"Ripley! NO!" I yelled as the dog and cat streaked past me.
Just a moment ago, everything had been fine, the house peaceful. Now it seemed I was about to witness a bloodbath.
Both animals ran down the stairs into the living room and in one fell swoop, Ripley was on top of Ranger. In a desperate attempt to appease, Ranger rolled over on his back, exposing his belly. About this time, I hit the last step and, without thinking, grabbed the growling, angry blur of fur before he could inflict any damage. Luckily, he didn’t redirect on me and I was able to safely shut Ripley in a bedroom so he could decompress.
After double-checking to make sure Ranger was unharmed, I sat down on the floor and bawled, great heaving sobs, my tears coming from a mixture of fear, frustration, and a sense of utter and complete failure. I mean, whose dog gets terrorized on a regular basis by a cat?
Apparently no one’s. Because no matter how many ways I tried to Google "cat attacks dog" or "cat aggressive toward dog," the results always came back the other way around. There have to be at least 1,897,453 articles on how to keep your cat safe from your dog. But pretty much zilch if your cat has it out for your dog.
How had it gotten to this point anyway? One careless moment. Not more than a second, maybe two at most.
When we decided to add a dog to our family, we already had two cats. They were our priority. Our first thought, as we were searching rescues, was always to make sure they were cat-friendly. If they weren’t — no matter how adorable or perfect they might have seemed otherwise — they were crossed off the list.
Then we found Ranger.
He was youngish but past the crazy puppy stage. He had lived on a farm with all kinds of animals, including cats. His foster dad told us that when he brought Ranger home, he immediately took to lying in the sun with the resident cats.
Of course, to our knowledge, our cats had never lived with dogs. But they were both pretty adaptable and we felt confident we could slowly integrate Ranger.
At first, it went well. Abby just kept her distance, wary but seemingly unafraid. Ripley, on the other hand, was curious about the newcomer and didn’t hesitate to hang out in the same room with all of us. While Ranger seemed completely unaggressive toward Ripley, we weren’t taking any chances and kept him on a leash near us to be sure.
Then it happened.
Ranger and I were sitting on the couch when Ripley sauntered into the room. By this time, we’d all become more relaxed about the situation — the dog and cat had even touched noses on one occasion — and I only had a light hand on the leash. As Ripley walked toward us, Ranger popped his head up and his tail began to wag at the sight of his friend. Before I could react, Ranger happily jumped off the couch to greet him. Unfortunately, his timing was terrible and he landed squarely on top of Ripley.
There was honestly nothing aggressive about the move. It was just a young dog being a young dog. But in Ripley’s mind, he must’ve thought he was being attacked. And instead of running away like most cats would’ve done, Ripley fought back against his imagined attacker, with teeth and claws fully drawn.
I quickly separated the two, but the damage to their relationship was done. And try as we might, we were never ever to fully repair it. As the years passed, Ripley and Ranger seemed to come to an agreement and, for the most part, would give each other a wide berth. Months would go by without an incident. But then seemingly out of the blue, Ranger would once again find himself the target of orange fury. Although I’m sure it wasn’t random, we never could figure out what set Ripley off and so could do nothing to defuse the situation before it started.
Several years later, we decided to add another dog to our family. This time, I was determined that Ripley and our new dog Mayzie would get off on a better foot. We took things excruciatingly slow. For literally months, they were separated; first by closed doors, then by baby gates. We rotated free reign of the house between the cats and the dogs. If the dogs were out, the cats were in the guest room. If the cats were out, the dogs were crated. Looking back, this probably went on way longer than it needed to but I was taking no chances.
My ultimate goal was to have Mayzie and Ripley completely ignore each other. I had no delusions of them becoming best friends. I would just be happy if we could avoid the threat of bloodshed.
But the darndest thing happened. Mayzie and Ripley fell totally, head-over-paws in interspecies love. They could almost always be found in the same room, lounging together on the bed or sharing a sun puddle. At other times, Mayzie would wiggle flirtatiously up to Ripley and he’d lovingly groom her. If he stopped, she’d poke him gently with her nose and he’d obligingly start again.
And this great love — like all great loves — had the effect of mellowing the smitten. To our amazement, Ripley relaxed around Ranger and seemed to extend an olive branch to his former foe. Ranger, however, was not going to be played for a fool and continued to keep his distance because, well, one can’t be too careful when it comes to cats.
Ripley passed away a couple of years ago and we mourned him deeply. Despite his Jekyll and Hyde act around Ranger, he really was a great cat: affectionate, with loads of personality, and full of opinions. I still regret to this day that I unintentionally put him in a situation where he was frightened and felt he had defend himself (imagined though the threat was). I just hope that, in his last years, I made up a little bit for that failure by doing things much differently the second time around.
Your turn: Do you have both dogs and cats in your home? How do they get along? Tell us in the comments.
About the Author: Amber Carlton is owned by two cats and two dogs (all rescues), and is affectionately (?) known as the crazy pet lady amongst her friends and family. She and her husband (the crazy pet man) live in colorful Colorado where they enjoy hiking, biking and camping. Amber owns Comma Hound Copywriting and also acts as typist and assistant for Mayzie’s Dog Blog. She encourages other crazy pet people to connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.