My Cat Attacks My Dog

CatChannel and CAT FANCY cat behaviorist Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, explains how to keeps cats from attacking dogs, a rare but concerning occurrence.

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Q: I live in the basement in my mom's house. She has an 8-year-old Golden Retriever and a 1-1/2-year-old cat. A couple of months ago, I started hearing noises that sounded like the cat was attacking the dog. I saw the dog backed into a corner, cowering from the cat while being attacked by the cat. The dog did not fight the cat back.

Sometimes, this happens within a few minutes of when my mom leaves. Other times, the cat attacks the dog when my mom is outside. My mom has a water bottle she sprays but this method doesn't work. How can we stop the cat from attacking the dog? Is there something medically wrong with the cat?

A: Although people are usually more concerned and vigilant about dogs chasing and hurting cats, there are situations like yours where cats traumatize dogs. Take both seriously; cats and dogs can severely hurt each other.  

You and your mom need to take some steps to stop your cat from cornering and terrorizing the dog. Use a combination of management, environmental changes and behavior modification to control and stop the cat's behavior. Start by managing the situation — never allow the dog and cat together unsupervised. Separate them, placing one in the house when your mom leaves. Since the attacks seem to occur mostly outdoors, either monitor the cat and dog closely when they are outside or do not allow them to be outdoors together.

Providing your cat other activities to focus on can help change and eventually stop the behavior. Play with your cat a couple of times a day, in a way that imitates the hunt. Use a fishing pole type of cat toy* and drag it away from the cat. Finally let the cat catch the toy one last time and then feed him. He will eat, groom and go to sleep.

Tall, vertical territory such as 5- to 6-foot-high cat trees and shelves will help your cat claim his own dog-free zones. Treasure hunts will also keep your cat's attention focused away from the dog. Hide food and treats throughout the house on the vertical territory and in toys. Enriching the cat's environment with interactive toys will keep your cat interested and engaged. Most cats enjoy playing with ball and tract toys and scrounging for treats and toys hidden in puzzle boxes.

Clicker training can also help stop this behavior. This force-free training technique works by reinforcing the cat for good behavior — being around the dog without aggression. Clicker training can also be used to effectively train the cat to go to a specific location whenever the dog is in the same area.
*Be safe! Do not leave fishing pole type toys out when no one is around to supervise. Cats can become dangerously entangled in them
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Reader Comments

Jennifer    Norfolk, VA

5/24/2012 12:46:13 PM

Its a good thing the dog mentioned doesn't fight back, because it might end badly for the cat. Either way, needless aggression on either party needs to be stopped to prevent injury or worse. I've seen the "worse" before.

Samantha    Mission, BC

5/23/2012 5:32:14 PM

I don't have a dog but this is good to know.

Lisa    Oak Creek, WI

5/23/2012 3:46:41 PM

Our cats are the boss of the dog but they don't attack him, just "will" him with their eyes or close proximity. Our cats "will" the dog off the sofa by staring at him. Poor guy gets nervous and he leaves. I sometimes gently remove that cat so they don't always get their way. One cat plays with the dog and is our dog's own "cat".

Galadriel    Lothlorien, ME

5/22/2012 11:53:05 PM

Good advice. We have a cat that attacks our dogs and it has really backfired on him. Now my dog is intent on killing any cat. She thinks they're all evil. Their animosity has provoked some bad situations including one of our other and very tiny dogs getting his eyeball scratched.

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