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Help needed: Duncan and The Dog

Duncan's a bit on the fluffy sideI used to sleep alone in my big double bed. Last January Duncan moved in, and as you know he’s kind of on the large size. He’s never been the kind of cat who sleeps with the feet. Right from the very first night, Duncan slept with his arm wrapped around me and his face tucked up against mine. The bed felt smaller with Duncan in it, but in a nice, cozy way.

Last summer GC moved into my bed too. He’s got his own house, but he spends most of his nights with Duncan and me. As you might recall, this caused Duncan some distress in the beginning, which he resolved by peeing in the bed. But Duncan and GC like each other very much, and I think they’ve worked things out for the most part.

There’s still a little bit of jockeying for position in the bed sometimes, but we seem to have mostly settled into this configuration:

GC and I snuggle up facing each other, entwined. Duncan gets himself comfy up on the topmost conjoined edge of us, purring and peering down on us like a gargoyle. (That’s peering, not peeing.) Sometimes he reaches a paw down and strokes my face.

Even though his weight is distributed between the two of us, he’s still a fairly substantial cat, and we sometimes have trouble falling asleep like that because we can’t breathe.

So then we all realign ourselves. I roll over onto my back, taking Duncan with me. He curls up in the crook of my left arm, with his face tucked under my chin. GC cuddles up against my right side. We fall asleep like that most of the time, all cozy and comfy.

Logan wants to meet DuncanNow that we’ve ironed out the wrinkles, we want to bring GC’s dog into the picture. It just doesn’t seem right that the three of us are so cozily ensconced in one house while The Dog sleeps alone in the other. (But just so you don’t think The Dog’s being completely neglected, GC works at home, so The Dog has companionship all day.)

The Dog did visit once, in the early days, and Duncan was displeased in the extreme, and expressed his feelings about it with impressive clarity by peeing on GC’s clothes.

We learned not to be so cavalier about the cat. We learned to be more circumspect, more respectful, more fearful of invoking his displeasure.

Since then we’ve been tossing around ideas about how to properly introduce Duncan and The Dog.

So far we’ve put a picture of Duncan on GC’s fridge, at The Dog’s eye level, and a picture of The Dog on my fridge, at Duncan’s eye level. We haven’t noticed either of them looking at the other’s picture, but maybe they do it when we’re not around.

If you have other ideas, we’d love to hear them.


23 comments to Help needed: Duncan and The Dog

  • Ginna

    When we introduce a new member to our family, we make sure the new fur person brings lots of treats for the existing fur family. We try and introduce in small bits whenever possible, giving the new fur person some space of their own, then gradually combining the crew. Crazy, but so far has been effective for 3 cats and three dogs.

  • deb

    Introduce them to each other in small doses. Rob thinks at your house, not GC’s because Duncan knows all the hiding spots in his own home. Maybe leave the basement open enough for Duncan to get down there, but not “dog” (would love to know his name). Personally, I would close the door to your bedroom in the beginning, so that if he has the urge to show his displeasure, your wardrobe or bedding isn’t vulnerable.

  • I have nothing helpful to contribute here. I was wondering, though: how much does Duncan weigh? I could make an educated guess, but maybe you want to make a raffle of it, or something.

    Oh, and that is just an wonderful looking dog. I want to be his best friend.

  • sassy

    Ginna (always make it a positive experience) and Deb (take it slow) . . . both excellent suggestions.

    If they have not met at all yet, I suggest taking something that has dog’s smell on it to Duncan’s house and something that smells like Duncan over to dog’s house. That way when they meet, they will already know something of each other before they even have their first face-to-face.

    A family member and I did this with two dogs once (one of them was not well socialized and had a reputation of attacking all new dogs, even when when not on her territory). About a month before we were to visit unfriendly dog, I mailed out a few dogs toys and a blanket, all of which were saturated with my dog’s scent. When the two dogs met (in unfriendly dogs home), they just sniffed each other as if they were old friends and that was that.

    Animals get a lot of information from their noses (but you knew that already).

  • XUP

    First, I think you’re going to need a much bigger bed. And that’s pretty much all I got. I don’t think it’s going to be easy to predict how Duncan is going to react. All the best.

  • omg! i got stuck at the very start of your post where you say ‘and as you know heโ€™s kind of on the large size’. laughing my arse off! kind of a large size. kind of a large size? are you kidding me. he is HUGE!

  • sassy has excellent suggestions above. The other tip I have heard is that when they meet, the first glimpse shouldn’t be of the new animal being cuddled by the original animal’s people. They really need to discover each other on their own. And take it slowly. Maybe first a siteing through a closed window. Then an opened window or door allowing a sniff. Then let the dog in the living room for a short time while the cat is confined to the bedroom, then remove the dog and let the cat sniff away. Mostly try not to stress about it; because if you’re stressed, Duncan will pick up on that and stress out, too. I hope it works out for you.

