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Home » The Vine

The Vine: July 8, 2011

Submitted by on July 8, 2011 – 9:42 AM21 Comments

So the good news first: the boyfriend and I are moving in together! YAY! Now, the bad news: he has a dog, I have a cat.

This is not that bad of news, as my cat actually thinks he's a dog and gets along fine with most of them. The dog has met the cat before and is basically just confused as to why he doesn't run when she puts her nose in his backside (he will swipe at her when he gets annoyed, which is a concern of boyfriend since he has all his claws).

The dilemma is that the dog has always had all-day access to the outdoors via doggie door, whereas the cat has never been allowed outside. I don't want to take away dog's access to outside and functions she needs to take care of, but I also don't want to come home and found my cat…well…nowhere. Do readers have any ideas to help or that they've tried? I'm considering an invisible fence, but am not sure how successful that will be (for the record though, my cat is on the larger side, he's very long and about 13 pounds).

As an addition: this will all take place in a new house for everyone, so if there's suggestions for setting up the environment for success in the introductions (as stated, they've met before, but only in very controlled situations and for limited time) I welcome that as well. My thought is to let the cat there first, then the dog will just think he comes with the house.

Thanks oh mighty Nation!

Cats and dogs DO mix

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  • Amalthea says:

    If you're willing to invest in a different dog door, they make some that are activated by the dog's collar, so that the dog will be able to open the door, but the cat won't.

    Here's an example, though I haven't used this particular door myself:

  • Flora says:

    That is brilliant, Amalthea!

  • Margravine says:

    My thought on the pet door issue is that there are collars the dog could wear that control access to the door. It's supposed to be for keeping raccoons and such out, but maybe such a thing could keep it open for the dog and closed for the cat.

  • Stephanie says:

    I've never done a cat-dog acclimation, but I've done cat-cat, and dog-dog. A few things that may work:

    Before the move, have each animal sleep on something (like a towel) for a few days. Then move each towel into the other animal's house. This helps them become acclimated to each other's smell.

    Treats! During introductions, give each animal lots of whatever treats they like. This will cement the idea that when the other animal is around, good things happen. You sit with your cat at one end of the room, your bf at the other with the dog (or on opposite sides of an open doorway). Give them lots of petting and treats. Gradually move them together (either the same day, if they seem relaxed, or over several days).

    Stay relaxed yourselves. Animals, especially dogs, take their cues from their humans. If your boyfriend is tense and nervous (like about the dog getting scratched), the dog will read that energy and think that there is something to be nervous or scared about.

    Another option is baby gates for a little while. Keep them apart, but where they can see and smell each other, esp. if you can't be around, but you don't feel like they are safe together. It helps them acclimate better than closing them in separate rooms.

    For the cat – make sure he has plenty of spaces in your new apartment where he can get up high, away from the dog. Cats feel safest up high, and most especially when they can transverse the entire room without touching the ground (chairback to windowsill to shelf to windowsill, etc). If the cat feels like he can get around the room without having to be on the ground with the dog (i.e. the dog can't corner him) there is less of a chance he'll need to lash out and scratch. If you've ever seen the Animal Planet show "My Cat From Hell" – they did an episode with a woman with a cat, and whenever her boyfriend brought over his dog, the cat was a mess. They set up the living room so that the cat could get around the room without being on the floor, and the cat completely changed and was totally relaxed with the dog. In fact, on that show, most of the cat problems are fixed by creating more high spaces for the cat.

    Hope some of this helps! Good luck!

  • Amanda says:

    I do not know what brand of fence they have installed, but our neighbors have had great success with their invisible fence. I think they can also be installed indoors to keep your cat from leaving while still allowing your dog to come and go as she pleases.

  • Sean says:

    I thought of the dog collar that activates the door. The problem is if the cat is quick/sneaky, the cat can still use the door at the same time the dog is going through. And since the collar activates the door on both sides, the cat could then get trapped outside if the dog comes back in without the cat following. This issue depends on the size of both animals and the cat in terms of whether this scenario is an actual risk.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Said scenario also sounds kind of hilarious. "[ping!] [scramble scramble biff pow bonk]"

  • Robin says:

    My thinking on the whole dog-collar-activated-door thing is that if the cat has even 2 brain cells, he could very easily slide through with the dog, and he'd be out. No fence would stop him. I would suggest that the cat be confined to an upper floor when you're not at home. Like, "I'm going out to work now, c'mon Kitty, time to go in Your Room". As a matter of health, safety, and courtesy to the neighbors (if there are any), I also would not let the dog outdoors when the humans aren't home. Too many dognappers, wild/stray animals, and just plain evils out there. Perhaps, as part of adjusting to a new home, the dog could become accustomed to a schedule of more-supervised walks and playtimes.

