To Chase Cats, or Not To Chase Cats: THAT is the Question.

Posted on May 13th, 2012 by FetchMasters in Behavior Modification

This article is not about training your dog to stop chasing your cat (although that may be the topic of a future article). It is about whether you really want to train your dog not to chase your cat.

Clients occasionally ask me how to train their dogs to not chase their cats. The question always sends me into a moment of reverie about my home (zoo, really) …

I am training my own dog, Roscoe, to move from a frontal position into a heeling position (which, as it turns out, can be a pretty difficult concept for a Bluetick Hound). But he is trying, and he is focused. And we slowly and patiently work on it.Then our cat Sophie walks out from behind the couch and moves right between me and Roscoe. As soon as she has the dog’s attention, she breaks into a wild sprint through the living room and up the stairs with Roscoe hot on her trail.

Roscoe corners Sophie in an upstairs bedroom. She turns to face him, puts both of her paws on his snout and starts licking his droopy, slobbery jowl. When Sophie gets the jowl cleaned up, Roscoe ambles away.

Then I ask my client: “Are you sure you don’t want your dog to chase your cat?”

There obviously are times it is unsafe or undesirable for a dog to chase a cat. For example, if dogs and cats do not know each other, a chase could have cat-astrophic results. And animals sliding across your hardwood floor and into furniture or small children could be dangerous.

But dogs and cats have a way of developing their own flavor of friendship, complete with mutual grooming, shared sleeping quarters, and raucous play. Since play is such an integral part of the relationship between both dogs and cats, I am always a bit hesitant to snuff it out unless doing so is really necessary.

Usually there is not much to worry about when well-bonded cats and dogs play. Most well-socialized dogs have great bite-inhibition (that is, they don’t bite too hard when they are playing — even if they are baring their teeth). They also are very good at deferring to one another (and to cats) to keep the play mutually fun. Similarly, cats are great at moderating their own play. They can refrain from extending their claws, and they avoid swatting at the eyes of other animals when they are playing.

My advice is to introduce your cats and dogs slowly and carefully. Once they start showing an interest in playing with one another, observe them vigilantly — but don’t be too quick to break them up.

The thing is, they could easily hurt one another if they wanted to. So, if nobody is getting hurt, the most likely reason is they are just having a little rowdy fun.