Karen Wild: Some facts about dogs and cats

Karen Wild column EMN-140715-124751001

Karen Wild column EMN-140715-124751001

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I spent a whole day on a film set last week, watching dogs and cats being filmed as they relaxed on a sofa as part of a 'be calm around fireworks' campaign.

I did my interview 'bit' to camera in 5 minutes in the early morning, then sat waiting for the next interview which was at 5.15pm. This gave me a lot of time to observe the behaviour of the 'animal actors' that were there. Two beautiful cats and two beautiful dogs were on set. It was carefully planned that they were not together at the same time.

My clients often ask me why is it that some dogs get along fine with cats in the family, where others are determined to chase them?

As predators, dogs evolved to catch and eat live prey. This instinct still exists even though we provide easy access food in a pretty bowl. For some, it has been bred away as we wanted dogs to sit on laps rather than hunt. The desire to hunt can be diverted through thorough training, but the instinct that makes dogs chase is still triggered by rapid movement. By throwing a toy for your dog, you are mimicking this same activity. Why do you think some dogs are so keen on chasing balls or squeaky toys or even launching themselves at the television?

Dogs can chase cats for similar reasons and can even kill them (if they manage to catch them as cats are masters of the aerial route and will fly up a garden fence with amazing speed and agility). Nevertheless, it can be very risky for all concerned so do seek specialist help. This is important if your cat is young, elderly, or unable to move easily but it is a very stressful event no matter what.

Cats and dogs can get along very well, if you start when both animals are young. Older cats don’t always welcome young pups, and my advice is to never allow them to ‘sort it out for themselves’. I have evidence of this leading to severe injury to both animals.

Teach your dog to 'leave' anything they would otherwise like to chase, and return to you. Use toys or food to motivate them, and keep them on a lead to (gently!) steer them away if needed.