View Full Version : Is there a cat psychologist in the house?

2013-Mar-04, 08:33 AM
This set of questions needs a short story and a cast description. It ultimately has to do with cat behavior.

Kato- The cat. He's a neutered male about 3.5 years old, probably a Siamese/Russian blue or korat mix. he's got that smoky blue-gray color, but in sunlight has a tinge of red to it. He's got a vaguely Siamese shaped face. When he fights with the cat in the basement, it's loud. When he fights with the cat that peeks in the windows, it's loud. When he used to play with Jack (the dog) it was silent, except for the bodies falling.

Jack- The old dog. He's a neutered male, about 3.5 years old. He's a chihuahua/Italian gray hound mix, and he's turned out to be surprisingly smart. He's not confident. If he's allowed to play with Kato, they will wrestle around for a minute or two, but when the "fight" is over, neither shows any signs of fear or aggression to the other. Sometimes they will sleep in the same pet bed together. If Kato runs out the door, we'll say "Get the kitty" and Jack will run into the yard and pin Kato down or chase him back in the house. He'll stop once Kato is back inside. Kato hates this, but once they are back inside, there's no animosity I can see between them.

Fillmore- The Little Dumb Dog. He's a 2.5 year old neutered chihuahua. He's a sort of caramel color all over, with lighter patches on his shoulders. He's not a nice dog and will start fights with any other dog he meets. He's not allowed to go to the dog park. When he chases the cat, he's mean about it. We've pulled a few claws out of him, but it doesn't seem to be a deterrent.

Chandler- The new dog. This is a puppy, not yet neutered, who is about the same size as Jack, but not quite as heavy. He was wormy when we got him. He's supposed to be a whippet mix, but I have doubts. His nose it way too thick. He's got the same coloring as Fillmore. He's still learning to play and bites a little hard. He's also a follower for now, so if one of the other dogs does something he'll join in. If Fillmore chases the cat, Chandler follows. The cat hates this game.

When it was just Jack and Kato, they would play often. Sometimes Jack would attack first, sometimes Kato would. One night Kato pounced on Jack the same way a lion does to a buffalo. All four feet on his back half and biting at the back of his neck. Kato's body language indicated a pounce was coming, but this wasn't unusual for them.

When we turn on the vacuum, Kato will come into the room to watch it. He won't approach, but he stays where he can keep an eye on it.

The other day, we got a new toy. Both Jack and Chandler like it more than all other toys in the house. If they clash over it, Jack gives up. We'd like him to stand up for himself. This afternoon they started a tug-o-war and Jack wasn't giving up. We started cheering him on for sticking up for himself, and both dogs started getting vocal; growling at each other. Jack had never played quietly, so that wasn't odd. he even barked a few times without letting go of the toy. Then Kato came into the room with the same look he has when we run the vacuum.

He walked, not stalked, over to the dogs. It was slow, but there was no crouch and no "butt-wiggle." He didn't even stop walking. He just marched up, Terminator style, and pounced on Chandler with all four feet. The back feet went into Chandler's thighs, and the front claws went into his side near his stomach. The bite was on the left of the spine just below the shoulder blades. There was no sound from the cat. The dog screamed.

I flipped Kato away, and Jack immediately pressed his advantage and pinned Chandler under the edge of the chair I was on. I separated them and Candler ran to the GF and sat, whimpering, on her chest. It took a minute or so for him to calm down. We didn't see any injuries, so we figure it just scared him.

So, here are the questions.
What happened? Did Kato think it was a real fight and try to help out his buddy, Jack?
Did Kato see Chandler was distracted and take the opening to try and take the dog out?
Could he possibly have been just playing? he has done the same thing to Jack, and I can't swear that he actually used claws on Chandler, but he's never played with Chandler before in any way.
If it was a real attack, why was he dead-silent? He's not that way when he fights with other cats. When the dogs corner him, he at least hisses as he bats at them.
This really looked just like a big cat jumping a prey animal. Chandler is taller, but lighter. I'd say Kato weighs about 12 pounds, and Chandler about 9.
There are two much smaller dogs in the house that would be easier to kill for food. (I didn't mention the smallest, since she's never involved in stuff like this.)

2013-Mar-04, 09:12 AM
Hmmm...I'm no cat psychologist; just a long-time cat slave...er...owner. But I suspect that Kato is one seriously outnumbered feline. One cat in a houseful of dogs - even small ones?
Crouching and butt-wiggling is not typical fighting behaviour; it is hunting behaviour - pure functionality; the cat keeping a low profile while getting its powerful hind legs perfectly lined up underneath him for the killing spring. The slow, casual walk is dominance behaviour. "I'm bigger than you. I don't need to prepare - you do." Was his tail fully raised in the 'calm and interested' form or held out flat behind him? Based on your description I'm certain it wasn't thrashing. The tail is, I've found, the greatest indication of a cat's feeling and intent; it speaks volumes. I suspect Kato's tail was vertical; he knew he was dominant and was making darn sure Chandler knew it too. I suspect that Kato simply saw an opportunity to even the odds a little and took it - Chandler is likely to treat Kato with a good deal more caution now.

Sorry Tog; but I think you've got a real problem there - cats and dogs often don't have any problems living together so long as one side doesn't become too strong. Individual cats and dogs can be best buddies; nothing is sweeter than watching a cat curling up to sleep on a big dog's tummy but when a group is large enough to form a faction; the member of the other species automatically becomes the Outsider and knows it. In your case; the faction is formed by dogs - who are pack animals by heritage. (even if their breed is tiny, bugeyed and tends to shiver a lot.) My advice is this: Don't ask people here; unless a real pet psychologist is on this board (and I wouldn't at all be surprised if there was). Take people's advice here; but spend the money and hire a real pet psychologist - I suspect you're really going to need his/her help very soon. The situation you're describing is escalating - better nip it in the bud now.
Good luck. :)

Heid the Ba'
2013-Mar-04, 09:26 AM
My guess is that it is to do with the new dog not being neutered as that throws dominance and heirarchy out the window, if you plan to neuter him then it will all change then.

