Matchmaking Tips for Cats & Dogs & Introducing Pets

Do you know how to introduce dogs to cats? Or how to choose the right pet for your existing pet home? This past week’s behavior consults included a family with two cats wanting to introduce a young German Shepherd to their life. The couple has had lots of dog and cat experience but wanted specific tips to smooth the transition and keep their kitties happy and safe.

Image courtesy of DepositPhotos.com

Image courtesy of DepositPhotos.com

I applaud anyone willing to take these steps! It reminded me of years ago, when we introduced our eight-week-old eleven-pound Magical-Dawg to nine-year-old seven-pound Seren-Kitty. Every pet home has a different dynamic, and even previously dog-friendly cats may not take kindly to a new (scary-smelling-acting) stranger pooch. Here are some considerations when choosing a new furry love to join your existing pet family.

CATS & DOGS MATCHMAKING TIPS

Easy-going dog breeds that don’t view smaller critters as LUNCH! make the best doggy friends for cats. You can also predict some behaviors with puppy temperament tests.

A dog already socialized to a cat is best. Learn more about puppy development and socialization in this post. Adult cats that have already lived with and been socialized to dogs also help speed up the introduction process. Kittens that are clueless may be more accepting of a new dog friend, especially if they’ve seen Mom-Cat be friendly with those weird-smelling bark machines. Learn more about kitten development here, and also choosing kittens in this post.

Be aware that dogs’ and cats’ body language can mean contradictory things, so YOU need to interpret for them. Wagging dog tails invite you closer, but wagging cat tails warn you away. Just be sure your dog doesn’t get a face full of claws for being too nosy–that’s a terrible way to start a relationship.

Both pets need to be healthy. Cats need preventive care just like dogs do, and kitties that feel under the weather from illness or being spayed/neutered need time to recover before meeting the dog.

Savvy dog folks know that dog-to-dog intros work best on neutral territory–that’s outside your home, perhaps at a park. But cat intros for safety reasons need to happen INSIDE the house, so there are some clear differences in setting up the steps. You’ll find lots more details and how-to help for dealing with cat-dog challenges in my ComPETability(Cats-Dogs) book, but here are tips for getting started to build your very own peaceable kingdom between cats and dogs.

Read for more details about introducing cats to cats, refer to this post.

NEW-CatDogCompet-lorezHOW TO INTRODUCE CATS TO DOGS

  • Sequester the new pet in a single room with all the necessary accouterments (bed, litter box, chew toys, etc). Choose a room with a door that shuts completely, such as a second bedroom. Isolating the new pet tells your resident pets that only a small portion of the house has been invaded, not all the territory. Isolate the new pet in this one room for at least a week.
  • Expect cats to posture or hiss and dogs to sniff, whine, growl or bark on each side of the closed door. Feel encouraged once the barking and hissing fade, the canine “play-bows” at the door, or the pair play patty-cake-paws under the door.
  • After the new pet has been in the room alone for a few days, and any hisses or growls have faded, bring out something the new pet has scented. Choose something like a plate of food where she just ate. Allow your dog to smell it. THAT’LL bring on the wags!
  • Next, allow your new pet to explore the rest of the house while the resident dog stays outside in the yard. Alternately, have the resident cats wait in the vacated doggy isolation room to become more familiar with his strange smells, while the new dog sniffs around the rest of the house.
  • Install a baby gate in the isolation room so the pair can meet at their own speed but through the safety of the barrier.
  • Once the new pet feels comfortable navigating your house and meeting the other pet through the baby gate, prepare for whisker-to-whisker meetings. Avoid fanfare. Put the dog on a leash and then open the baby gate and watch what happens. Keep the pets away from halls, doorways or other closely confined spaces during initial meetings. An open room with lots of space reduces tension and gives the cat places to escape and you more control. The leash controls doggy lunges just in case.
  • Feed both pets during this initial meeting, on opposite ends of a room to distract them and also help them associate FOOD with each others’ presence. Peanut butter treats work well for dogs, and a stinky canned cat food for cats. Make these treats only available when the other animal is nearby to associate each other with good stuff.
  • Alternatively, engage them in play. Whoever your dog feels closest to should interact with the cat, so Rex sees YOU accept the kitty and will be more willing to follow his beloved owner’s example. Please be aware–unlike dogs, cats play SILENTLY, so if your cat vocalizes during interaction with the dog, the kitty isn’t happy. Separate them and try again later.
  • Continue to segregate the new pet in her safe room whenever you cannot directly supervise the pair. Most cats can jump over or can squeeze through the baby gate and regulate interactions. Continue to offer more planned meetings for another week, monitoring the dog until he can control himself and respects the cat even when off-leash.