  • Brigid says:

    If it's possible, why not just install the doggy door in a room that the cat won't have access to during the day? The dog has access to that room, or set of rooms, AND the great outdoors, and the cat has the run of the rest of the house with no risk of escaping.

  • Ingrid says:

    If putting up a fence is an option, check out Purrfect Fence ( My husband and I put one up for our cats and dogs when we moved to a house in the country along a busy road, and so far (2+ years) we haven't had any escapes. My mom has one, too, and the only escape she's had was by a little five-pound cat who managed to climb way up in a tree in the yard and then jump, squirrel-style, into a tree on the outside of the fence. I don't imagine your big guy would be able to pull that off! The fence is kind of pricey, but I love knowing everyone's safe not only from wandering into the road, but also from stray dogs, coyotes, etc.

  • Bridget says:

    Congrats on the big move! As for the scratching issue…it can be a good thing (I know, I know–just hear me out). When we first got the dog, we had an old, old cat. Since that cat died, we've added two more (one of whom was a TN-facilitated adoption. Nate says hi, y'all!). In every case of cat-to-dog introductions, the cats eventually let the inappropriate-sniffing dog know when enough was enough with a quick swipe to the nose. It only took once, and the dog backed off. No claws have come out since, even when Rocket chases the cats around the house.

  • Amanda says:

    Would you be willing to just, you know, let the dog in and out yourself?

    We don't have a doggie door, partly because our only door to the outside is sliding glass, and partly because it would need to be enormous. So we let the dogs in and out ourselves. It's a pain when they play what we call "the in-out game" — my dearly departed Akita used to do this for an hour some days, to our great chagrin. But it's really the best way to keep one animal in and let the other out. And the only one I've used, but, you know.

    It might be hard to teach a grown dog to knock, though, if it doesn't already get the idea. It doesn't have to learn; said Akita wasn't really a knocker, he'd just go stand there and wait until one of us noticed he was there and let him in or out. It's just easier if it knows to knock. Ours all learned from puppyhood. We basically taught one, our old mutt, fifteen years ago, and each new dog has learned from the dog(s) already living here. Even the newest addition, our 15-week-old Akita puppy, gets the idea.

    My anecdote about learning from the other dogs…our Great Pyrenees learned a long time ago that if he knocks on the screen door instead of the glass, we come to the door faster, because we don't want him ruining the screen with his big bear claws. Well, unfortunately, when we got our new mutt last year, he taught her that trick, and now she does it, too. Uggggh.

  • autiger23 says:

    FYI for any folks worried about your dogs in their yard getting assaulted by wild animals- Google coyote rollers. You can make them yourselves, and they are great for keeping dogs *in* that get over fences and keep coyotes, etc, out.

    I think the Purrfect Fence on an existing fence would be the best bet- I bet that's cheaper than doing it from scratch. It also looks like something you could do yourself if you could figure out what the stuff they make the fence out of is. Looks a lot like the orange plastic fencing that you use for snow fence, but smaller. I wonder if netting that keeps birding out of cherry trees and off berries would work, too? Seems like it's the inward slant of the fence would be the main thing that kept them in when you put it on an existing fence.

  • Jo says:

    If the doggie is house trained, I might suggest just teaching her to go outside and do her business at specific times. It's probably safer for the dog to not be outside alone while you're all gone, and no fence will hold a cat in. The other thing you might try if the dog really has to stay out is setting up a kennel in the backyard. They make those kind that are basically cage walls that you can set up in any configuration so she wouldn't have to be in a travel-type carrier. There's really no way to keep a cat in a yard. If you don't want to crate the dog or teach her to only go outside when you're there, the best idea seems to be keeping the cat in his own room while the humans are away and maybe keep the dog out of that room all the time. Might make him feel better to have his own space anyway.

