she was crated and treats were thrown to her when she laid down and ignored the cat, along with vocal praise.
When she finally stopped to lunge and pull toward the cat and I saw her focusing on me and the food I let her loose behind the baby gate and watched her, while the cat was on the other side of the gate.Tigger ignored the cat and walked away from the gate when asked.If she seemed too interested I would say "nah-ha" and she would step back and go lay down on her bed.This was around 5 or 6 months after she came here.Her body language in the cat's presence was starting to relax and she was able to play with her toys or chew on a bone behind the baby gate. With some experience we can read a dog before something happen and anticipate it and use postures to tell us what is going on.

Then Tigger was brought in the kitchen loose with the cat and me there, for 10 minutes or so each time.
My husband was there also in case of problems.I had a bunch of treats and kept asking the dog to stay next to me.Each time she looked at the cat she was re directed with the voice and a treat was popped in her mouth.



3 months after that Tigger was allowed to be loose in the living room and every room of the house with both me and the cat there.I would still offer treats and kept calling her to me but by then she wasn't showing dangerous interest in the cat.The cat was also relaxed around her.

At that point I felt that Tigger was ready to be with the cat without major problems so I increased the time they interacted.
This is how things are today, two years after the day she tried to kill my cat.Here she is asked to ignore the cat:




The same excercises were done with Jack who also try his best to get a hold of small animals.It is a year and one month that he has been here and it is about 2 months since he is allowed to be near the cat.He is some crazy dog so he is watched closely:


There are 4 dogs in this room and the cat is on the bed.Each one of them, except the little one, has prey drive and can't be trusted with any other small animal outside my house.If I leave the room the cat is not safe any more.I am very aware of it.One dog alone might not hurt the cat but with 3 of them it takes very little to get over excited, especially if the cat decides to move fast.



All this been said there is no guarantee that the dogs will never try to do something.Tigger will get any cat outside of the house, even mine.If my cat runs in the yard she will get it.Prey drive is something that cannot be eliminated on a dog.The rules only apply in my house and they are the result of months of work.I do not expect the dogs to "learn" not to be aggressive towards small animals but I do want them to follow some rules in my own house.Some dogs will never be able to be in the same room with a cat but I believe that many can get to that point, with the resident cat at least.Without forgetting that the way they behave inside the house is not going to affect their instincts.Outside the house it is fair game.
As a matter of fact months ago I let Tigger out and there was a neighbor's cat in my back yard.Before I saw it Tigger got it.I lifted her by the hips with the cat in her mouth.I twisted the collar till she coughed to get the cat out of it.She did not kill it nor seriously hurt him but I don't know what would have happened if I wasn't quick enough.Dogs will be dogs so never trust them or rely on what you see in your household.
There is always a chance of accidents and someone can get hurt.My husband spent 4 days on IV and morphine for an infected cat bite.He had the cat in his arms and made the mistake to let him see Tigger, as he was walking outside.The cat remembered that same dog and bit my husband, trying to run for his life.

This is my experience and the way I approach foster dogs with high prey drive.It works for me, so far, granted I am willing to be patient and careful.It might not be the same with the next dog and there might be a serious accident.I am not telling anyone that it will work for you, but it is worth to give it a try at least.Mistakes can and will happen, to everyone.They teach us what we probably did not know how to manage.Sometime it is just bad luck so we have to be sure that we are ready to deal with things before we get ourselves and our own animals in trouble.And time, lots of time.
I hope this helps a little.

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Postby Tullster » Fri Jan 27, 2006 7:02 pm

That is great advice Red, thanks for posting, and I am going to try your method with Rhino and our cats, who so far have no interaction at all.

Mods - can we sticky this?

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Postby Scooch&Beau » Fri Jan 27, 2006 7:50 pm


I'm sure a lot of people will find that very helpful!