REALISTIC GOALS FOR CAT AND DOG INTRODUCTIONS

Some pets become fast friends very quickly. Others dislike each other and always require supervision. Usually, pets learn to tolerate each other, especially if you’ve followed the match-making tips previously mentioned.

MagicMeetsSeren

It took time, but eventually with some very-yummy-cat-treats Seren deigned to come within sight of the Magical-Pup. Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

We began introductions six months before Magic even arrived, We installed a dog crate and pet gates in the kitchen, and moved the litter box to a safe place. After the puppy arrived, we took it slow. It took Seren three months to come downstairs when Magic was awake in the kitchen, but she finally got curious and peeked under the blanket that covered the baby gate. It took her another three months to feel comfortable enough to tell him off.

Seren never cared for Magic. She finally learned to tolerate him, mostly because we made sure the dog knew the CAT ruled and could do no wrong. As she got older, and couldn’t run as fast, she allowed him closer and he always respected her hisses to back off.

Magic-Karma

Magic alerted me that Karma-the-Stray needed our help, so it’s only natural they’re best buddies. Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

MAGIC ADOPTS A CAT

When Karma came home, it was love at first sight between the kitten and German Shepherd. Magic finally had a cat that would (SWOON!) let him sniff kitty tail! The introduction that took six-nine months with Magic and Seren only lasted three days between these best friends. Karma-Kat had already met dogs in his previous life, and loved them.

After Magic left this world, we adopted Bravo-Dawg as much to satisfy Karma’s yearning for a dog friend as our own. He looked very different, and introductions took about two weeks before Karma decided to adopt Bravo-Dawg as his new best friend. Because of the great size difference (Bravo 120 pounds, and Karma 12 pounds), we supervised constantly.

INTRODUCING CATS TO DOGS

Then Shadow-Pup arrived, and we needed to introduce him to both Bravo and to Karma. The puppy clearly had been around other dogs and gave Bravo all the right puppy-subordinate signals. They became friends within the week–still supervised, again because of the size difference, and Bravo’s potential pain issues from his cancer.

Shadow had the benefit of watching Bravo’s behavior with Karma, and the cat knew exactly how to handle the pup. Today the pair play chase, “bitey-face” wrestling games, and adore each other. We’re fortunate but I don’t take it for granted and we constantly monitor and reinforce good behavior. Read more about Bravo, Shadow, and Karma intros in this fun post with pictures.

So what are you waiting for? Maybe another pet needs you–and your dog wants a kitty friend of his very own, or your cat would love to have a dog to snuggle (or tell off!). Take it from Magic, Bravo, Shadow, and Karma–as long as you introduce them right, a cat and dog can be best friends.

YouTube Button

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I recommend nothing unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Pets Home Alone? Relieve Back to School Angst

Are your pets home alone, now that the kids have gone back to school? How can you ease the transition?

pets home alone

Dogs need their family–and miss us when the routine changes after school starts. Image Copr. MelissaMethamphetamine/Flickr

What do you do when the kiddos return to school? Breathe a sigh of relief? Miss them desperately? All of the above? My in-box is FILLED with all kinds of back-to-school offers for kid clothing, electronics, cameras, and more.

Back to School & Home Alone Pets

What about the pets? For many cats and dogs, the summer vacation (or recent “virtual learning”) means more time spent with their beloved “human-pups” playing and training, and having a wonderful time together. If you got a NEW baby dog or kitty this past summer, the 24/7 time together may be all they’ve ever known.

So what happens when school starts? And if you have a child leaving for college, that can REALLY put the pet’s tail in a twist. Several years ago, when I quit writing (for a while) and taught school for a little over a semester, Magical-Dawg and I both suffered separation anxiety!

Separation Anxiety in Dogs & Cats

Separation behaviors are not unusual when routine changes. These affect dogs more readily than cats. Cats with separation anxiety may end up pooping on your bed…but dogs may try to go through doors, walls or even windows and really hurt themselves. You can find a detailed article on dealing with doggy separation behaviors here.

