Cats are not small dogs, part 2.

Bella1Last week I did a blog on cats and I only had space enough to cover inappropriate elimination and a bit on cat diets. This week I wanted to look at the spacial needs of cats, especially cats in multi species households. While cats may well want to decrease the distance between them and the pet gerbil, they can also be equally determined to increase the distance between them and the family canine. Cats, upon seeing the lumbering approach of Fido, will scurry away as fast as feline legs and motivation will carry them. Unfortunately, running can be a trigger for dogs to chase, and thus set up the predator/prey relationship you, the owner, would just as soon avoid. So what’s a multi-species household to do?

There are several options actually, not all of which work for every household. The most effective for dogs and cats who seem to be constantly plotting the demise of one another is to provide separate household zones. Indoor cats may have the luxury of the upstairs, while Fido’s realm is the first floor.

Another option is to set up gates so that the cat can move through various zones that the dog Carlson dog:cat gatecannot.  The picture to the left is of the Carlson 0930 Extra-wide Walk-Thru Gate with Pet Door that you can get on Amazon for  $38.34 ( There are a variety of gates with pet doors on Amazon, but this picture clearly illustrates my point. The nice thing about this gate is that there is a person door as well, so that you do not have to take the gate down every time you (or Fido) want to walk through to the next room.


Cats love to get vertical. If in doubt, go up. Providing Mr. Mittens with several easy and comfortable places to get out of reach of Rover will help to increase domestic harmony. Astute reader, cat lover, and multi species person, Laura Sommers, introduced me to CatastrophiCreations on Etsy which has several wonderful solutions that allow Mr. Mittens to survey his domain from the soaring heights afforded by the living room wall (limited only by the ceiling height!). Here are a couple of my favorites from the CatastrophiCreations catalog, (or click here to go to the main shop):

1) Cat lounger with escape hatch, $78.00 The cat lounger is a heavy duty fabric hammock firmly attached to the wall by posts on either end. “Each post is very strong and reinforced with three layers of board and attach to the wall with large 4″ brackets.” Situated above the hammock is another shelf with a hole, hence the escape hatch.

2) Stylish Cat Wall Shelf w/ Stretched Fabric Raceway Lounge/Cat Bed, $38.00: What can I add, the name says it all! This is an inexpensive way to provide your cat with a place all it’s own where it can be a part of the household on its terms and at its own altitude.

CatastrophiCreations Cat Maze

CatastrophiCreations Cat Maze

3) Fabric Cat Maze, $140.00: piece has 5 wooden planks and one 18″ shelf with hole cut into it to access it from underneath. This extra-large hole is lined with sisal. The entire piece reaches 11″ away from the wall. Attaching all of the shelves is a stiff bottomweight fabric.” This piece is super for multi-cat households as it provides a safe place to play that is above canine reach and it has three places for cats to lounge about. Similar to the maze is the Deluxe Play Space ($125.00). The play space has a nifty ladder, but fewer lounging areas.

For those of you wanting to give your indoor cats a taste of the great outdoors, and keep them safe from marauding canines, you might want to consider a “Catio”. Here is a link to one that shows a great management of space  for cats and dogs.  This site also features cat enclosures that you can mount to the side of your house, so your cat can get out of doors, and you don’t have to remodel the entire outdoor living space!


Catio Window Box

” Catio Window Box

Catio Spaces in Seattle sells pre-assembled Catio Kits that come in two designs: Window Box and Garden Window which:

“can be mounted to your home’s wood siding or window trim if it is 2-3” wide and “flush frame” (flat) all the way around the window.  Or, if mounted to your siding, you are not limited to the size of your window frame as you can extend the catio length to provide more space for your cats.”

Of course, depending on where the window is located in your house, your dog may be able to stick his head inside a Catio window unit, thus violating the separation of church and state clause in their constitution. But that snafu can be eliminated if the entrance to the window box/catio is made small enough for a cat, but too large for a dog (or out of reach of small dogs). Another solution is to use a pet gate to cordon off the room with the feline garden. Consider putting a pet gate at the door to the room with the cat window even if the window opening is too small for Fido, as this insures that Mittens has an escape route and is not panicked when heading towards its exit.

Remember, the idea behind all of these systems is to reduce the stress of everyone in the household and to help promote civility between the species. If your cat doesn’t have to run to get away from the dog, and has an easy escape route (up and/or out), then your dog will have less motivation to chase the cat. However, if chaos still reigns even with the addition of a feline Taj Mahal, then I recommend that you find a good trainer or behaviorist in your area who is experienced with cats and dogs to help  you find a peaceful solution that sees to the needs of all involved.

Toy Box or stuff that doesn't fit neatly elsewhere2 comments

  1. Fun post! But I’ve never been called a “multi species person” before! Love it. If I could, I would choose to be human, seal, and a little bit of domestic cat. (The lying around and napping part.)

  2. Julie Smith says:

    A seal? Interesting choice. I always saw myself as a sea otter. Even did an ethology paper on them in college. But if I had to name multiple species, I think I would be a dog/otter/chipmunk person.

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