Cats/Fear based aggression towards puppy
QUESTION: Hi, I am looking for some advice on feline behaviour. My cat is around 16 years old and has lived with me for about 6 years on his own (no other pets). he has met our Labrador a few times but he hisses and yowls a lot. I have recently brought home a puppy (6 months old) and although they can be in the same room together, if the male cat gets within 2 foot of my puppy (female) he hisses and yowls quite aggressively. I think this is a fear based aggression issue. All can be calm with them both sitting on the sofa with me but they both have to be a short distance away. I think they are both curious about one another because my cat will sometimes want to go and investigate and my puppy is curious. This morning I had an episode whereby my cat and puppy were in the same room quite close together, and my cat hissed at the puppy and my puppy went into a almost like a fit of fear. She lay down on the floor and wined and wined until I snapped her out of it by using 'Shhh' much the same as Cesar Millan does. She then became calm again thank goodness. I have tried using this on cats (the Shhh) and it does work to some extent. Its early days yet they've only been together about 3 days. As a canine behaviourist I can 'look after' my puppy but not sure about cats. Should I distract my cat when he approaches the puppy with positive play? Any advice would be appreciated.
I am sorry I am getting to this so late.
Look at it from the cat's point of view. This cat is used to being the only pet, and he is quite geriatric. Cats start being geriatric at about 10 years of age. Given that the average life span of an inside cat is about 12-15 years, your boy is doing quite well!!!!!!!!!! Now, at the somewhat advanced age of 16, his life has changed. He now has to share you with a puppy.
My advice with cats having to adjust to another pet is to give them the time ans space they need to get to know each other. With your cat, any intervention by you is counter productive, so if you need to "rescue" your puppy, try not to involve the cat (good luck with that!).
Another word of advice: The shhh sound reminds a cat of hissing, and so, I generally counsel people to not use it. Also, cats are highly body language oriented, and, so, verbal communication is not as effective as body language cues. Two last comments: (1) cats react much better to positive reinforcement rather than discipline and (2) cats do better following your wishes when they are convinced it is their idea.
So, unless it looks as if the cat is really going to harm the puppy, I would not intervene at all (unless you feel the puppy is really traumatized). Cats are usually pretty tolerant of the young of other species. Also, your boy can always jump out of the way of the puppy since cats tend to operate in 3 dimensions whereas dogs operate primarily in 2. You also need to give your cat plenty of time to adjust to the puppy. It could be weeks or months or no time at all.
Another thing you might try is to give your cat extra attention and special treats whenever you pay any attention to the puppy. See if the cat gets the idea that having the puppy around is a good thing.
I hope this helps.
Please let me know how they are doing.
Best regards... Norm.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hi Norman
Thank you for replying to my question.
Also, thank you for the advice you have given me which is very interesting and certainly something I will be referring to in future. I am actually a canine behaviourist but not studied cat psychology only gaining some good advice from the 'Cat Daddy' Jackson Gallaxy.
My cat had a great 8 years living with me (lived in total luxury) and news came to me a couple of weeks ago that he had severe anaemia and some form of cancer. I did go ahead with some treatment to try to improve him but it only lasted a short time. I made a very difficult decision to have him put to sleep last weekend. He was loved very much.
If I do decide to have another cat in the future, I will definitely ask you for advice if you are still available maybe in a couple of years time.
Thanks once again
Jackson Galaxy is one of the few people I have encountered who truly is a cat behaviorist.
I am so sad you had to put you cat down, but given the maladies he was experiencing, I think you did the right thing.
Please feel free to contact me when getting another cat (preferably a 4-5 month old kitten), and we can discuss introducing your new kitten to thee other pets in your household.
Sad regards... Norm.