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Postby OlympianAB » Fri Jan 27, 2006 10:47 pm

awesome post:)

cappuccino has high prey drive..squirels racoons all she tries to eat...

but she sleeps w 2 of the cats every nite..(no pics)

and she's fine w the other 2..and my friends cats..but she's learned between me and Kasey my older kitten scratching her face.. the cats are not toys..

now were are working on her some how letting us know when the darn cats hurt her.. bc they play w her tail and her ears and doesn't care..but it starts to bleed..and all that..

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Postby Cheshirekatt » Fri Jan 27, 2006 10:59 pm

Excellent post, Red!

I'm always amazed at the people who just toss the cat and unknown dogs together.....scary! I'm not willing to risk any of my kitties. They were here first and they come first. Usually I just completely seperate the high prey drive fosters from the cats totally. Maybe I'll try this with Clifford if only to desensitize him to them a bit.


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Postby X-girl » Fri Jan 27, 2006 11:14 pm

Thanks so much for writing this up, Red. I'm sure many people will find it very helpful.


Postby Emarr » Thu Mar 02, 2006 3:21 pm

I also think it was great. As I've got four cats I was nervous to bring in my large pitt mix. They took a while to get to an understanding of how the household will operate but now it's Utopia! I praise all of you that have both cats and dogs at home when it is safe to do so. So many people stick to one or the other. :thumbsup:

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Postby heather » Mon Apr 24, 2006 6:02 pm

Great sticky, very practical and realistic. Many of us want to foster and have cats and I believe it is possible--at least it has been for me.

The dogs I have fostered want to play with the cat, play bows, excited barks, etc... I have mostly had to keep on leash at first and then teach, "NO" and then teach them not to chase in play b/c I know that can lead to danger for the cat, esp. if they team up. My foster Molly was totally preoccupied with the idea that the cats would play with her. She kept play bowing and whining and chasing. When she learned not to chase and got whacked a few times enough to draw blood, she learned and hasn't even looked at the cat in her new home. Like you said, they can learn to ignore or even be affectionate with cats in the home, but I would not trust my male Dozer with an outside cat. I can take him to anyone's house with cats and he won't bother them (other than greet them) at all. It is like outside cats are a different animal to him.

I am lucky to have three cats that don't let dogs intimidate them and one of them that will walk right up to them and swat them if they get clumsy or run by him carelessly.

Thanks for the insightful post! :thumbsup:


Postby PitBullPride » Sun May 28, 2006 4:23 pm

I have been having this problem with Tonka and Spike. It looks almost like I will have to rotate Tonka being loose and Spike being put in the bedroom forever. I tried that technique but it just doesn't seem to work! Mind you, I to aquired Tonka as an adult, who never lived with cats. I don't know what else to do.... :frown:

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Postby Red » Mon May 29, 2006 12:43 pm

I tried that technique but it just doesn't seem to work! Mind you, I to aquired Tonka as an adult, who never lived with cats. I don't know what else to do....

How long have you tried this for? Like I mentioned it took 9 months of work with Tigger and not a promising start.Some dogs will never be able to be near a cat and this is to consider.
What point are you at? Do you get eye contact when the cat is near by? Anything at all? What's your approach when the dog is too interested in the cat, how do you try to redirect?

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Postby mydogsarethepits » Fri Jun 02, 2006 5:40 pm

:thumbsup: Very Helpful!!


Postby lizpitlover » Thu Jul 06, 2006 2:12 pm

I'm adopting a dog this weekend, and I have a cat that is very very importrant to me.
I am afraid that the new dog will attack him. She was tested with cats, but she had just been spayed, so she was feeling sick and was lathargic, and thus ignored the cats.

My cat goes up into a loft that I have, so that's his "safe" spot. The stairs are steep, and blocked off, so the dog probably won't be able to get up.

My question is, what do I do the SECOND I bring the dog home? The SEOCND I walk in the door? Should I allow the dog to smell the scent of the cat first? I can guarentee my cat won't come down if he sees a dog. But eventually, they will need to meet.

How do I handle this when the time comes?

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Postby Red » Tue Jul 11, 2006 1:52 am

Is it my screen or that font color is hard to read?

