5 tips to keep trespassing cats safe even if (or when) your dog chases them. Plus – anti-cat landscaping!
If you read The New York Times Magazine, you might have seen the January 8, 2012, installment of the Ethicist’s column, in which an anonymous writer asked whether she should tell her ill neighbor that her dogs had killed the ill neighbor’s cat (and two others) when the cats strayed into the writer’s yard. The Ethicist said yes, and I agree. She also pointed out that the writer could have managed the situation to prevent the cats’ deaths. Being the Ethicist, and not The Dog Trainer, she didn’t go into detail about how. Being The Dog Trainer, I will.
This week: 5 ways to keep wandering cats safe from your dog.
Tip #1: Keep the Cats Out Entirely
Outdoor cats tend to have short lives, thanks to cars, coyotes, and, as in our example, dogs. So animal welfare groups generally agree that cats should remain indoors, or have access to secure outdoor enclosures. Environmental groups point out that domestic cats prey on birds and other wildlife, which suffer enough from habitat loss as it is. Maybe, with the help of some stats and a guide to environmental enrichment for cats, you can persuade your neighbors with roaming kitties to keep them safe inside.
Or perhaps they’d be willing to install catproof fencing. This comes in two varieties: a mesh overhang, or pipe-like rollers, also on an overhang. Both types of catproof fencing take advantage of cats’ dislike of climbing upside down. Unfortunately, this means that special fencing is probably not an option you can take on your own, because the overhang is over the cats’ yard, not yours.
Let’s face it, though: Solutions that rely on getting other people to change their behavior have low odds of success. A neighbor’s cat shouldn’t suffer for her owner’s carelessness, so most likely it will be on you to protect her from your dog.
Tip #2: Solidly Fence Your Yard
A solid 6-foot privacy fence will at least discourage cats from coming in, and a well-fenced yard provides maximum safety for your dog. If the cost is prohibitive, or if your local homeowners’ association bans solid fencing, then you need to make sure that your dogs do not get out of your home unsupervised.
By the way – shock-collar-based underground fencing is emphatically not an alternative. There are reports of behavioral side effects including fear and aggression, for one thing. Worse yet from the cat-protecting point of view, dogs hot on the chase will often charge right through the shock. And the icing on that ugly cake is that when the chase is done and your dog has cooled off, he may not be willing to brave the shock to come back home again.
Tip #3: Check for Cats Before Letting Your Dogs Out
The easiest and maybe most reliable fix. Your dog can’t chase and catch cats who aren’t there. In an earlier article, I explained how to teach dogs to wait for permission to go out an open door. Get that down, or make it a habit to always bring your dog outdoors on leash. Make sure the yard is cat-free before you turn Dogalini loose.