  • Is the dog, when he’s not being cruelly abandoned, used to sleeping on the bed too? Because if so, getting a bigger bed is definitely the first step.

    I second the switching of animal-smelling stuff. That should make it maybe slightly less shocking. But the problem with introducing cats and dogs, as we discovered, is that they speak a different language. To a dog, running away means ‘chase me!’ and to a cat it means, ‘get the hell away from here!’ Also, dogs introduce themselves by sniffing butts, and to a cat that is simply rude. Once our cats figured out to stop running, the dog largely lost interesting, except for the occasional attempted butt-sniff.

    We just showed up with the puppy one day, but then none of our cats have a peeing issue.

  • ann hunt

    Lordy; I’ve got sort of the same issue. My two indoor cats and a stray that I tried to introduce into the household went on a peeing competition – on the floor; clean laundry in a basket; an upholstered chair. They would seem to reach a truce and then it would start up again. I gave up. I feed and provide medical care for the stray (yes, of course I had him neutered), but he stays outdoors. In Miami, Florida, US, that’s not a horrible life, but I still feel guilty.

  • You need a neutral area that is foreign to both furry family members. Do either of you have a mutual friend willing to offer up a room or an area of some sort to participate in the experiment? I like justmakingitup’s ideas.They seem quite doable. Good luck with the integrated family :)

  • Oma

    I introduce Kenya to new dogs and the occasional cat all the time because I sit dogs. I try to make sure that they meet off-leash outdoors so that they are making the connection with one another as animals. When that is not possible or just doesn’t happen I make sure they meet in a situation with lots of space and escape routes … no dead ends. Cats need to be able to get away, but if a cat is comfortably assertive as Duncan may be, I would likely just oversee the interaction and tell the dog that chasing is not allowed. Kenya and the cat next door get along very well and have since they first met that way.

  • I know “the Dog” and he is not at all dominant, although he can be quite excitable. Following the Dog Whisperer’s advice, you have to establish that you and GC are the pack leaders wherever you are and even the Cat will follow. The animals cannot be allowed to think that one is dominant over the other. They need to know that the humans control the situation and the humans make it safe for each of them. There was one episode of the DW where a cat and a dog did not get along and the people thought the dog was chasing the cat and thus making its life miserable. It turned out that the cat was the dominant one and the DW ended up sitting on the couch with both animals and the dog avoided the cat and the cat only hissed once at the dog and then the DW made sure the cat knew HE was in charge. Once the humans establish that THEY are in charge, the animals can relax and follow, knowing that the other animals will be controlled by the humans. I have no idea if I could do this but I have seen Cesar Millan do it many times, with both cats and dogs, so I know it is possible!

  • grace

    Are you really, really little? Fish-eye lens? Salmon (colour read on my monitor) makes Duncan look fat?

  • I know the common consensus is generally “take it slow, a little bit at a time” but honestly, in all my 29 whole years of experience with animals.. I’ve never done it that way. For me it’s always been, bring the new fur baby in and for the existing fur babies, it’s kinda like it or lump it. Now that said, you have to make sure you give the exisiting (or most upset) fur baby a little more love and attention, but after a few days things seem to go back to normal. There may be a few instances of acting out (peeing on clothes, and the oscasional destroyed piece of furniture) but in the long run they are no biggies. It takes a little time, but eventually they sort out their own order of dominance, (an no doubt Duncan willl hold his place at the top)

  • Duncan seems to be a selfish son-of-a-gata, and you’re enabling. One thought is to take him to a taxidermist, but assuming you want his warm body to stay warm, I’d suggest firm steps to put him in his place. As usual with animals, this involves much repetition with rewards. Can you not lure him to a better sleeping position with favourite treats? Or at least to a sleeping crate.


  • If the dog has a blanket, bring it over to your place and see how Duncan — Jesus Christ that thing’s fucking huge — reacts to it. In my experience it generally takes about ten minutes for a cat and dog to get the hierarchy figured out.

  • hi, found you through yarnharlot–that cat is AWESOME. good luck with the merging business. tricky stuff.

    i’m just trying to figure out why our cat keeps pooping on the floor. i haven’t even put any annoying costumes on her lately. oh well.

  • We’ve been pretty bad on the whole and just introduced them to eachother and forced them to get used to eachother. With the boys, because they were unfixed strays, we kept them locked up until after they were fixed, mostly because we were worried they’d spray (neither has ever showed the inclination though, thankfully in the 6 years we’ve had them now!)

    Mimi has also been secluded, but that’s because she’s psychocat from hell, and she still needs to live in her own room, though she can handle our opening the door when we’re around to break up any fights.

    That said, we’ve never brought a dog into the house (although I’m actually thinking of inviting my best friend and her teddy bear of a dog over to see what our cats do, because I’m evil like that)

  • When I introduced my two kitties, the vet told me that first impressions are by far the most important. So you want the initial meetings to be positive. The best way to do that, is to allow them to get used to each other before they actually meet. The easiest way to do this is to lock one of them in a seperate room, and then allow them to sniff each other through the door. Once they are cool with that, try rubbing a sock on the dog and allowing Duncan to sniff it. If he’s cool with the sock it might be a good time to meet.