Providing good alternative behaviors helps enormously. If you know the routine will change, start transitioning pets now. Use products like Adaptil for dogs or Feliway to soothe dog and cat angst, and provide some puzzle toys or cat trees to keep claws and teeth occupied. You can also teach your cats and dogs tricks to help keep them occupied, using clicker training. Check out the newest ASK AMY (below) for more ideas.

What have I missed? Do your dogs and cats get all stressed when school starts? How do you manage? Please share!

For more recommended pet products, visit my Amazon list recommendations here!

YouTube Button

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I recommend nothing unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Dream Big, Be You: What Do You Want To Be?

I didn’t start out to be a writer, so how the @#$%^&*! did I end up here? I just heard from the Cat Writers’ Association that my fiction book HIT AND RUN just won a Certificate of Excellence Award, with consideration for a Muse Medallion. I always wanted to write fiction, but it only happened when forced to reinvent myself and dream big. What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to be remembered for? What will your legacy be?

what do you want to beThe Accidental Writer

I’ve written about my journey several times and have blogged off and on for 20+ years. But the blog only gained traction about ten years ago when I took an Email course on branding and social media from Kristen Lamb (read her blog!). She asked lots of “thoughty” questions:

What do you (want to) write? What are your interests, besides the writing topics—because we are so much more than (fill-in-the-blank). Who do people “see” when they look at you? Is that the BRAND you desire to create? It must be the real you—pretend won’t cut it. People see through the phony-isity of such things. As an actor, someone able to put on a persona for different people or events, that struck a chord with me.

Taking Off the Mask, Being YOU

Okay, she didn’t use those words, but you get my drift. I had an acting coach tell me the same thing, and I wrote about it in another blog, that you are enough. Bring YOU to the table—that’s enough.

And that’s scary! Dang. And it leads me to another question–what did YOU want to be when you grew up? Kids seem to know and show even in the games they play what path they’ll take through life. Me? I wanted to be an actor because they were glamorous, people liked them, and they never laughed too loud or were at a loss for words. I could be whoever I wanted, and if folks rolled their eyes, it wasn’t about me, but the persona. Being real, though–EEEK! Then if they don’t like you (or your work), what then?

writing advice what do you want to be

“I own this content!”

What Do You Want to Be…?

As a kid, my brothers and I put on plays in the basement, and directed marathon “let’s pretend” soap operas. The recurring kid, horses, dogs, and cat characters and stories were so real, they had us in tears—and made my folks roll their eyes.

I never played with dolls, much to the dismay of my grandmother. Nope, it was stuffed animals and best-bud pretend pets who could “really talk!” Mom always said, “When Amy grows up she won’t have babies, she’ll have puppy-dogs and kitty-cats.”

Mom knew.

Write Your Passion—Be YOU, Not Someone Else’s Idea

Early in my writing career, people constantly questioned why I didn’t write about more important topics, like starving children or world peace? And was cautioned, “You’ll never make a living writing about just pets!” Thpbpbpbpbpbpbpb! (insert raspberry sound effects!)

I write about pets because that’s me. It’s what and who I am, and I am enough. No, it’s not ALL that I am, but it’s a big part. I’m not on Broadway–yet! But all my stage and tv experience serves the pet writing causes. I listened to my furry muses. And I have the bling ready for when the big moment comes.

publishing tips

Writing about dogs (and cats) is serious business.

Becoming My Best Self

Something unexpected happened along the path to becoming Amy. I’m no longer at a loss for words—and instead I have to work at NOT jumping into every conversation. The animals taught me that. I don’t need to bark, howl, wag my tail (no wise cracks!) or hiss all the time to get ahead. I’ve never found being a “whisperer” to be particularly effective.

I’ve learned to be a pet “listener.” If you listen with your eyes and your heart, animals tell you what they’re thinking and why they’re acting in certain ways. Works with humans, too.

When I was a kid, I wanted to wear sparkles, tell stories with happy endings, and have bestest-bud animal friends who really talk. As an adult, when a career on the stage seemed out of reach, I turned to writing as a creative outlet, and it turned into an extraordinarily rewarding career. What did you want to be when you were a kid? Are you there yet?

what do you want to be remembered forWhen I Grow Up…

I always wanted to write fiction but at first, only made headway with nonfiction. My childhood dream came true only happened when I lost my grownup nonfiction writing career ten years ago and gave up writing to teach high school choir.

