I am looking at adopting a rescued Rottweiler, named Marge. She is 5 yrs old & a sweetheart. I believe she would be a pretty good fit into our family. Marge is house trained, knows basic commends & very friendly. However, I have a 15 yr old cat, and I wasn’t comfortable with how she acted around the owner of the shelter’s cats. Marge stared them down & stalked them.
Can a dog be broke of this kind of behavior towards cats? Please advise as soon as you can, because I truly would like to adopt Marge, but my I have had my cat for 10 yrs & it is a great concern. -Catherine
Amongst other things the age old rivalry between dogs and cats can have something to do with body language. For instance, when a dog holds its tail up and stiff it’s usually an indication of challenge and dominance. When a cat holds its tail up and stiff it usually means, “Life’s great, wanna hang out?” So when a dog and cat meet each other and both have their tails straight up it can become a diplomat’s nightmare. The cat’s thinking, “Hey cool. A dog that wants to be friends.” and the dog looks at the cat’s tail and opens with “You talkin’ to me? . . .” and then all heck breaks out. It takes a while for dogs and cats unfamiliar with the other’s species to adapt to the way they talk with their bodies but with an early start, a little supervision and guidance it can be done. Left later, it can range from harder to never going to happen.
Cats experienced with being around dogs usually tune up a novice dog pretty quickly. Pups that fail to take note of the spitting and hissing soon come to learn ‘the way of the claw’ and learn to slow down. However most cats are just going to run for it and then for some dogs, it’s just a few chases to get from where it’s all about a potential game of tag, to where it’s all about the hunt.
You should have a chat with the rescue and find out just how close Marge has been to the cats there. If they say there hasn’t been a problem ask them if that’s just because they’re fast and/or taking precautions. Sometimes you have to spell things out to get an honest answer.. You’d think during her stay they too at the very least must have noticed her staring and stalking and have something useful to add.
I’ve just sent a dog home that was reputed to be with cats what Godzilla was to Tokyo. He had been recently purchased from a rescue by a couple, also owners of 4 cats. After a little testing he seemed to be more interested in catch and release but he was indeed intense and making everyone nervous. I spent the first week making sure Buddy understood that being told to Come, Heel and Go to his Mat were never open to interpretation and then using those exercises around cooperative cats into extreme sports. Buddy really wanted to please people and as it turned out far more then he wanted to collect cats and I think it looks like things will work out. You may get a better idea of the chances of long term success if you have Marge assessed by someone that has worked with dogs with high prey drive.
In your case it’s also worth considering that regardless of Marge’s cat loving potential, “Living with a Rottweiler” may have not been on your 15 year old cat’s list of “Things I Want to Do When I Retire” list and if so even if Marge can be toned down the process might be too much to expect of a feline senior citizen.
John Wade the Dog Trainer