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How to Train Dogs to Live With Cats

Peace Between Cats and Dog.

It all happened one morning when I was seeing how my tomatoes were growing. Maui was with me as usual and as I thoughtfully stared at my unripe mulberries, Mars, our rather aggressive grey striped cat, lunged at Maui, making the poor dog flinch in surprise before running off and hiding under the cover of the thick key lime bush.

At first, I thought these were the typical days where this cat with an incredibly high prey drive would stalk Maui. I think Mars knows that the lime bush has thorns, making it hard for Maui to flush him out if he ever did. Yet he just did. I told Maui to sit and stay, but he didn't listen and looked like he was pissed off this time.

Maui tried to get Mars from the bush. I quickly saw Mars slap Maui with his large paws so I thought of the worse. Maui recoiled then raised his paws and slapped them on the ground followed by some mild barking. I assumed this was a challenge as if he was calling Mars through some common mammalian body language. My commands didn't work either. Maui's aggression towards cats has not improved since he arrived here, and now I worry that one of us is going to get hurt here. 

Maui strafed from side to side, trying to corner Mars, but the crafty cat instead slipped back further into the bush. Even I couldn't see him anymore, then he darted to one side and ran through the walkway. Maui chased after them and so did I, worried that they might knock something off or trample on my plants. 

Instead what happened was when Maui caught up with Mars, the cat instantly laid down and exposed his belly, then patted Maui's snout in rapid succession. This wasn't a fight at all. Maui was doing snarly sounds as he maneuvered his open maw away from Mars, but ultimately, they weren't doing anything to harm each other. Did I miss something? Was I mistaken about Maui's aggressive behaviors all along? I realized later that day that the paw slapping was not a challenge, but in fact, an invitation to play. 

Perhaps. I'd like to think that the constant indirect exposure and my overall friendly and playful treatment finally paid off. I could be wrong, but I'd like to think I helped a little. 

I know cat body language almost like a 4th language, (provided I had a 3rd), as I've lived with generations of cats and the random lucky rescue. Mars did not show any warning signs that he was annoyed, no flickering tail movements, and no defensive postures. The hairs on his back aren't raised either. As for Maui, I really don't know much but the wagging tail tells me he's at least excited by the activity. 

After a few more seconds of rough-housing, Mars ran off and climbed up the wall fence. He looked down at Maui and hopped away, ending what probably counts as proper introductions between friendly hunters. (I learned later on that domesticated dogs are apparently opportunistic scavengers, not hunters. They're only hunters as part of their evolved symbiotic relationship with humans.)

This left me with a thought. If Maui was friendly towards our most aggressive cat, then he might be more accommodating to Saturn and Friday, who currently aren't around. It's time for Maui to properly meet his feline friends. 

The plan is to first let Maui meet them outside. I'd like this to be isolated in the office, but I fear that Maui might think that the cats are encroaching on his territory. I'll prepare a food reward and the shock collar's vibrate, so I can provide positive reinforcement and distract Maui should things go south. As long as he's in a good mood, things should go well. 

I went about my normal routine until one of the resident cats was present. It was the ever-chubby Saturn, who was friendlier, or at least less predatory than Mars. We went out and with the remote on hand, called Saturn. The white cat approached, but for some reason, the confrontation was tenser than the previous one. Maui seemed guarded, and Saturn was hesitant. I called Maui and gave him his tasty treat. I told him to sit and stay, and surprisingly enough he did and I gave him a treat again. Saturn came closer, attracted to the treats, then as he got close to Maui, they sort of "side-smelled" each other, literally smelling each other's side. I gave Maui another treat to signal that he was doing well, then Saturn just brushed up my leg and walked away. I gave Saturn a piece of cooked liver too because I like spoiling them a little. 

That was anticlimactic. However, this was amazing as Maui didn't bark, nor did he chase after him. Maui left his post and went to his potty area to relieve himself and didn't seem to be at all interested in Saturn.


I used this opportunity to teach Maui to approach me when he hears the beep. I activated the beep function and called Maui. When he reaches me, I say "Good!" then give him some liver. Sometimes he goes off on his own, but sometimes I walk to different parts of the yard and do the beep, this time without calling Maui, so he has to actively look for me and approach me. It was rather easy, but I think it's because Maui already somewhat understands the "training language".

 

Finally, the last of the cats appeared. Friday, who was pregnant, and one that I forgot to have neutered. Still, I've cared for cats and I can handle a handful of kittens. Anyway, she was the most elusive of the bunch, so I called her and pressed the beep so that both of them would approach me. Maui was rather excited and pranced as he approached Friday. Maui sniffed at Friday's behind, which instantly tells me that this common sign of a peaceful approach, and to my surprise, Friday turned around and did a bit of a head bump on Maui's leg. If that wasn't a sign of friendship and unity, then I don't know anything about cats. 

 

My wife had some ideas about this friendliness. Maui spends a lot of time with us,  so he's imbued with our smell. Since smell is one of the most important parts of cat socialization, the cats think that since Maui smells like the humans, and we are in good relations with those humans, therefore Maui must be a friend. So Friday shares some of her scents with Maui via head bump. 


I gave Maui two treats, one for approaching me properly, and for being friendly with the cats. I won't conclude that this means proper harmony and unity in my household, but it sure looks like the start of a beautiful friendship.

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