2013-Mar-04, 09:38 AM
An excellent point Heid; though I must admit to not being certain. Chandler is not neutered; but he's also sexually immature - a puppy in the proper sense of the word. His place in the dominance heirarchy is very definitely established - as a puppy he's on the bottom; though the lone cat -Kato's place in that heirarchy is open to question. Does the fact he's too young to be neutered affect the situation? I'm not sure - Kato sounds like he's an experienced and confident cat; I doubt he'd target Chandler for his sexual potential since it hasn't developed yet - I suspect he targeted him simply for his size. Wow - I really wish a real pet psychologist would be here; this situation could teach us so much about our fuzzy (and occasionally sharp) companions. :)

2013-Mar-04, 11:07 AM
The other day, we got a new toy. Both Jack and Chandler like it more than all other toys in the house. If they clash over it, Jack gives up. We'd like him to stand up for himself. This afternoon they started a tug-o-war and Jack wasn't giving up.
I've seen this before with pets with well developed hierarchies like cats and dogs, where owners with their sense of justice and fairness and their idea about how things should be can seriously mess up the process of establishing and maintaining a stable hierarchy by supporting lower ranked members against higher ranked ones, which results in more fighting than necessary as the naturally dominant member will try to reestablish the natural state as soon as the owners are away, which they then see as bullying and try to interfere with again.

2013-Mar-04, 04:13 PM
My first thought is that anyone who thinks it's possible to understand cat psychology needs to see a human psychologist! That said:

It sounds as if Jack is considerably older than Kato. If you got Kato as a kitten, he likely sees Jack as a parent, or at least a sibling. It seems to me he's protecting his litter-mate (as he sees it) from the intruder.

Has Chandler learned anything from the experience?

2013-Mar-05, 09:10 AM
Henrik, those are some good points. I'll have to see how much that we're doing.

I think most of our interference is passive. When we give out treats, we give them to Jack first, then on down the line. When we go for walks, Jack gets the longest leash so he can get out in front. Not that Chandler has been on a walk with other dogs yet, but his solo run, he stayed behind me for most of it, so I think he'd be okay with Jack in the lead.

The wild card in the mix is Fillmore. He HAS to be on someone's lap and will defend that post to the point he growls at any animal and some people who come near. When he does that, we move him off of us.

Jack and Kato are roughly the same age. I don't doubt there is some sort of sibling thing going on with them. Fillmore is a year or so younger, and Chandler is about 1.5 years younger than Fillmore. The vet said less than 10 months, as he's got his big dog teeth, but his canines still have more to go. he gets "the clip" next week or the week after.

I watched them play today and it looks like Chandler wants to play with Jack. He'll take a toy, then hold in front of Jack, like he's waiting for Jack to grab it. Jack doesn't. I have yet to see any aggression from Chandler, but Jack's crossed the line a few times.

Today, all four were asleep on the couch. Kato and Chandler can pass each other with little more than a glance, and it's like the whole thing never happened. I'm wondering now if Kato just wanted to play the way he used to with Jack. I can't find any scabs on Chandler.

I'll keep watching things. Honestly, I think the whole mess could be resolved by getting Fillmore out of the mix, but the GF doesn't feel good about passing on a problem to someone else. That's how we got him. He's about 60% cute, but then he runs across the street to bite a kid that had no idea was there.

2013-Mar-05, 10:56 AM
Kato's vacuum behavior is the clue. I'd have to observe things, but I think Kato may be alpha in your household pack. I'm pretty sure Kato makes noise in a territory fight because he's trying to force the other cat to submit/drive the other cat away. He's observing the vacuum because he perceives it to be a potential threat/intruder and appears to be motivated to defend the pack.

He was dead silent when he went after Chandler because he wasn't playing. The tug of war may have been turning into a dominance thing between Chandler and Jack, and Kato may have been establishing who _really_ was boss.

So long as Chandler doesn't try to challenge the established pecking order, I don't think Kato will go after him again.

*grin* I don't get chihuahuas though, so you're on your own there. Chihuahuas are weird. :)

Jeff Root
2013-Mar-05, 11:41 AM
I'm astonished at how rational and reasonable that
analysis appears to be. Logical behavior by a cat,
dominating a bunch of dogs. That should be crazy,
but I buy it completely.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

2013-Mar-06, 01:12 AM
Cats can be possessive, sometimes with people, sometimes with other animals. It may be that Kato doesn't accept the new member of the group playing with his dog.

2013-Mar-06, 02:25 AM
My cats went so far as to be possessive with my wheelchair! At least until my wife got me a new cushion, now they won't even get in it.

2013-Mar-13, 03:39 AM
My cats went so far as to be possessive with my wheelchair! At least until my wife got me a new cushion, now they won't even get in it.

:rofl: I know my cat gets in once in while mood to laying down on spot that he likes in the home. If you change the place they like laying down on they just look for a new spot.

2013-Mar-17, 10:30 PM
My cats went so far as to be possessive with my wheelchair! At least until my wife got me a new cushion, now they won't even get in it.

I had a tom that decided my lap was his personal property and he would growl at me when I'd go to put him down when I was ready to get up.