Cats are creatures that love routine and are never happy when things change, for whatever reason. If you notice your cat doing something out of the ordinary or behaving in a very strange way, the chances are they are upset about something or they may be ill. The first thing you need to rule out is a medical issue which you can do by getting your pet down to the vet so they can be thoroughly examined. If the vet cannot find anything wrong with your feline friend, the next step is to check out their environment to see what could be upsetting them.
If your cat has always had the home to themselves and you have just introduced a new dog into their environment, this might be a big upset for the harmony that once reigned in the household. More often than not puppies and younger dogs just can't help themselves when it comes to baiting or playing boisterously with a feline friend. Older dogs too might could have a thing against cats so if you are thinking about adopting a canine companion from an animal shelter, you need to make sure they get on with cats before you take them home.
Fortunately, rescue centres would be able to advise you on whether a dog you are thinking about offering a home to does indeed get on with feline friends. This type of information is typically available on the notes at the front of a dog's kennel, but you should always ask anyway.
On the flip side, the new arrival namely the dog, might be fine with cats and it's actually your feline friend that has the problem. You may find that no matter how much time and effort you put into introducing the two of them in a safe environment, your cat just hunches up, hisses ferociously and then runs away in utter disgust!
The problem is when a cat reacts this way, dogs just cannot resist following after them because they see this as a great game which is lots of fun. The more your cat runs away, the more the new arrival will chase after them which could then turn into a bad habit if the problem is not nipped in the bud.
You should never attempt to force the situation because it won't work and could end up with one or the other of your pets getting injured. You should never leave them on their own either and instead always be around when they are together to make sure things are going as smoothly as possible.
If you find your new dog just wants to say hello showing no sign of aggression whatsoever, but rather wanting to just sniff at your cat before trying to get them to play but their efforts are met with a swat of the paw and a hiss, you should take your dog out of the room so your cat is on their own. Never try to pick your feline friend up because you might well get bitten or scratched and your dog might try to jump up which could make matters even worse.
It may seem like the encounters are nothing more than a hiss and a spat every time your new dog gets close to puss and you might think in time the two of them will get on. However, you need to keep an eye out for any changes in your cat's behaviour which could be due to stress. This is typically bought on by the presence of the new canine companion with some cats pulling out their fur in clumps which results in them developing bald patches typically around their back legs and tails. This over-grooming can develop into a real problem which is explained below.
If a cat develops this type of behavioural problem due to the arrival of a new dog in the home, it is their way of dealing with the fact their environment has suddenly changed. Cats will first run away from a dog but this usually just results in them being chased. Our feline friends soon figure out this type of strategy does not work so they give up. Instead a cat will stand their ground to defend themselves and this is when a dog, no matter how friendly they are might well retaliate – both dog and cat could be injured and on top of this, owners are likely to tell them both off!
For a cat, it means that not only is it impossible to get away from the dog but when they stand up for themselves, the reward is to be punished. This naturally makes the whole situation that much harder for your feline friend to have to cope with – hence a cat may well start to over-groom as a way to comfort themselves. Constant grooming the same spot results in bald patches and in a worse case scenario nasty painful sores.
If you find things just don't improve, you should consider creating dog-free areas around the home where you're cat feels comfortable in the knowledge their canine adversary is not allowed to be in. It's also important not to tell your cat off if they do have a swipe at the canine newcomer when and if they do meet up by accident. Punishment will only stress your feline friend out even more.
It's easy to create dog-free zones by simply installing baby gates in chosen doorways to prevent your pooch from gaining access to the room. Cats are very clever creatures and will soon understand that doggy cannot get through and they will automatically find the situation more relaxing. You should also place your cat's water and feed bowls, scratching post, cat bed and toys in a dog-free area so the space really becomes their own.
As long as your new dog is well behaved and not too boisterous, you may find that after a few weeks both pets will show a calmer interest in each other. Letting them have the time to get used to each other smells and habits is crucial. When your cat is ready, they will start coming out of their "dog-free" zones and may even walk past your dog showing no interest in them whatsoever which is a very good sign that things are improving between the two of them. It means they have come to accept each other and although it may take considerably longer for them to interact with each, the first positive step has been taken!