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Advice needed please re getting a dog - we have nervous cats!

(39 Posts)
WatermelonSugarHigh Fri 10-Jul-20 17:25:17

Please help me, wise people of Mumsnet. We have been planning to get a Ddog for over a year now. We have a 9 year old DC and although we know it will be a massive amount of work, especially if we get a puppy or young dog, we think it will be good for all of us. DC would benefit from a 'doggy sibling' and both myself and DH would benefit from having no excuse when it comes to taking daily exercise! DC is also autistic (as am I) and we're hoping the dog will informally function as a therapy dog, helping with her confidence when out and about.

We took the decision to get a dog around a year ago. We had set ourselves a 'deadline' of this month to try and get a puppy if the right adult rescue dog hadn't presented itself to us by then. (We volunteer at a rescue centre as walkers and kind of hoped fate would introduce us to our perfect canine friend that way.)

Obviously we can't just go and get a puppy now, the prices have become totally unaffordable and that's if you can even find a suitable breeder near enough to you. But we're still trying to make plans for becoming dog parents, in the hope that perhaps a 'lockdown puppy' will find its way to us when his/her owners realise it's not workable to keep him/her once they're out of the house at work all day again.

My main worry is that we have two cats. They were rescues and the mum was semi-feral when we adopted them. She's very flighty and nervous, even runs from DH if he moves too quickly. Has taken me 18 months to get her to be fairly relaxed with me, and even now if I raise my hand too quickly as I go to stroke her she panics. She will be three years old in September, and we also have her son who has just turned two years old (she was a teen mom, poor thing!). He's more chilled and confident, and loves nothing better than to wind her up trying to 'play' as if she were a littermate rather than his mother.

Any advice for me? Particularly with regard to the type/age of dog that would be best to introduce to a home with two cats, one of whom basically seems to have feline PTSD. I would be heartbroken if getting a dog essentially ruined Dcat's life. And any tips for having a dog and cats survive amicably in the same house? We're already thinking we need to have one or two 'safe rooms' that the dog cannot access, and where we will locate the cats' litter trays and food. But haven't got much further than that yet.

OP’s posts: |
WatermelonSugarHigh Fri 10-Jul-20 17:27:10

Should add, I grew up with dogs (Shelties) but know I still have a massive amount to learn in becoming a dog owner rather than just a tween/teen whose family has dogs. DH has never had a dog before.

OP’s posts: |
Floralnomad Fri 10-Jul-20 17:27:58

Bringing any dog into the house with an existing cat can cause problems and your cat does not sound like a suitable candidate at all .

Ickabog Fri 10-Jul-20 17:35:39

It really doesn't sound like it would be fair to get a dog, especially a young one or puppy who would be a complete unknown in terms of behaviour.

GrumpyMiddleAgedWoman Fri 10-Jul-20 17:56:17

We have had three puppies with established cats and IME the cat gets the upper hand very quickly. Our cat is ancient, but he still rules the dogs. He picks where he sleeps and they dare not pinch his food if he is there.

Provided you supervise the puppy around the cats until it gets the idea that chasing the them is right out, and make sure that the cats have an escape route to somewhere the dog can't go, you should be fine.

pigsDOfly Fri 10-Jul-20 18:01:52

My two cats were 17 years old when I got my dog as an 8 week old puppy.

And whilst I had no problems at all, my cats were confident, chilled and happy and we'd had them from when they first left their mother - they were littler mates.

I wouldn't bring a dog, especially a puppy, into a house with a nervous cat, and yours sounds incredibly nervous, it isn't fair.

No one can say that it definitely won't work, but I think you'd be taking an awful risk that your semi feral, nervous cat, suddenly finding a dog in her territory, would just find it too stressful and end up running away.

Blueuggboots Fri 10-Jul-20 18:16:15

Please don't. Your poor cat!

Aquamarine1029 Fri 10-Jul-20 18:26:06

Lifelong cat and dog owner here, and I have introduced a new puppy to adult cats several times with no issues aside from the initial feline avoidance and slight annoyance, which is common. However, I would be very, very wary of bringing a dog into your home given you have an extremely anxious, semi-feral cat. This could very well be a recipe for disaster, and your idea of a safe room really isn't a good one. It will only make your can even more distressed because they will feel trapped. You think it would feel protected in there, but that's not the case quite often.

Sadly, you need to have a serious rethink.

tabulahrasa Fri 10-Jul-20 18:47:19

Tbh... getting a dog may well make the cats’ lives pretty miserable.

My cat is a bit on the timid side (nothing like yours) but has always lived with dogs, whenever a new one arrives or a foster comes, so we are talking about dogs that have already lived with cats and are not particularly interested in harassing her she retreats upstairs to live for at least 6 weeks and it’s a good few weeks after she’s started venturing downstairs that she doesn’t panic if we do something like shut a door so she doesn’t have an escape route back upstairs if she needs it.

