, Salem, MA


June 14, 2013

Adopted dog having a tough time with new feline family

Dear Dog Lady,

I adopted Aggie, a 4-year-old female black Labrador retriever mix (possibly pit bull) from a co-worker’s daughter. The dog had been with the ex-husband for about a year and was neglected. I have two mixed-breed dogs that she gets along with pretty well. The problem? I have five cats.

Aggie had no previous exposure to cats. She was OK for a few days and then started chasing them and not in a playful way, although sometimes the cats can walk right past her and she doesn’t bother them. I can’t leave her alone in the house, so she is caged when we leave. Is there anything else I can do? Giving her back is not an option. Outside of the cat chasing, she is a lovable and sweet dog. Will I ever be able to trust Aggie completely?

A: Even the best-behaved, feline-friendly dog could have problems living with five — count ‘em — five cats. And a dog that has not been socialized around cats from the very beginning of its life would have a bigger problem than most — especially a dog from a dicey, neglectful background.

You were very kind to give Aggie a home. However, you knew exactly what kind of home you were giving her — hello, five cats. Don’t expect miracles. Do expect mash-up potential and do not leave her alone. How nice she gets along with your other dogs. They are probably a comfort to her. Their influence will probably be more instructive in dealing with the cats than your murmurs of encouragement.

Cats are shrewd and wily. They know how to get along on their own (hence, scant work for “Ask Cat Lady”). You must trust those feline instincts in avoiding Aggie. You also must provide safe separate areas for the dogs and the cats to chill out.

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