This year I adopted a cat named, Minnie Mouse. I have been building her confidence over the past few months. I reckon that she was a stray or grew up in a home where no one paid any attention to her. She was very shy and has learned to trust me. She now loves to be pet and will now play with toys. I needed to build her confidence before I even thought about introducing my dog, Loker to her. She has grown in leaps and bounds and now looks forward to having someone walk in her room. I will sometimes hear her little meows for attention through the door!
The last few weeks I have been building a positive association with being near her room for my dog. Her sounds – meowing, litter box scratching, playing – no longer arouse him which is very good news. Now the next step is to get him used to and okay with her movements. Both cat and dog are fairly food motivated so with a bit of salmon for the kitty and a bit of peanut butter for the dog, they had their first meal “together”! This is an incredible milestone that actually came faster than I thought. Minnie’s confidence has especially grown lately and she was willing to come out to the hallway to eat (she likes her room very much and doesn’t like to venture far). I truly did not expect such a peaceful event: 1) I did not expect Minnie to be comfortable enough to come out and see the dog within a few feet and 2) I did not expect the dog to be so into the peanut butter that he did not mind the cat!
- Build the cat’s confidence through bond building by playing, petting, feeding, talking, and teaching (some clicker training). Minnie sees petting as a high value reinforcer. How do I know? She will stop eating salmon to get more petting! Each cat is very different so finding out what the cat wants most is very important.
- Get the cat used to the new surroundings by leaving her room door open so she can hear the normal sounds of daily life. This should only happen while someone is home to supervise. I also began feeding her salmon closer and closer to the doorway.
- Feed the dog something he loves near the cat room so he associates her smells with good things.
- Feed them together where they can safely see each other. This is my current step. We will do this for a while and I will begin clicking/treating when my dog looks at the cat then looks back at me.
My thoughts as a transitioning trainer? It certainly impressed me how using the right kind of foods will motivate any animal. I am excited that I was able to find something that motivated both sufficiently for this exercise. Before, I can honestly say that I would not have known how to even begin introducing these two. Corrections would not have achieved anything and probably would have made things worse by making negative associations with the cat.
Stay tuned for more updates and tips!