For the first time in years, I had nothing to prove and nothing to lose. So I wrote the novel I’d always wanted to READ in twenty-minute increments: before work, on lunch breaks, and after classes.

I don’t have two-legged kids. My legacy will be my written works, and I hope I will be remembered for helping cats and dogs and those who love them. And now and then, helping fellow writers with tips that helped me, like this webinar on beating writer’s block.

And today, my peers have honored my fifth book, HIT AND RUN, (complete with puppy-dog and kitty-cat characters), something I never could have predicted.

What do you want to be? There’s still time!

YouTube Button

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

 

You. Are. Enough! How to Deal With Criticism

I’m feeling philosophical today, all about how to deal with criticism.

Everybody needs some strokes. The creative mind of authors, actors, musicians, and artists takes criticism so personally, a single sneer can quash the muse. I’m an author, actor, musician and artist, so maybe I got hit with a quadruple whammy. Dang gene pool . . .

Those who read this blog know that I’ve “Kindle-ized” my backlist. I’m excited that the Aging Cat book has sold very well, and lately, the print version has done even better. But along the way, all of my books get hit with a fair amount of bad reviews. Some of the Kindle books have even been “returned.”

Huh? What happened?! Didn’t they *sniff* like my book? Why not? *whimper* THEY HATE ME!

how to deal with criticismRejection Hurts, But Comes With the Territory

I suspect you’re like me, whether you’ve published, performed, created for years or just recently dipped toes into the creative abyss. Dozens of great reviews leave me with a temporary glow, but it only takes one blistering comment to negate all the positives.

And we LOOK for those negatives, don’t we? The reader who posts a modest review must not have liked the book all that well. The audience that didn’t whistle and guffaw at our jokes, or offer stomp-along standing O’s must have hated the performance. If the artwork failed to sell, gallery attendees hated the artist.

Realistically, book returns could be accidental purchases of the Ebook instead of print. I think. Hope. Hell, maybe they really do HATE ME! I’m gonna go eat worms and die.

Nothing’s Personal—Just Feels That Way

It must be in the definition of “artist” to question our own talent and worthiness, even without help from outsiders. Self sabotage destroys more careers than anyone can measure. Because it’s safest to do nothing—pull all the books from the shelves, never write again. To try and fail feels so painful, we’d rather close ourselves off and stop trying than risk the hurt. Again.

So how many of y’all have shut down the laptop, put away the viola, thrown out paints, or given up thespian aspirations? I’ve made that “decision” dozens of times. But it never stuck. Because this is who I am. It’s what I do.

Learning To Be Vulnerable

Years ago I attended an audition workshop with the brilliant Del Shores, who noted that many people have !!@#$%^! -loads of baggage. Nobody gets out of life without some bumps, bruises, and the scars can be visible, deep inside, or both.

Successful performers (and writers ARE performers!) learn to tap-dance into this wealth of virtual crappiocca, use it to create memorable damaged characters on stage, screen, canvas, music scores—and in our books, essays and other writing. Unblemished, perfect paintings, book characters, photos and music is freakin’ BORING!

how to deal with criticismPerfect People, Perfect Pets = BORING!

In dog and cat behavior (another of my worlds), the perfect pet is a stuffed toy that has no potty accidents, no cost to feed, no need to walk in the rain, and no chewed up shoes or clawed sofas. But real pets also have baggage, seen and unseen—baggage is normal, folks. It’s what makes them special, rather than cookie-cutter boring. On top of that, the old days of “punish the bad” have shifted to “reward the good.”

I counsel clients to ignore the bad, and instead catch their pet in the act…of doing something good, and then rewarding with praise, treat, a ball or whatever floats the pet’s boat. We’ve learned that constant brow-beating or (heaven forbid!) actual beating causes pets to shut down.

It shuts down people, too, and it flat-out murders the creative process. Here are some tips to deal with writer’s block.

What floats your boat? How do you reward yourself? You are worthy, ya know! Lift yourself up, and do the same for others. Helping others feeds your own muse!