My question is, what do I do the SECOND I bring the dog home? The SEOCND I walk in the door? Should I allow the dog to smell the scent of the cat first? I can guarentee my cat won't come down if he sees a dog. But eventually, they will need to meet.

I'd wait for the dog to fully recover before you attempt to see how it goes between the two of them.A spaying surgery is quite an ordeal for a female dog.You don't want her to get over excited about the cat and hurt herself jumping or even trying to get the cat.Will the stiches be out when she comes home?What breed is she, by the way?
When the recovery time is over have a special place for the cat, where there is no way the dog can reach it.If your cat is not used to dogs he might literally freak out and run all over the place, causing most dogs to chase it down.Make sure he is in a place where he can't go anywhere.
The dog has to be able to see the cat.Only smelling the cat is probably going to make her to frantically look for it.A crate can be used but I would wait to see some positive responses before you put the cat in there.It isn't fair for the cat to have to be in a small place while a dog is thinking to kill it.Later and if the dogs can be by the crate without major fits you can use the crate, to decrease the distance between them bust still being safe.
Once the cat is safe have a leash on the dog and walk by the area where the cat is.Watch your dog's reaction.Is there a random look and the dog is more interested in you than the cat? The dog is interested in the cat but not too excited?Is she piching a screaming fit and try to get the cat? Does she try to frantically scratch the gate or whatever you use to separate the cat with intense stare and dilated (sp?) pupils ignoring any attempt to distract her?
If the dog respond like the last two cases, get her out of the room to chill out and take a deep breath.You got a lot of work ahead of you.
This was only tro give you an idea of how bad the situation is.It might not even that bad all, it depends on the dog.No more for that day.
The following day try again, always making sure the dog is able to see the cat but can't reach it.Leash on, the dog might attempt to charge the area where the cat is since she knows it is there.If she shows way too much interest start working on distracting her, offer a toy, treat, encourage her to come to you clapping hands or whatever works.You can try to feed her if she takes food.Some dogs get so stressed out for the presence of a cat that they are not going to touch food.If she stops looking at the cat and turn her head to you that is great, praise her heavily.It is your first step.
Then proceed like I explained on my initial post.Like I said the situation might not be as bad as it was with my Tigger and the dog could not care less about the cat.Go ahead and let her recover and start the first "introduction".Let me know how it goes and if you need help I am here.

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Postby concreterose » Thu Jul 13, 2006 6:29 pm

I used a slightly different approach in introducing Solomon to my cats, but still had a successful integration into the house with them all. I kept them seperated for a week before I let them see each other. I kept rags and towels all over the house will all their scents on them in every room. I rotated them so that they were not in the same room together, but there was always an article or two with their scents around.

The cats would lay on the towels that I laid around with Solomon's scent on them after a few days. Solomon would sniff the articles with the cat's scents on them. He never really went 'looking' for them, but was interested to know that they were in the house. After about a week (when the cats were ready) I let them come out at their own leisure to be in the same room with Solomon, and only when he was on a tie-down. Any appropriate response from him earned him praises and treats. Any overly aggressive or stressful behaviors to the cats earned him a stern reprimand and removal from the room.

After a month, Solomon is reliable to be around my cats supervised and behave appropriately. He does not chase the cats in the house when they are running and playing, or try to be too rough with them. He wants to eat any cat (or rabbit, or squirrel, or bird LOL) he sees outside of my house, this dog has a very intense prey drive. All dogs are different, and may need more or less time to be reliable, you have to assess your own situation applicably.

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Thanks for the Hope

Postby izapitty » Tue Nov 28, 2006 4:07 pm

My wife and I have been working since day one on having a calm cat/dog atmosphere. Right now I have a 30% success rate, I can reclaim eye contact most times and everything is OK. It is the times that I can not reclaim eye contact is when all Hell breaks loose. Luckily Sadie just rolls the cats and doesnt eat them.

Thank you for giving me hope that we are on the right track.

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