  • Joy says:

    Does the cat want to go out? IME, many adult cats who have always been kept in, have a "what the hell is THAT?" attitude to the outside world. So your cat may not try to get out, or if he does, he may well freeze up and want right back in.

  • Lianne says:

    A friend of mine had the dog door dilemma. This is her solution. I do not know if it will work for you.

    The cats have a room that is "theirs." They have beds, cat trees, food and litter in there. There's a baby gate across the doorway for privacy from an overly snoopy dog. At night, the cats are shut in that room and the dog door is left open/available. During the day while my friend is at work, same thing. While my friend is home and awake, the dog door is closed and the cats are free to roam wherever they want in the house. The dog comes to her to ask to go outside during that time. It works for her. Her dog is now older and she is concerned about her getting outside in time without accident, so she wants the dog to have free access whenever she can't be there/be paying attention. But when she can be there, all the animals mingle inside and she plays doorman to the dog. Her husband also takes the dog for a long walk/run every evening.

    As for scratching, well… the dog's going to get the idea after a swipe or two. My suggestion there is to just let it happen and let the dog learn.

  • autiger23 says:

    'My suggestion there is to just let it happen and let the dog learn.'

    I'd keep pretty close watch on them for the first month or so- if only to notice if that cat gets in a too enthusiastic swipe. This happened to a friend of mine and her Boxer got a scratch on his cornea from kitty. You definitely want to get medicine on something like that and I'm not sure it's a would they would have noticed if they hadn't seen it happen. So, just be careful about their interactions.

  • Emma says:

    ~The other thing you might try if the dog really has to stay out is setting up a kennel in the backyard.~

    Or have the dog door open into a large covered run. You can put a gate at the other end of the run to allow the dog access to the rest of the yard when you're home and the cat's in the house.

    Because frankly, I'd agree with what other commenters have said about not allowing a dog to be outside alone, cat or no cat. A run would allow her to relieve herself when she wants to, while still providing more security.

  • Stanley says:

    Depending on your area, I'd agree with not leaving the dog outside without some supervision. But it might be okay for your area (I live in a city where it is not safe for the dogs or polite to the neighbors). I would also not recommend an invisible fence. One of the problems with them is that if the dog sees something really desirable, they will go through the fence, shock or no shock. And then they're stuck on the wrong side of the fence when they're done chasing the squirrel or whatever. If you're going to the expense of fencing, might as well go with a physical fence; safer, more secure from outsiders, and no shocks for the dog. In the end, though, I'd just get the dog used to being taken out by humans. They adjust quickly and most of them can go hours without going outside.

  • Nikki says:

    Really, you have nothing to worry about… I don't think this situation requires any special planning.

    Cats aren't exactly disappearing animals, and cats who have never been outside before generally are afraid of it or will completely ignore the pet door – I speak from experience. For a cat who has all its claws, all it needs is a collar with a tag and all its shots and it'll be totally fine.

    Also, most pet doors have a way to be closed/locked, so if you're more comfortable locking it when you go to work and opening it when you get home, it shouldn't interfere with dog's routine. Most dogs are totally fine holding it for 8 or 9 hours.

  • Cats & Dogs says:

    Hi all! OP here, thanks for all your thoughts and suggestions. We actually moved into the house about two months ago and I decided to go with the invisible fence for the kitty. We didn't have a place to put the dog door that's normal, so we went with the window (the dog has a set of steps inside and outside which is hysterical to watch).

    As for concerns about wildlife, well, we live in Las Vegas and our small yard is fenced in with concrete blocks and the house next to us, so it's not a concern at all really. And due to the heat, we're not about to put her outside in a kennel all day when we're at work.

    My kitty is a disappearing master who DOES like to sneak outside (though he then freaks out), but the indoor invisible fence has been great. He went over to that corner twice and has not been back since. I held the collar myself and got shocked so I know what he's getting (made my boyfriend do it too), and overall he's fine with it. This also allows him into the bedroom at night because he's a cuddler and a social cat who would be distraught with being in his own room when people are home. (He does get put in the master bedroom when we're at work though since we're working up to dog/kitty alone time.) If you haven't guessed yet, both pets have had extremely spoiled lives.

    The dog and cat cohabitating has involved some barking, hissing and swipes, but overall it's good. Kitty has a tendency not to put his claws out unless he's REALLY mad. He'll just knock you around otherwise.

    Thanks again to everyone for their suggestions!

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