Introducing a Cat to Riley's House
I mentioned in a previous post how Riley is a unique and interesting fellow. He isn't unlike most dogs in that he learns in increments and new behaviors have to be broken down step by step. Riley is also now eight going on nine and while he is still fully energetic and as loving and happy as ever we know he is getting up there in dog years so introducing new stresses in his life is not ideal. With all this in mind we (I) got a cat.
It came about in quite a funny and interesting way. As in home pet care professionals we do a lot of cat sitting but I'd never cat sat for Siamese cats. I'd always wanted to because I have heard rumors that they are Siamese if you please and Siamese if you don't and I had to know for myself. After providing cat sitting for a couple Siamese brothers and an older Siamese it came to my attention that one of their relatives was in Virginia Beach and not getting along with another cat in his new home and therefore he needed to find a new home. I'd previously mentioned to Lara that our next dog might be a cat so I decided to ask my wife's permission and then jump at the opportunity. Once we had the cat, who we renamed Bagheera, a whole new challenge presented itself.
While Riley had previously lived with cats he had either forgotten how to interact with them or no longer cared to and he viewed Bagheera as a new plaything for him to chase, corner, and catch. We had to keep Riley and Bagheera separate. you might be wondering what about Sandy? Sandy is very clear in her meaning when she communicates and Bagheera quickly learned that Sandy would appreciate to be left alone or Bagheera would be met with the fearsome snarls of a cranky Chihuahua. Like Riley's interactions with Sandy Bagheera learned to respect her or face her toothless wrath.
When I Googled how to introduce a cat into a dog house I found some warnings and one of those was if your dog is reactive to small creatures and likes to chase them then a cat probably in't for you. Riley has long been known as possessing some of the greatest squirrel rage known to man and becomes completely unresponsive when on the hunt. He is a hound dog after all, but I know Riley and I know he can learn and I also am not one to give up.
We set up the laundry room to be Bagheera's lair and safe space while Riley would get the office and sleep in the bedroom with us at night. We alternated time in their separate spaces with Riley in the office while Bagheera had run of the house and Bagheera in his room while Riley was free to roam. At night we closed the bedroom door and Riley and Sandy slept with us while Bagheera was loose in the house. We did this for a week or two and then decided to let them out at the same time with Riley being controlled with treats. Here we made a small mistake as we gave Riley a treat after he chased the cat and came back to us. We then started over and kept them separate for another week and this time we gave Riley a treat when he was sitting still and just went and got him when he chased Bagheera. After a couple days of this they got comfortable enough around each other that they could be together when we were home. We still lock Riley in the office when we leave but he really has no idea as he'd sleep on that couch the entire time we're gone anyway.
When they are both out Bagheera now entices Riley to chase him and Riley obliges but sometimes gets a little rough and we have to step in and make Riley sit and behave. For the most part Riley sleeps and Bagheera either runs around like a crazy kitty or sleeps. Bagheera has too modes. Full crazy play and sleep. All three animals now sleep in bed with us and can comfortably be around each other with little to no craziness. In fact the below picture is what they are doing right now and how I hope their interactions continue moving forward.