So, Jindos and cats – a complete no-no, right? Not necessarily. Like many things in life, it depends….

There is no doubt that some feline behaviors can excite the prey drive lurking inside most dogs, including Jindos. Small, fluffy, apt to run. And some cats just can’t be happy unless they have pushed the envelope with every dog, goading and teasing it into a reaction that they know will get the dog into trouble. Yes, some cats are just that smart.

We have a 16 year old, (but still active) cat who lives with a whole host of dogs, including 4 male Jindos. Our experience in having them live together under the same roof may be helpful. Jess is a strong-willed, tabby cat that we originally rescued from the streets of Shanghai in the mid 1990s. His first experience of dogs was our Dalmatian, Hunter, and it took him nearly 6 weeks to accept the interloper into the house. He would hiss, growl, scratch if given the chance and generally scowl at the (well-meaning) dog from a vantage point on top of the furniture. By the time Hunter died in 2009, however, Jess had grown to live under the same roof with more than l0 dogs, big and small, male and female. And that has, and continues to include Jindos. So we are living proof that it can work, at least some of the time. Here are our tips for
introducing a new dog to a household with a cat in it.

Take your time. Don’t rush. This isn’t a race. Throw away your watch. Don’t set time constrained objectives, i.e. “I want them to be getting on by 6pm”. This is not a race. Don’t proceed to the next step in your process until you feel completely confident at the current level. You will only be cheating yourself. This is not a race. First take the time to get to know your new dog. Observe them over time: how responsive
is he/she to correction in general? Do they listen? How strong is the prey drive? Is it more towards birds or rodents or lizards? Do they do it off their own initiative, or do they follow the example set by other dogs? Dogs that are more “bird-oriented” and which follow the example of others can be easier to direct, for example.

Let the dog and the cat get to know each other in a safe way over time. We modified our bedroom door, replacing the lower panel with a double layer metal grille from Home Depot. Dogs and cats can get to know each other a bit through the grille, watching, smelling, etc. And if there is likely to be any crazed lunging after the cat, you will see it occur at the grille and you will be forewarned. The dog can be leashed and then walked slowly and calmly to the door where they can see the cat, and we note any reaction. If the dog starts to behave inappropriately, we stop, then walk backwards, slowly, with the dog coming too. When the dog turns to look at us, (and stops focusing on the cat), we give them a little treat. Many people have found that using a Gentle Leader head collar on the dog makes it easier to turn the dog’s head toward you – we never tum our back on the cat.

You then go back and repeat the steps, always remaining slow and calm – we don’t really reprimand as this is all about desensitizing the dog to the cat. It can help if someone is with the cat to keep them in place. Keep doing this over days/weeks etc so that the dog just gets used to seeing and being close to the cat – a few minutes, a few times a day usually works well. You’re just looking for the dog to pay attention to you (and your treats) and not be showing undue interest in the cat. The dog will learn through repetition of this act.

When the dog remains calm, or turns to pay attention to you, you can reward them with a treat. We also feed the cat one side of the door, and then feed the dog the other side – the cat always first. It seems to help them associate being close to one another with a pleasurable situation i.e. having food, and recognizing the cat has a dominant position in the household. You don’t want to create any scenes where the cat can run away from the dog during these training sessions as it can trigger the dog’s prey drive. If scenes ever become too intense, we take the dog away, and give them some quiet time, then try again later.

Make sure the new dog is introduced to the cat as part of general life. No bringing them up nose-to-nose, purely for that purpose. Instead, just let the dog into the same room while giving them other sources of interest as well. Have them trail a leash, supervise and correct the dog with the leash if they exhibit poor behavior. If you have other trustworthy dogs, have them around at the same time, as the new dog will look to them for cues. Give them other things to focus on, not just the cat. Make sure the cat has some bolt holes (high, low, under beds, etc) that they can go to if the scrutiny gets too intense. Take it step-by-step. Having introduced them the first time, congratulate the dog and then separate them again. Do it without fuss. The next time, do to for a bit longer Build up to having them in the same room for longer and longer periods of time, until for instance you can have them overnight in the same room. But keep your brain engaged in the process, i.e. Don’t take your eye off the ball. Persevere. Some times you may have set backs: the cat may goad the dog into a reaction; the dog may be unable to resist the temptation to chase the cat when the cat hurtles around them room. The cat may take an unfair swipe at a well-meaning but inquisitive dog with a pawful of claws. Correct the dog’s behavior, stay calm, open-minded and persevere. Make it clear you will NOT tolerate the cat getting picked on. You are in charge. Obviously, we don’t leave the dog and cat in the same room when we’re not around – that comes a lot later when we’re very confident about things!

But the key in all this is patience and staying calm and positive. Too often people expect or want these things to happen overnight and that often sets things up to fail more easily. Know when to take things slowly: we have 4 male Jindos, 3 of whom can co-exist with Jess in the same room, and 1 who does not. Of the 3 who do, we have just taken our time, followed the steps and observed their reactions and their general dispositions. All three can be headstrong, but generally want to please and will respond well to voice correction. The 1 who does not, we’are just careful with because – while we are confident that he does not wish to displease us and can be very gentle – this particular cat will not rest until he has exerted total dominance over the dogs. The dog, however, might not be able to help himself, bearing in mind the very natural, instinctive high prey drive in most Jindos. He has made it fairly clear through the metal grille that he doesn’t like cats and that he will go after Jess in an aggressive way given half the chance. This particular dog also has a brain injury (resulting from tick fever which he had prior to our rescuing him), and it has diminished his inhibitions somewhat. So we keep them apart – it’s easy and it just becomes part
of the routine. And when its time to take it up a level, you will know No rushing…

So this isn’t a “100% success, it can always work” story. Neither is it a “Jindos and cats just can’t mix” story. It’s about taking your time, figuring the particular animals out and being thoughtful. Do that and you have a very good chance of success, particularly if you view any “failures” as merely hurdles to be gradually overcome over time. There is no instant fix to get there: time and patience will be your greatest allies. And remember, that even if you are successful (as many are) at getting your dog to live with cats, it may be quite a different story if the Jindo sees one outside of the home or even in their own territory outdoor/their garden.