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Since the early days of cartoons, the dynamic between cats and dogs has always been illustrated as bitter rivals. The dog chases the cat, the cat chases the mouse, and the mouse looks for the cheese. Unfortunately for many pet owners, there is some truth to the fiction. Just like cats are sometimes driven to chase and kill mice, many dogs are also compelled to chase, and sometimes kill, their feline roommates. These are, of course, extreme cases, but preventing your cat from facing unnecessary stress is important. This issue is prominent especially with owners of Huskies, who are well known for having a high prey drive.
A “prey drive” is what compels a Husky to chase small animals in and around the home, which can include birds, mice, insects, squirrels, and even the household cat. This behavior can easily put your cat in danger and should be addressed as soon as it is recognized in any dog, but Huskies especially require plenty of care and training to help catch this behavior early on and prevent an unfortunate incident.
There are many ways to help your Husky get along with your cat, but an important thing to remember is that prey drive is instinctual. This drive to chase and sometimes kill can overpower obedience if the training foundation is not strong enough. The importance of keeping an eye on both your Husky and your cat cannot be stressed enough in these cases and your dog’s success will heavily depend on your consistency and ability to maintain any and all training that you put in place for him.
It’s important to not wait until after your dog has already developed a habit of chasing cats to push for this training, as then the instinct may be too ingrained. However, there are still ways to manage both of your pets even if this is the case. Regardless, start training as early as possible when your Husky is still a puppy and be prepared to maintain this training throughout his lifetime.
Before beginning, ensure that your Husky has basic obedience under his belt. Important commands will be ‘sit’, ‘stay’, and ‘leave it’. Any other commands are a plus, but these can come in handy if you find yourself in a situation where you need to maintain control over your dog.
Be prepared with a leash for more control and some treats that your Husky cannot resist for positive reinforcement. Invest in a couple of interactive toys to occupy your Husky's attention. Set up barriers between your two animals during training to ensure your cat’s safety. Prevention is a large component when it comes to training a predator around potential prey.
The Early Adjustment Method
This method absolutely requires you to begin adjusting your Husky to cats when he is a puppy. As soon as he is vaccinated, begin your training.
Always keep an eye on your dog around cats or any other small animals. Never leave two animals unsupervised.
Begin your Husky’s introductions to cats on leash. The leash should be loose so you don’t encourage tension or stress, but you should still remain in control. Have your puppy interact with both you and the cat in healthy and productive ways.
Once your Husky exhibits no problem behavior around cats, you may proceed to off-leash encounters. Be sure that you can easily remove one or both of the animals in case the encounter becomes stressful for either.
Watch for aggression
An aggressive dog may begin to use his teeth inappropriately during play. Watch for any excessive mouthing and stop play immediately if he becomes too rough. An anxious or aggressive cat may pin their ears back and wag their tail back and forth to show irritation. They may also arch the back and hiss. Remove both animals if there are any signs of stress.
The Separation Method
Provide separate living areas
Some Huskies and cats simply cannot co-exist appropriately. Provide separate rooms for your dog and your cat so that they both have their own safe havens if this is the case.
Provide escape routes
Cats are much more likely to run and hide if they are stressed. Provide places where they can escape high up and away from your Husky. Be sure that there are no ways for your dog to climb up to get at them.
Utilize closed doors or baby gates to keep your Husky from approaching your cat in places he may not want to be approached.
As always, keep an eye on your dog and cat if they are ever in the same room together. If you are going to leave the house, place them in separate areas and away from each other.
Watch for body language
Be proactive when it comes to interactions between your dog and cat. Aggressive body language should never be ignored and should always be addressed. Do not hesitate to involve a professional behaviorist or trainer to prevent your Husky from harming your cat.
The Reinforcement Method
Find a distraction
When in the presence of a cat, provide your Husky with a more interesting toy, treat, or game to promote indifference towards the cat. Busy his mind with an interactive toy full of yummy treats. This should keep him busy, and take the importance off the cat.
Offer plenty of praise and treats for your Husky’s indifference. Ignoring is better than obsession and he will learn quickly that the cat is not something worth chasing.
Supervise all encounters
Keep an eye on both your dog and your cat if they are ever in the same room together. This can help prevent incidents from occurring.
Reward positive interaction
If you find it appropriate to allow your dog to interact with your cat, be sure to reward him with lots of affection and positive reinforcement for good behavior. Do not reward hyper-focusing or any instances of your dog following your cat around excessively. This behavior should be interrupted.
Separate if necessary
Separate your dog and cat if either exhibit signs of aggression or stress. Place them in separate rooms and only try again once both have settled down.
By TJ Trevino
Published: 02/20/2018, edited: 01/08/2021