Our farm came with a cat. We know nothing about her history or her age. In fact, we know so little about her that we named her Ralph before we actually met her.
Ralph is an amazing cat who’s super calm and confident. She’s a barn cat and spends all her time outside.
We’ve gotten to know each other much better, and she’s now super affectionate—and demanding for kibble, treats and scratches. We’ve also learned that somewhere in her life Ralph may have had a bad experience with a dog.
Our rescue group did a home visit before we adopted Baxter, and the volunteer brought a dog with her. Ralph immediately ran for the barn, even though the dog was a Chihuahua and just about her size.
When Baxter came home, Ralph spent a lot of time hiding in the barn. Baxter is a very social dog, so he was incredibly excited to have a cat sister waiting for him at his new home. He would stand at the barn and cry. He would jam his nose into the cat door and sniff has hard as he could.
Eventually, he became so frustrated that every time he saw Ralph, he would chase her.
Introducing your dog to outdoor cats
We tried lessons of “cats are boring.” We tried distracting him with treats. We usually kept him tied up on a long line when he was outside. If he did happen to chase Ralph, we made sure there were consequences—he got tied up or put in the house.
This situation would have been very different if Ralph had not been a barn cat. If both animals had been in the house, I think they would have gotten used to each other much more quickly and we would have had to put in a lot more work to get them to live together.
One day, I decided that I was going to introduce Baxter and Ralph. I would be there to supervise, but Ralph was going to get over her fear and Baxter was going to get over his excitement.
I carried Ralph over to where Baxter was tied up. They both pretty much lost their minds. Ralph eventually sunk her teeth into my hand, squirmed out of my arms and landed on the ground in front of Baxter. She hissed and swiped with her claws—she’s a tough barn cat after all—and Baxter stumbled backwards seemingly unable to comprehend that someone might not like him.
Ralph sprinted for the barn. I apologized to everyone, nursed my sore hand and decided I wasn’t going to force this relationship anymore.
Somewhere along the way, Baxter and Ralph came to an uneasy truce. They can now be outside together and get along for the most part. I’m not sure that anything we did helped to get them to this point. I feel like it just took time.
They will both sit out in the yard (and Baxter is no longer tied up). They will sniff each other. A couple of times Ralph has flopped over for belly scratches while Baxter has sniffed her. Once she must have been incredibly itchy because she rubbed against his nose to scratch her head.
Ralph is still uneasy sometimes. Baxter is still excited sometimes. He likes to do zoomies, and often his zoomies take him past the barn.
If Ralph doesn’t feel like going inside, she will pancake herself to the ground and pretend she’s invisible. Or she just looks at him like he’s an idiot for expending energy running in circles—typical cat. On those days, B usually veers away before he gets too close to her.
A few weeks ago he tried to do zoomies with her and got between her and the barn. She didn’t understand his play bow and the result was hissing, dodging and a quick dash to the barn. No one was hurt and Baxter’s confused look and Ralph’s indignation made me laugh more than anything.
Now we’re at the stage where I prefer to let Bax and Ralph work things out between themselves. If Ralph doesn’t want to deal with him, she’ll usually sit out of reach under one of the cars or stay close to the barn.
Watching Baxter, I can usually tell if he’s over-excited and in the mood to chase. A quick verbal correction will attract his attention and remind him to leave his sister alone.
While they will never be best buds, I’m pleased that they usually can coexist without drama.
What are your tips for living in a multi-animal households? Do any of your pets not get along?
Let us know in the comments!
Julia Thomson is a blogger at Home on 129 Acres where she writes about her adventures of country living and DIY renovating. She and her husband live on a 129-acre farm in Ontario, Canada.
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