    When they first meet try to allow them to see each other, but still be safe. Putting one animal behind a screen door or in a crate is a good way to do this.

    Good Luck! the good news is that cats are usually much more accepting of dogs than they are of other cats.

  • Thanks for all the excellent suggestions! We started implementing them yesterday, by bringing Duncan’s favourite blanket over to The Dog’s house. The Dog was all sniffy-nosed and waggy-tailed about it.

    We then brought one of The Dog’s blankets back for Duncan, and he was kind of indifferent to it. He didn’t seek it out, but he didn’t avoid it either.

    Deb, good idea. We still keep the bedroom door closed when we’re not in it, even though Duncan hasn’t peed the bed for a couple of months.

    Dave, good idea on the “Guess Duncan’s Weight” contest, but I’m afraid long-time readers would have an advantage since I’ve written about his weight before. I even have a picture on here somewhere of Duncan on the scales at the vet’s office.

    Sassy, I’d love it if things went that smoothly between Duncan and The Dog.

    XUP, hopefully The Dog will want to sleep at the foot of the bed with the feet since we’re out of real estate up at the head.

    Raino, don’t forget the camera adds 10 pounds!

    Holly, those are good suggestions too, thank you.

    Justmakingitup, I think The Dog is used to sleeping in the bedroom, but mostly not on the bed. (But he’s allowed to if he wants, and sometimes he wants.) I love your explanation of the differences between dog language and cat language.

    Ann, i don’t think you need to feel guilty. You’re meeting all their needs in the most workable way. Having multiple cats peeing all over the house just isn’t workable. (I knew of two families that merged through marriage, and between them they had five kids. The youngest children from each family were four years old. The two four year olds went into competition to maintain their position as youngest child – which meant regressing, baby-talk and wetting their pants. It was hugely frustrating for their parents, and they were sorely tempted to make them live outside!)

    Jocelynn, we could temporarily create a pet orientation room.

    Oma, I don’t think these guys could meet off-leash outdoors since Duncan’s not allowed outside and The Dog’s not allowed off-leash.

    Julia, that’s fascinating. I don’t know that we could have such a heart-to-heart on the couch since I think Duncan would refuse to show up for such a meeting, but maybe we could try that technique after we’ve gotten past the basic introductions.

    Grace, ha ha! I think it’s a combination of several of those things: I’m short, salmon makes Duncan look chunky, the camera adds pounds, plus he’s fluffy. Besides, he’s a Norwegian Forest Cat, and they’re kind of big to begin with. The funny thing is he no longer seems that big to me, but all other cats seem freakishly small.

    Valerie, that’s exactly what I’ve always done in the past. Just bring the new guy in and everybody has to get used to each other. It’s always worked for me. Sometimes it takes a little time, but they work it out. But then I’ve never had one in the past who expresses himself by peeing on the bed, and it’s amazing what an effective technique that is for forcing your humans to be more sensitive to your opinion.

    Tom, I think you’re misunderstanding the problem. I LOVE Duncan and I would miss him terribly if he stopped sleeping in the bed. The problem isn’t that he’s sleeping in the bed but that he doesn’t want to make friends with The Dog.

    Zoom’s 8th: Your comment made me laugh out loud.

    Welcome troisieme, and all the other Yarn Harlot followers who have been stopping by over the past couple of days! Traffic has definitely spiked around here. About your pooping cat – have you tried putting out a second litter box in a different part of the house?

    Arden, me too, just open the door, toss in a new cat, and go have a coffee while they sort things out. LOL.

    Maggie, that sounds like a far more humane and sensitive approach than the one Arden and I use. I like it. Thank you.

  • What Sassy said. Exactly what she said. Then, take dog for LONG walk before bringing him over. Feed Dog. A tired, well fed dog will be calmer. Try and keep his movement in the house to min. and let Duncan do the approaching. Don’t force him, or you’re in for it ๐Ÿ˜› It should work. If all goes well, you’ll have Duncan thinking he’s a dog in no time. (I have a cat who baths my great dane on a nightly basis. I’m not sure if the cat thinks she’s a dog or that the dog is just a mutant cat. I think it’s more the first since Mildred seems to think her 4 kgs can take down any large, furry, 4 legged animal.)

  • Ellen

    When my daughter brought her cat home we put a baby gate in the doorway to her bedroom. The cat could jump over and escape to her room if she felt threatened, and she would jump out and creep around when the dog was asleep. The dog (a golden retriever) figured out that sudden movements from him would make the cat run, so he would creep slowly past her so as not to startle her. It was really cute. In a couple weeks they were sharing the doggie bed.

  • Great Post! Your blog is one I try to always read.