Maui and the Furry Feline Jellybeans.
I'm quite glad that Maui got along with the cats. In fact, he gets along so much with our current "Queen" Friday that whenever she enters the house, Maui goes to greet her and Friday rubs her head on his snout. He doesn't fight with two male cats outside and I sometimes watch them chase each other around. Eventually, one of the male cats, Mars, would lay down on his back and let Maui "mouth" his belly, and in response, Mars would playfully kick him. The play ends when Mars starts grabbing Maui's snout with his claws and Maui yelps. You can only touch a cat's belly so much before the mandatory claw trap triggers.
I saw more of this bonding when I saw Maui suddenly jump up the baby gate to reach Friday's kittens.
Maui does sometimes hang out with the kittens when Friday is nursing. I would find him sitting by the baby gate sleeping. There's probably something about the kittens or perhaps the smell that keeps him around. Not once did he show any aggressive behavior to them in any way. I was afraid that he would kill the kittens because I've heard stories of dogs smaller than Maui making short work of newborns. I'm already squirming at the idea and I didn't want that worst-case scenario to become a reality.
It didn't. When I ran to Maui, all the dog did was smell the wiggling kittens and licked one of them. Their eyes were already open so I wonder what the kittens saw. I'm sure they know his smell, but as expected, one of the kittens started hissing, and soon spat at Maui which is a common move for newborns to repel any curious intruders that aren't their mothers. Maui just tilted his head at the spitting and hissing kitten, which was probably upset because he woke it from its nap.
At least I can confirm that Maui does not have that kind of a strong prey drive. He's probably just curious. What impressed me more was the jump. I didn't know dogs could clear a vertical height almost twice their height without a running start. The tall baby gate was about 4 feet in height, meant to keep a former toddler separate from the kitchen. He didn't even jiggle the gate, it was a clean jump and a clean landing.
I wondered now if I can remove the baby gate. If this goes on, the kittens could have a stressful time dealing with Maui jumping on and off the baby gate. I'm sure Friday already considers this area as a safe space, so removing the baby gate shouldn't compromise that. Also placing the baby gate meant I had to move the sofa to one side, making it a bit off-center when I'm watching TV. Pedantic, but that's what I get when there's nothing much to complain about. One last thing I'd like to avoid is Maui suddenly overshooting his jump and hitting the kittens.
Hopefully, the kittens experience minimal stress with Maui around. His energy level when inside the house is pretty low and I do what I can to help him expel that energy in the form of training and our new bike runs.
While I was removing the gate, the kittens started making loud kitten sounds, probably because of all the ruckus. Like the dutiful mother she is, Friday came sauntering in. I expected her to come running though, but it seems like there is no threat enough to warrant her attention.
She went to her kittens, licked them, then met snouts with Maui. She curled around her kittens and let them suckle. Maui's calm behavior still astounds me. He patted his front paws on the floor and looked at me expectantly. I don't know what to do though, so I just praised him for not harming the kittens. I wonder now if this is his Shepherd side, or if he's just happy to interact with new animals, albeit newly born ones.
I recall that the first time Maui encountered the cats, he had quite the negative experience, but eventually, he warmed up to them, or at least the cats decided to tolerate him. I could be lucky that Maui is quite the social critter. I could imagine that other dogs would require proper training before they are even introduced to cats.
This then led me to wonder if dog behavior is affected by how they are raised. My wife wanted a pit bull before. Basically, she wanted a dog that, at least, looks intimidating enough to keep potential intruders from going into the house. It's not a common occurrence, but she also likes the idea of owning a big dog. At first, I was against it, arguing that pit bulls are known for their aggressive behavior towards people and smaller animals. She debated that any big dog has the potential for aggressive behaviour if they are abused, treated poorly, or are praised for bad behavior like attacking or biting.
Applying this thought to Maui, his prior experience during his puppy-hood was bullying behavior caused by an irate small dog. When he came to us, I allowed him to get used to us first and simply showed him his food bowl, provided ample amounts of water, and a safe sleeping spot. While I observed and addressed any signs of stress. The next few days were a lot like this, ensuring careful introductions to each of the family members and the cats. It also helped that my cats are surprisingly accommodating to Maui. I've seen Mars repel stray dogs who see him as a chew toy, so I was so glad he "tolerated" him.
All these positive feelings must have helped Maui become the social dog that he is right now, or at least helped develop his social instincts to be more welcoming instead of being guarded all the time. I then gave him basic training and he seemed to have nothing but positive experiences from it, even with the shock collar.
Right now, Maui's just sitting by the kitten box. It's odd that he'd rather hang out here instead of sleeping in the air-conditioned office, but I think it's very sweet that he's guarding them. I can't wait to see what happens when the kittens start roaming around.