That’s with being used to living with a dog...

vanillandhoney Fri 10-Jul-20 18:48:03

My advice? Don't. And I have a dog and three cats.

We introduced the dog as a 12 week old puppy to two cats, then aged 2 and 3 years. HOWEVER, the cats were well-established, happy house cats with no behavioural issues. What you're proposing is totally different, and imo, massively unfair on your existing older cat who is clearly under socialised and nervous as it is.

About a month ago we went on to introduce a 10 week old kitten to the house. But, again, all our existing animals are happy and settled with no behavioural problems. They all get and the cats are remarkably tolerant of each other considering they're not related. But, we waited at least a year between animals to make sure everyone was happy and settled.

Puppies are jumpy, loud, noisy and unpredictable. Add into that a young autistic child and a semi-feral cat and I think you would all be utterly miserable, the cat in particular.

Please don't. It would be utterly unfair on your resident pets and would likely cause behavioural problems in your older female.

ChewChewIsMySpiritAnimal Fri 10-Jul-20 18:53:26

I don't think you should get a dog. You've made a commitment to the cats and it doesn't sound like the older one will cope. My cat lived with dogs for a few years. It wasn't until the dogs moved out that we realised just how stressed she was and how much of her behaviour was caused by having to share her home with dogs. She's the most chilled out girl now, she used to be highly strung, a bit aggressive and pee everywhere.

CMOTDibbler Fri 10-Jul-20 19:02:41

It can work, but it takes a lot of work, and also depends on your house layout a bit.
When we got ddog1 we had neurotic cat (who can't be shut in, after 13 years she will just about tolerate being picked up for 30s, and has never sat on a lap), evil cat (hated everyone, mostly lived outside), and big ginger boy (who had settled from mostly feral). It took 5 years for the neurotic one to really settle into the concept of dogs in her house tbh, it didn't make a difference to evil cat and big ginger just ruled with an iron paw.
Our current cats (we still have neurotic cat as well) came to us very traumatised but it only took a year to settle into life with the dogs.

If you are going to do this, you have to think about the cats being secure, and having a secure route out at all times. In our house (as we foster puppies, we have to keep doing stuff even though our dogs are fine), this means the kitchen has a stairgate and the cats bowls are in there, and the cat flap is out of the kitchen. From the cat flap, they are in the lean to conservatory (doors open enough for cats, but not dogs) then they can see its clear onto the wall - if we didn't have the lean to I would gate off that part of the garden so that they can't be harassed in or out of the cat flap.
The puppies are in the sitting/dining room, and this has a stairgate so the cats can come in and out if they want and both parties can see each other.
At night, the pups are crated so the cats get free range of the house. We did this with our own dogs till they were 2. Pups crated when we are in the shower or out as well for safety.
This way the cats own the house, not the dogs and its a very slow process of letting the cats decide what they think. You have to be prepared that some cats will never be very happy about it.

Ivortheterrible Fri 10-Jul-20 19:23:27

I personally wouldn't get one but if this is something you feel is important then do your research into breeds most likely to get on with cats, some rescue centers do cat compatibility tests. From personal experience beagles and spaniels are good. Make sure there are plenty high areas for the cats also baby gates so the dog can be confined to a room allowing the cats to roam and see and smell the dog without being harassed hopefully building up the cats confidence around the dog. It is essential that the cats are way higher in the pecking order.
My cat is extremely nervous too and when i was lumbered with my partner exs dog (a story for another thread) i was surprised at how she coped with the dog and put him in his place but that had more to do with him being used to cats.
And lastly you have a big influence on the first introduction your nerves about the situation the animals will feel it and respond.

bodgeitandscarper Fri 10-Jul-20 19:57:31

I have six cats, three are ex ferals and three dogs. I think you need to know how your cats react to dogs before getting one, all of mine bar one are surprisingly affectionate towards the dogs.
If you had a cat friendly dog that you could borrow and introduce on a lead it may give you an idea of whether theyll cope or not, it might take a while to tell, but my most nervous, flighty feral is fine with dogs.

As for breeds I dont think you can generalise, my two labs and a lurcher are good, but individuals within any breed can be cat chasers/haters.
In your shoes if I was going ahead I'd go with a cat tested rescue.
Oh and I always use a stair gate across a room that is specifically for the cats so that they have a safe space if they want one and food and litter boxes aren't raided by the dogs.

Wheezyfreespirit Fri 10-Jul-20 19:57:47

We have introduced three dogs (one is currently a 9 week old puppy) to 5 different cats over 16 years. It has ranged from indifference to being totally freaked out. The cats were mostly house cats (allowed out during the day when I was around) so probably less likely to leave home!
We have been very cautious and always ensured the cat has the upper paw 😆 and has an escape route therefore (hopefully) doesn’t feel threatened. It means lots of supervision and gentle coaxing for all involved. It’s nerve wracking and stressful and they’ve never been great friends but rubbed along.
It’s not easy or fun but can be done - you do need time and lots of patience.

