Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sibling Rivalry

Pets and sibling rivalry | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
Elly (the cat) warning Kane (the dog) not to come any closer.
(Note that Elly is poised between Kane and his water dish and Kane is respectful of Elly's assertion.)
When our second child was born, our eldest went through all the predictable stages: excitement, jealousy, anger, clinginess. I don't know why I thought it would be any different with pets -- with different species, to boot -- but for some reason, I really did think the animals would just . . . get along.

(Cue laughter.)

Scooter, our dog who died last winter, was with us for a very short time, but even at that you may have noticed that we never got a picture of Scooter and Elly together. That's because they were pretty much sworn enemies.

At first, Scooter and Elly had a tense d├ętente. But then Scooter became quite aggressive with Elly, and the cat withdrew to the bedroom level of our house. We missed the boat on training Scooter to respect the cat, and then Scooter became very ill and it didn't seem worth putting either of them through any training.

But when Kane joined our family -- an excited but trainable puppy -- we decided that we really needed to keep a close eye on the two animals.

This is Elly's first encounter with Kane -- the night we first met him.
For weeks after this first encounter, Elly kept to the bedroom floor and I despaired that she would ever rejoin us. But she is a sociable cat and wanted to be with us and gradually started venturing into shared territory.

First she would perch at the top of the staircase where she could observe the goings-on below. Bit by bit, she came to trust Kane, who was very good about respecting Elly's hisses and growls, even though he could have scared her off in two barks.

As suggested in this article from the Washington Post about dog psychology, Kane seems to behave even more gently with Elly (or other smaller non-aggressive dogs) than with anyone else, though he does occasionally screw up and run excitedly towards the cat.

But his self-control seems to be working.

Kane rests happily at my feet.
Elly, perched at my head, eyeing Kane with vigilance (and ears back).
Lately, we have come to this.

The cat is actually asleep on Stephen's lap.

Elly still lets Kane know when she feels Kane is invading her space. She hisses or growls or even (hilariously) swats at him. It may look like the cat is being arrogant or bossy, but I know that it is simply her expression of fear or anxiety. I think Kane senses that as well.

And the two do seem to show actual jealousy when Steve or I are showing attention to one animal and not the other. But I think they are doing fabulously well, all things considered.

I have fantasies that a year from now, the two animals will snuggle up for naps and give each other baths. I've been told that that only happens with cats and dogs who've known each other since infancy, but I still have my dreams.

P.S. I know Kane isn't the only dog who really works at winning a cat's affections. Here's a funny video compilation of dogs sucking up to their aloof cats:


  1. Our cat and dog get along very well. We adopted our cat Rico as a 1-year-old stray from the lake house. Lucy we adopted a year later at (approximately) age 3 from the Humane Society. While they don't snuggle up and sleep together, they do rub against each other and Lucy likes to lick Rico (which Rico leans into). Rico was definitely not a fan when we first introduced Lucy (puffed tail and hissing), though I don't think he hid or tried to stay away. Lucy is very calm, though, and Rico's always been a very friendly cat. (Actually, that's not true... he was the most skittish of 3 stray cats at the lake house... until the others disappeared and he was the only one left. Then suddenly he was rubbing against our legs. Apparently he just doesn't like to be alone) In any case, I believe there's hope that Elly and Kane will at least be able to comfortably share space.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement -- I am optimistic.


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