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Pet World: What to do when new cat and old dog don’t get along

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

We adopted a cat in mid-March. She is approximately two-years-old. She was captured as a stray and spayed. They put her up for adoption, I'm guessing, because she is very social with people. We were told she "hates" other cats but is okay with dogs. We have an elderly male dog, 13-years-old, who is totally complacent about everything. The cat has started to lay her ears back, meow annoyance and chase him from wherever she doesn't wish him to be. Thus far, our corrections have been clapping hands with a displeased voice. She will exit the situation but will repeat behavior later in day. I've also sprayed pheromones around sleeping areas and tried calming cat treats. I would appreciate any suggestions to curtail her behavior. A can of coins or noise correction would freak out our old dog.

–Regina, Northampton, Pennsylvania

Dear Regina,

Whenever a new animal is brought into the home, there is an adjustment period for everyone. In order to have harmony, the new arrival must find some space to call her own, which means the other animals already in the home must give up some space. This can cause conflict and take many months to work out.

But you can help things along by creating some private space your feline can call her own. This might involve putting up a doggie gate that she can crawl under or over to access a room that your dog can’t access; moving boxes out from under beds so she has a place to escape; or leaving empty boxes in closets so she can sleep in them. But the thing I recommend most is getting her a tall cat tree with lots of perches and levels so she can expand her territory upwards. Rub cat nip on the cat tree and add a few treats to each level for about a week to encourage her to climb up. Although, I think she will be on the top perch on the first day, as she will quickly recognize this is her space to claim. Adding this tall cat tree can immediately reduce conflict between your dog and cat.

Pent up energy also can be a problem for some cats. Because she is a stray, she may be used to spending time outside. If so, consider training her to wear a harness and leash, so you can eventually take her into a yard for some mental stimulation. A 10-minute “walk” in the yard every morning can give her mind something to do.

If you don’t have a yard or supervised outside time won’t work, then make sure she receives a minimum of 10 minutes of exercise/playtime, twice daily. Animals that don’t get exercise/playtime can remain moody and irritable with the other people and pets in the home.

Dear Cathy,

I have a nine-year-old, female German Shepherd dog. We have had her for six-years. She is a rescue, and we are her third home. She is a sweetheart, however, has anxiety issues when we go for our morning walks. It is difficult to get in a four-mile walk while avoiding other dogs. I can feel the anxiety in her voice when another dog approaches. After reading an article by you, I am hoping that you can give us a suggestion of what we can do to help her.


–Dan and Martha Cover, Tucson, Arizona

Dear Dan and Martha,

Dogs who lack confidence can become quite vocal in an attempt to keep other dogs away.

If your sweet dog was never properly socialized with other dogs, she might experience anxiety when meeting another dog on the street. I suggest starting with some basic obedience training – i.e. sit, stay, down, come, and heel (walk beside you on a leash). On the surface, this may not make any sense considering the problem. But, the goal of obedience training is two-fold — to encourage your dog to always look to you for what to do next and to build your dog’s confidence, which makes for a mentally healthier dog.

When you’re actually walking her, encourage her to heel.. If she gets out too far ahead of you or misbehaves at an approaching dog, turn quickly, and walk in the opposite direction. This surprise maneuver reminds your dog to pay attention to you.

Finally, consider giving her an over-the-counter anxiety supplement prior to the walk. Look for products with ingredients like melatonin, valerian root and L-theanine, which can help calm her mind and make it easier for her to learn.


(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)




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