Greenphonegirl Fri 10-Jul-20 20:01:57

You've got two nervous cats so don't get a dog. It won't be fair on the poor cats. If the cats were used to dogs it would be a different matter or if they were younger but right now is not the right time. I have a nervous rescue cats who dashes in the house if he sees a dog outside. I grew up with both cats and dogs but both were very young when introduced

steppemum Fri 10-Jul-20 20:14:29

We got a dog when our cat was about 5. He is a chilled friendly cat, and had been fine with visiting dogs.

The dog we adopted was supposed to be fine with cats, but he took one look at our cat and chased him.
We then had the situation of cat living upstairs and dog downstairs. we had safe (high) places for the cat out of reach of the dog, and cat was allowed in our room and dog not at all. Dog was downstairs during the day, and only in ds room at night. We had to make sure we created safe passage for the cat several times a day to eat, go out, come back in etc.
This went on for 6 months, Then it was summer and the cat moved outside, only coming in for food when dog was asleep. (to be fair he often spent hours and hours in the garden in the summer) First cool weather in september the cat reappeared and had obviously decided enough was enough. He walloped the dog on the nose and spat at him, dog retreated, cat became boss, both then lived in wary acceptance of each other. This was now 1 year since adopting the dog.

Now, they are very relaxed around each other, cat will even rub against the dog at times.

It is not easy, I did think we would lose our cat at one point and he is very much our cat, very affectionate and bonded with us etc, and not at all jumpy (grew up with toddlers).

steppemum Fri 10-Jul-20 20:20:12

be wary of what rescues tell you.

Our rescue told people that the dogs were fine with cats because they were fine with the fosterer's cats. Her cats were very dog savy, and lived with 5 dogs, plus constant dog fosters. Her cats ruled the roost, so any visiting dog knew that the cats were boss and didn't chase them. Very different story when confronted with a nervous cat.

as to breeds, I think it varies from dog to dog. Ours is a springer spaniel. My friends have had labs, one ignored the cat, one wanted to play with the cat. We have fostered bulldog and german shepherd who ignored the cat, and a great dane who wanted to play. My cousin's golden retriever ignores the cat. But my friend's German Shepherd would eat the cat (not joking)

Scion286 Fri 10-Jul-20 20:24:14

We have 2 cats and a puppy (now 10 months old). One cat is confident and gives the pup a swift swipe if he gets too bouncy. The other cat is timid but not nervous. She keeps to herself-we basically have our house split into 2-dog has the ground floor (living room, kitchen, dining room and garden. Timid cat has upstairs-3 bedrooms and 2nd living room and confident cat goes wherever he likes. The cats have a separate cat flap so they don’t ever have to cross paths with the dog unless they choose to. They also have fields at the front of the house so although they lost their garden they’ve still got plenty of outdoor space. Timid cat is starting to hang out on the ground floor more and more often.

It’s not easy though and the early days were quite stressful even with them separated. It is possible but I wouldn’t recommend it.

ChewChewIsMySpiritAnimal Fri 10-Jul-20 20:26:18

In fact i don't know why people get cats and dogs together. To me it's either one or the other, cats and dogs famously don't get along and it's always the cat that loses out.

Babs709 Fri 10-Jul-20 20:29:46

My cat moved out when we got a puppy! I was pretty devastated but he’s happy with his new home.

From what I observed in the month before the cat moved out, I would advise ensuring the cat has somewhere safe to go. It may be good to have a stairgate to stop the puppy going upstairs (it’s hard at first as you want them to be part of the pack but it’s a really good boundary to have later on if you can).

Babs709 Fri 10-Jul-20 20:30:55

(Obviously feel free to ignore my advice seeing as I clearly “failed” but the cat was definitely on his way to moving out anyway... he was doing that thing Phoebe did to Monica when she moved out without telling her)

steppemum Fri 10-Jul-20 20:45:58

In fact i don't know why people get cats and dogs together. To me it's either one or the other, cats and dogs famously don't get along and it's always the cat that loses out.

I think you need to read the thread. It doesn't always work, and sometimes it takes time, but most of the stories on here are success stories, so what you said is really not true.

MushyPeasAreTheDevilsFood Fri 10-Jul-20 20:54:53

We got a puppy. He is now two. My cats moved upstairs. It has really impacted the life of my cats.

ChewChewIsMySpiritAnimal Fri 10-Jul-20 21:07:40

The success stories seem to involve massive upheaval for the cats, working out safe routes and places so the cats can escape, and in some cases the cat moving out. How is any of that better for the cat?

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