Photo: Marta Locklear Photography
Most couples have to worry about their significant others getting along with their mother or best friend. But what if your pets are the family members who can play nice? Here, real couples tell the tale of their cats and dogs fighting, well, like cats and dogs.
Separate But Equal
“When my husband and I married nearly three years ago he had one younger, aggressive cat who has front claws. My two sweet cats were older, more laid back and only have back claws,” Allison explained. Clearly trouble lurked. “For a short period of time the house was completely open, allowing the cats to roam everywhere. Until Sydney (Mr. Front Claws) started pouncing on and harassing one of his new stepsisters, while my other girl hid under a bed in the spare bedroom.
This catastrophic situation was solved by keeping the girls Lucky and Mia in the master bedroom with the door shut tight during the evenings and when the couple is out. Occasionally the order is switched so Sydney can enjoy the larger area.
This may not be ideal but it works. When the parents are home and can supervise the cats hang out together. “With mommy and daddy around the ‘attack’ is basically Lucky hissing and Sydney swatting at her till we stop it from going further.”
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Soothing the Not-So-Savage Beasts
Before they married June 2014, Karen and her groom were pet mommy and daddy to members of two different species. Karen explains, “My now-husband Roger had two large mixed breed dogs and I owned two cats — Russian Blue and Siamese Mix.”
The couple was very strategic about how to manage this merging. “First we established a ‘cat room’ with litter box, food, water and a climbing tree. The dog had no access to this room.” After a week of the animals being kept separate, Karen and Roger slowly began the introductions. “In the main living area we had the dogs on a short leash, then let the cats in.”
Yes there was a cacophony of animal noises but the dogs kept being praised and — most important — rewarded with treats. The meeting lasted a few minutes. This routine was repeated nightly. Three weeks in, the dogs were brought into the room to face the cats sans leashes. Some barking — one or two times the dogs got too close and received ‘a bat’ from the cats — otherwise no violence. Karen says happily, “Pretty easy overall. Now they lay in close proximity to each other, pretty cool!”
The Two-Footed Factor
Pam confesses, “In our case the dogs weren’t the problem — it was our different styles of parenting.” When Pam and Tim married in 2013 each had one pet — a poodle (hers) and a beagle (his). Pam explains, “Fifi — I know, I know, ridiculous name — slept with me, ate people food and accompanied me everywhere in a small bag. Grover had a dog bed, ate Purina and knew he didn’t belong on furniture.”
Grover, no dummy, quickly figured out he was being gypped and began leaping on sofas and beds, stealing thawing steaks off the kitchen counter top and otherwise creating havoc.
“It was a mess,” Pam recalls. “We called in an animal behaviorist who worked hard training the humans. Now everyone is treated equally. Everyone eats dog food, no one sleeps in our bed and — most important, everyone gets the same amount of love.” The result: no more sibling rivalry — happy pets and happy pet parents!
Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW is a New York City-based marriage therapist and author.