Pet Prose: Ham I AM

Ham I AM

By The Pet Pro

When our beautiful big kitty Tommy was still alive, he got used to an occasional canine visitor, as we board dogs in our home sometimes. We would always set up a barrier in the house, just past the kitchen, so the dogs would stay in one part of the house, but the cat could come and go as he wished. Tommy had lived with our dog T-Bone for six years until T-Bone passed away, and had formed a comfortable bond, so he wasn’t afraid of dogs, but he usually stayed on his side of the barrier while strange dogs were in the house.

One of the dogs I walk regularly, Hamlet, boards with us several times each year. Hamlet is one of my favorite dogs. He’s a large, handsome German shepherd/black lab mix who reminds us of our T-Bone. He has the same long, elegant paws, big intelligent brown eyes, and gentlemanly ways.

Tommy seemed to agree that Hamlet was familiar in some way. The very first time Hamlet stayed with us, Tommy snuck over the barrier when the dog was sleeping and sniffed his paws and tail, which he had never done before with our other canine guests. During the visit, he would sit on the dining table, just past the barrier, rolling around and flirting with Hamlet, but he never came closer.

One morning, my boyfriend Rick was making breakfast, which included some sliced ham. Ham was one of Tommy’s favorite things. At the first whiff he would come running and would beg and talk until he got his tiny bit of treat. On this particular morning, there was quiet. Suddenly Rick looked down and there, sitting only a few inches apart with their attention completely fixed on Rick, were Hamlet and Tommy. As if choreographed, the dog looked at the cat, the cat looked at the dog, and then they simultaneously looked back at Rick and the “Ham!” Obviously, they had their priorities straight. The possibility of a favorite treat had completely trumped any issues between them.

This hilarious moment added to my understanding of inter-species relationships. Dogs and cats are generally able and willing to get along in friendship especially when there’s ham involved!

TRAINING TIPS: Dogs are carnivores and predators, but they are also pack animals with a deep sensitivity to the group dynamic. They form loving bonds with other dogs and humans, and are capable of bonding with cats, birds and even rodents. If you want to encourage your dog to make friends with a cat, there are some steps you can take. Always keep the dog on a leash at first and prevent him from lunging, barking or chasing after the cat. The cat may hide at first. Never force the animals together, but give them time to adjust. Make sure they are separated when you are not in the room to supervise, and create a safe place for the cat to live until the bond is formed. Ask your dog to sit calmly and observe while you interact with the cat. Talk softly and sweetly to the kitty. Touch the cat and say his/her name and then let the dog sniff your hand. You can rub a towel or toy on each animal and give the scented object to the other to sleep with and become familiar with the scent. Make it clear that no aggression will be tolerated on either side. Treats are a great help (as in the story above), especially a treat that has real power because it’s a favorite thing that they only get when they sit calmly in each other’s presence. Practice every day. There are many games and exercises you can use to bring them together. Check with a local trainer. Every animal is an individual and some personalities go better with others, so it’s always better if you can to carefully choose a cat or dog with your pet’s type in mind. Make a plan, stick with it, and in time you’ll be enjoying a loving inter-species family.

Happy Trails!

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