attacking cat when alone

Posted by Teton-Jen
Dec 11, 2009
We have two dogs, chocolate lab mix (Roche) and golden retriever mix (Kyla), and a cat, Romeo. When we are all home everyone gets along great. Romeo is a very chill cat and will rub up against the dogs and the dogs just give him a sniff. We have all lived happily together for over a year. Lately the dogs have been attacking Romeo when we are gone. We come home to find obvious destruction in attempts to get the cat. Last week we came home to find dog vomit upstairs, dog pee and poop downstairs, a torn curtain near Romeo's litter box and Romeo was covered in something very fowl smelling. My husband has caught the dogs going after the cat with all three of them under the bed, the bedsheets torn to pieces and Romeo emerged with a bite on his neck. What is going on?? In the past we have taken the dogs to work with us but have not been doing this as much lately. Are they mad about being left behind? Should we crate them when we are gone? Or are they just bored? Any thoughts are appreciated.
Posted by kjd
Dec 11, 2009
Hi, Teton Jen,

One thing you can be sure of: the dogs are not attacking Romeo because they are angry with you for leaving them behind!
While you are at home, you are alpha and they understand Romeo is off limits. When you leave, who is in charge? When cats run, dogs like to chase them. Two dogs make up a mob -- and a mob's intelligence is probably half the intelligence of the least intelligent in the mob. Your two-dog pack chases the cat. When they catch him, they probably want to eat him; why else would you chase another animal down? I am sure you have read stories about peoples' "friendly" dogs who get loose and roam the neighborhood, attacking small children (we are talking of two or more animals, not an individual dog).

I doubt the dogs see Romeo as part of the pack. He is special to the alphas and thus to be left alone. But when the alphas are gone, that protection is gone. If I were you, I would crate the dogs to protect the cat. Someone else on the forum may be able to tell you how to train the dogs to actually ignore the cat when you are gone, but, meanwhile, for Romeo's health and well-being, it is better to crate the dogs.

Good luck and I hope someone else on this forum can give you some ideas about making Romeo part of the pack,
Posted by Teton-Jen
Dec 13, 2009
Thanks for the advice and thoughts on what is going on in our dog's heads. We have definitely observed that the dogs are much better behaved in general when they are alone and not together. I will concede that the mob's intelligence is half that of the least intelligent one of the mob - and that's not very high! Last night the same thing happened and we decided to never leave the dogs and cat alone in the house. Either the cat is left outside or the dogs are confined.

Does anyone think it's possible to make the dogs realize that Romeo is part of the pack or that Romeo is alpha to them? I saw some posts about placing cats above dogs in the pack by feeding the cat first, allowing the cat on the bed but not the dogs, etc. But I have my doubts that his will work since the dogs now know that they are much stronger and bigger than he is.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Dec 13, 2009
Hi Teton Jen,

Do you currently have an area where the cat stays safe and calm without getting distracted by the dogs? Whether you are home or not, the cat needs his sacred space. We have a doggy gate by the bottom of the stairs so our cat is dog free upstairs. He comes downstairs when he feels like playing chase with the dogs or when he wants company but he knows he is always safe and calm upstairs. That gives him a big advantage and previledge. By the way, his litter box is upstairs too.

As long as your cat has that kind of advantage and previledge, he should be able to manage the situation being attacked by your dogs. In fact, what I would imagine from your post is that the cat provoked the dogs and they all played a rough house. When the dogs got so excited they couldn't stop and their prey drive got turned on.

You said that the dogs hadn't got much excercise lately and that might have contributed to this rough house.

Until you feel comfortable having the 3 animals together when you are gone, it will be a good idea to crate the dogs, or keep your cat in a separate room, etc.

I would like you to observe the three closely when you are home. Do you see any changes in their relationship since the cat got hurt by the dogs. Does the cat still feel comfortable with the dogs and rubs himself against the dogs when he feels like? Do the dogs mind when the cat around when they are eating? Do they still play chase, the cat punches the dog, etc.

In our case, the dogs know that the cat (and even my 2 11 wks old foster kittens) are smaller so they should not be rough to those smaller animals. We never leave the kittens withing the reach of the dogs and the cat when we are not home but othertimes they are all mingling together and they respect each other. The kittens have learned to go under the coffee tables, or go through the dog gate to be safe. However, animals are animals. We trust our dogs and our cat 99.9% but we should also know that unpredictable things can happen anytime.

Please give your dogs plenty of exercise, both physical and mental ones on a daily basis. Good luck
Posted by Teton-Jen
Dec 16, 2009
We have been observing the animals when we're at home and Romeo is a little more cautious with the dogs now. We are trying to feed him first and to reinforce our own alpha positions with the dogs as well. The dogs have been getting about the same exercise, we just haven't taken them to the office, which means they are at home more giving them more opportunities to go after the cat. We are no longer giving them that opportunity so I guess in a way, our problem is solved. We are also going to take the suggestion to give Romeo more places that are dog free in the home. Right now he has one bedroom in the basement but I think he needs more than that. Thanks for all of the thoughts and help!