You Are Enough

Del Shores is fond of saying, “You are enough,” to his actors. No extra bells and whistles required. It applies to all creative people. Lessons learned—and I hope they’ll help you, too:

  1. We’re all damaged goods. Use it. Mine the gold and let it resonate in your work.
  2. Ignore the bad. Reward the good.
  3. You. Are. Enough.

It’ll take practice for me to believe that. But I’m getting better. How about you?

YouTube Button

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

 

Celebrating Old Dogs: What Is Old?

Each November, we celebrate one more time our old dogs during their “official” month. But when is your dog considered old? We love our senior citizen dogs for the special joy they bring every day. But once a year, we celebrate old dogs during November Adopt A Senior Pet Month. Here are 8 reasons to consider adopting a senior pet.

I’ve already posted about celebrating old cats. It’s time to give equal time to old dogs. I’ve written about how to care for an elderly dog before, but this post addresses how to know when your canine friends become old dogs.

I’ve updated some of the information from when it first published back when my Magical-Dawg and Seren-Kitty were still around.

old dogs

Magic was just over eleven years old when he passed away last year, and my first GSD lived to thirteen and a half. One is middle-aged and the other considered geriatric, and a lot of it has to do with the size of the pet. When our furry friends reach a “certain age” it becomes much more important to stay on top of changes, and just keep ’em comfy during their golden years.

My first GSD (below) launched my pet-writing career. He waited until we got home from work, and died with us beside him, on Halloween night. I still miss him.

old dogs

How Old are Old Dogs?

What is considered “old?” There are individual differences between pets, just as there are for people. While one person may act, look and feel “old” at fifty-five, another fifty-five-year-old remains active with a youthful attitude and appearance. Aging is influenced by a combination of genetics, environment, and health care over a lifetime. The oldest dog on record was an Australian Cattle Dog who lived for twenty-nine years and five months.

A good definition of old age for an animal is the last 25 percent of her life. However, we can’t accurately predict what an individual pet’s lifespan will be, so pinpointing when old age begins is tough. Ask the breeder about the lifespan of your pet’s parents and grandparents. That’s a good predictor of how long you could expect your cat or dog to live. Mixed-ancestry pets are more difficult to predict, but you can make a few generalities.

old dog

How to Predict Old Dogs Lifespan

In the past fifty years, the average lifespan of small dogs like the Maltese above, has tripled. They used to live to be only six or seven years old, but today it’s not unusual for your Chihuahua to live into late teens or early twenties. With an average potential lifespan of fifteen to seventeen years, the onset of old age—when a little dog becomes “senior”—would be about age eleven to thirteen.

Even large-breed dogs, which age more quickly, commonly reach ten to thirteen years of age—double the lifespan of the past few decades. They would, therefore, be considered old starting at about seven years.

Giant breed dogs (those weighing over eighty pounds or so) tend to age more quickly than smaller pets. Great Danes, for example, are considered “senior” at age five, and typically live only seven to nine years. There are exceptions, of course, with some very large dogs living healthy, happy lives well into their teens. Though he’s no longer a puppy, Bravo (below) weighs just over 100 pounds (he lost 20 pounds when he lost his leg to cancer). As a “giant” breed, we tried to keep him happy and healthy as long as possible. Although his chemo treatment slowed his disease we cherished every day as a win!

bullmastiff puppy

Old Dogs & Youthful Doggedness?

So you have an old fogey doggy–how do you keep him youthful? What happens when that go-go-go puppy attitude turns into a yen for snoozing the day away? Dogs can become frustrated when their youthful abilities fade away and they’re no longer able to leap tall buildings–or onto sofas–with a single bound, or chase the Frisbee and catch it without effort.

old dogs

I have one word for you: ACCOMMODATION.

Enrich the dog’s environment and make accommodations for his new skill set. Agility dogs can still perform all those tricks of fetch and vault, just lower the bar a bit. For blind dogs, put a bell inside the ball or scent with liverwurst so his nose knows where to find it. For deaf dogs, you can use hand signals and replace the clicker with a flashlight beam flicking on and off.

I have a boatload of more tips and advice in the book Complete Care for Your Aging Dog.

What about your old dogs–what games do they love? Have you made accommodations for their aging abilities? Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. NOTE: Bling, Bitches & Blood sometimes shares affiliate links to products that may help you with your pets, but we only share what we feel is appropriate.

Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!