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My cat and dog don't really like each other, but they've coexisted with little issue for nearly two years now. In fact, when I rented a bedroom for like eight months, they shared very close quarters and seemed fine.
They've been getting into staring contests lately. The dog (Brisco) has always been skittish around the cat (Shadow). Now I often see Brisco sitting in the doorway of rooms he wants to go into, while Shadow sits inside the room, staring at him. Or Brisco will be drinking water and Shadow will walk over and they'll both get stiff and stare each other down. I always make them stop but I'm worried it will escalate. Is there anything I can do? I don't want Brisco to feel nervous in his own house, and I don't want Shadow (who is declawed) to get hurt.
 

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Staring with cats can be both a sign of fear and/or dominance. In your case it sounds more like dominance on Shadow's part than fear. Usually dogs will stare briefly and then look away if they fear a cat or another dog. If a cat feels comfortable with you, it will give a slow blink after staring briefly....as much to say, "it's OK I'm chill". If you mimic the cat with a stare and slow blink cat will often return it. To me it sounds like Shadow has become somewhat dominant over Brisco, since Brisco is reluctant to go in a room when he sees Shadow sitting inside the room. Well you could try distracting Shadow by calling her name and then giving her a slow blink. That may break her concentration on staring. Another thing to try when you see a stare-down is to roll a ping pong or foil ball along the floor between them. Hopefully one of them will break off the stare and go to play with the ball. Those little plastic springy spirals are good for that too (available in pet stores). When one or both go after the toy to play, you can reward it with a treat. This will help reinforce that playing instead of staring are more fun and get rewarded. Hope these suggestions help. Yes I agree, you certainly don't want either one to escalate their staring into a fight. All the best!
 
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