How to Break up a Dog vs. Cat Fight

By Langley Cornwell

My husband and I share our home with two dogs and a cat, and most of the time it’s completely harmonious. We got one of the dogs and the cat at the same time, so that introduction was easy for everyone involved. Because we rescued those two animals together, they were getting accustomed to us, our home and each other at the same time. It worked out seamlessly.

When we decided it was time to add another dog to our family, we were a bit concerned about how the potential new dog would get along with our cat. This dog needed a home immediately and he had never been exposed to cats. We decided to take the plunge, and made the introductions slowly. And of course, we followed the instructions I wrote about in this article: Tips for Introducing a New Dog to a Household with Cats. We were fortunate that after a few misunderstandings, it all worked out.

Many families have at least one cat and one dog, and I’ve heard too many stories about serious fights breaking out between the two. It’s not always the dog picking on the cat, either. Plenty of cat breeds are feisty, and some felines take pleasure in tormenting the family dog. Alternatively, a dog may want to play when a cat isn’t in the mood. If the uninitiated dog doesn’t read the cat’s hissing, swatting or growling signs, a full-on fight can erupt.

Regardless of which one starts the fight, it can escalate quickly. You need to be prepared. The best solution is prevention. Here are a few tips to avoid a dog vs. cat fight:

• Do not insist that the dog and the cat spend time together in the same room.
• Make sure all of the animals in your household have a safe place to retreat.
• Provide every pet in your home with his own food and water bowls and his own toys.
• Divide your attention between your dog and your cat to avoid the negative behavior associated with jealously.
• Use high value treats – like CANIDAE Pure Heaven, Pure Taste and Bakery Snacks – to reward good behavior between the dog and the cat.

If, despite all of your precautions, your dog and cat get into a serious scuffle do not grab your dog by the collar or reach your hands between the two animals. You must remain calm and try one or more of these suggestions:

• Make loud noises. Clap your hands, stomp your feet, clang two metal things together, blow a whistle, do whatever it takes to make a racquet. Sudden, loud noises may startle the dog and cat and interrupt the fight.
• If the fight is outside, a blast of water from the garden hose will usually cause the animals to disengage. If a water bowl is close by, fling the water on them. If you’re inside, a squirt bottle with a steady stream may do the same trick. Aim for the animal’s faces for maximum effect.
• Put something large and flat between the fighting dog and cat. Use a folded lawn chair, a baby gate, a trashcan lid or something similar so that you are separating the animals and obscuring their view of one another.
• Trap either the dog or the cat in a laundry basket or a box to put a physical barrier between the two and give them a chance to cool off.
• Throw a blanket or towel over both animals. The sudden change in environment will startle them and they may stop fighting if they can’t see each other.
• If you have to get closer to the fracas, step between the animals and physically push them apart with your legs. It’s important that you have on long pants and shoes before you resort to this method.

Animals rely on their instincts and react to your energy. If you panic, the fight may escalate. Throughout the incident, you must remain calmly assertive. Once you have the dog and the cat separated, put them in different parts of the house and make sure they can’t see one another. Keep the animals apart until everyone, including you, has calmed down.

Top photo by Yasuhiko Ito
Bottom photo by Robert Huffstutter

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell

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