Dogs and cats can get along, and some become very good friends. However, there are no guarantees that your dog and cat will like each other.
When your dog is constantly bothering your cat, it becomes problematic. The good news is there are ways to handle the situation.
Why won’t my dog leave my cat alone?
There are several reasons why your dog might not leave your cat alone. Many times, the cause is fairly innocent. However, this doesn’t make it any less annoying for you or your cat.
One issue that can occur between dogs and cats is simply miscommunication. Dogs and cats have different means of verbal and nonverbal communication.
Imagine trying to speak to someone from another country, who doesn’t speak your language. It would be very difficult to get even simple messages across.
So, your dog and cat may simply not understand what the other is trying to say. Your cat may say “leave me alone” but your dog may misinterpret this as “let’s play”.
Desire to Play
A desire to play is another innocent reason why your dog is bugging your cat. Puppies and young adult dogs have a higher tendency to do this, but it can occur in dogs of any age.
The dog may be inviting the cat to play. However, the cat may not appreciate the invitation, or simply not understand the dog is only asking to play.
A more concerning reason your dog won’t leave your cat alone is that they have a high prey drive. Different breeds of dogs can have a stronger prey drive in certain areas.
Hunting hounds, for example, have a strong tracking or chasing drive. Herding dogs, on the other hand, have a modified chasing instinct. Each dog will also have a slightly different prey drive, regardless of their breed.
Dogs who are bred for any type of hunting typically have a stronger prey drive than other breeds. These dogs can require more training to get them to leave your cat alone.
Both dogs and cats have a social hierachy. Dogs especially have a strict social structure. One member of the pack will be the alpha. The next stage is the betas, and then the omegas.
The alpha is the leader of the pack. Betas are submissive only to the alpha. Omegas are submissive to betas and alphas.
In your home, you should be the alpha. However, your dog will likely expect to be in the beta position. If they are showing dominance or aggression towards your cat, they may be attempting to establish their spot in the hierarchy.
Cats have their own hierarchy, and they may challenge your dog in an attempt to be the “top dog”.
Signs your dog is dominant arent’ always a bad thing. It’s a natural instinct that can be expressed in a healthy way. However, if they are growing, barking, or chasing your cat when the cat approaches them, this is problematic.
You can expect your dog and your cat to protect what they see as their territory in the home. This should be respected by the other animal, and you.
How to get my dog to leave my cat alone?
Getting your dog to leave your cat alone can take some time, and you may never have them get along as friends. However, you can eliminate them fighting, “like cats and dogs”.
If you are just getting either the cat or the dog, a proper introduction can save you a lot of work in the future. This is tough to do if your cat is very shy, skiddish, or afraid of your dog. If that’s the case, you’ll need to keep them separated. More on that in a moment!
The idea is to make the introduction a positive experience, or at least not a bad one, for both pets. There are two ways you can do this. You can place your dog on a leash, and allow the cat into the room.
Allow your cat to move around the room, and check out the dog if they wish. Don’t allow your dog to make a move towards the cat, particularly if they are excited.
You can also place the cat in a crate, if they tolerate this confinement well. If not, it may be better to place the dog into a crate. Be sure to give a toy and treat inside the crate. This shouldn’t feel like a punishment or isolation.
The goal of either method is to gently introduce the pets to each other. A leash or crate prevents any unwanted actions or mishaps, which can make getting your dog to leave your cat alone harder down the road.
Another way to deal with the situation is to use distraction as a training tool. This exercise requires high value treats. You can begin with the cat in a crate, or the dog on a leash. Alternatively, a baby gate can work.
This allows for more distance between the animals. If your cat is skittish or your dog is highly excitable, this can be the best way to start the process.
Once you have them near each other, speak to your dog. If they look at you, they get a treat. If they looks away, call their attention back to you. Then give them a treat.
Over time, you can increase the amount of time your dog must pay attention to you to get a treat. You can also allow them to look at anything other than the cat.
They will soon learn that ignoring the cat gets them a treat, while bugging the cat doesn’t work out as well.
The Toy Method
You can also use the treat method with a toy. Instead of giving your pooch a treat for ignoring the cat, you’ll take them shopping. Allow them to choose a new toy.
Now, you play with this toy with your dog, in the general presence of the cat. Start by separating them with a gate or confining the cat, until you are confident your dog won’t go after them.
When their attention drifts to the cat, use the toy to bring the focus away from the feline.
Separating and Supervising
Until you are sure that your dog won’t go after your cat or attempt to harm them, even inadvertently, you’ll need to keep them separated or closely supervised.
If you need to confine one of them to a single room, it’s best to confine the one who is new to the household. This can help avoid resentment, and allow the new pet to adjust.
Ideally, you can separate them with both of them having a somewhat equal share of space. A baby gate is often the best way to keep them separated. When you are away, it may be necessary to crate your pooch, depending on how likely they are to escape a baby gate.
When you can’t supervise them closely, they will need to be separated. Close supervision means that you are watching them carefully. It doesn’t mean allowing them in the living room while you are cooking in the kitchen.
Once they are comfortable and well behaved with each other, supervision may not be necessary. Until they are, it’s your responsibility to avoid unwanted behavior whenever possible.