Cat Behavior Q&A: My Cat, the Dog-Stalker!

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We’ve been lucky to have cat behavior expert Pam Johnson-Bennett joining the new PetCareRx Community this week to answer members’ questions about their cats. Pam runs Cat Behavior Associates and is star of the new “Psycho Kitty” TV series, currently airing on Discovery UK and Nat Geo Wild Canada. She is also the author of seven best-selling books about cat behavior. Starting today, each Thursday on the blog we’ll feature the best expert guidance that Pam and other experts have offered our community.

Check out this week’s question and Pam’s solution here:

Member lizard0305 writes:

My cat has a tendency to stalk my dog. She’s a 13 lb. domestic short-hair, about 3 years old. Our dog is a 5 lb. Pomeranian. She stalks him when he’s walking around a corner, waits for him on the stairs, both coming up and down, and full-body tackles him. He’s an old dog, and I’m afraid she’ll hurt him. She’s already made sure he’s too paranoid to climb the stairs on his own. We have scratching posts and cardboard trays for her, and lots of toys. Our children will play with her with the toys from time to time, but she seems to delight in dog-torturing. Is there anything I can do to persuade her to leave the dog alone? All he wants is a comfy spot for a nap, and food that the cat doesn’t steal. (Yes, she will try to keep him from his food, and he’s underweight). In all other ways, she’s a delight to have around the house. She is not allowed outside, and shows no interest in being outside.

Expert advice from Pam Johnson-Bennett:

Yikes, that must be terrifying for your dog. I can certainly understand why you’re so concerned. First, make sure she’s getting opportunities to play (appropriately) at least twice a day through interactive play sessions. Part of this may have begun out of her desire to have some stimulation and play opportunities. Conduct at least two play sessions, using a fishing pole-type toy. Also, be sure the environment is set up to provide solo play opportunities for her. Make sure she has a cat tree to climb on, some puzzle feeders (safe from the dog, of course) so she can “hunt” for food, and other forms of environmental enrichment. If she gets enough safe forms of stimulation, she may leave the dog alone.

If, however, she’s stalking the dog out of aggression, then my suggestion would be to try leash training her for a bit so you can work with her on making a more positive association with the dog. If you can’t leash train, separate the pets with a baby gate and do some clicker training with the cat so you help her begin to associate him with good experiences. Clicker training works well because you can click and reward the cat for any positive behavior, no matter how small. For example, you can click and reward if she just walks by the dog or if she stays on her cat tree when he walks by.

I would also suggest that you separate the pets during mealtime because it’s extremely stressful for the dog to have to worry about the cat when he’s trying to eat. It also helps break one more chain in the behavior pattern that she has set up.

Do you have cat behavior questions of your own? Join the conversation here! There are a few days left to ask Pam a question and win a copy of her book, “Pyscho Kitty!”

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