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Chicken the heeler mix has been settling in really great since adopting him - we were having some issues at first but I think most of it was just anxiety over being in a new environment.

Now to tackle the next situation - creating some kind of harmony between Chicken and my cat, Todd.

Todd is typically a very laid back cat. He has gotten along with many other dogs in the past - maybe a little attitude here and there but he always asserts his power and settles down.

When I first brought Chicken home, I kept them separate and allowed my cat to roam the entire house while the dog was in his crate. At first he would hiss a bit when walking by the crate but nothing crazy. After a while I decided it might be time to let them meet each other in a very controlled environment. Chicken grew up with cats, and while he is very playful - he doesn't consider them prey.

What ended up happening was horrifying.

I put Todd the cat on the kitchen table and gave him lots of treats and made sure he was really happy and comfortable. I've read that it's a good idea to start the interaction with the cat on an elevated space because that's where they will feel most safe and in power - they can safely swat and assert their dominance from there.

I then brought Chicken into the next room so he could see the cat from the doorway. He started wagging his tail and whining a little. I told him to lay down and worked on calming his excited energy as to not startle the cat.

The second my cat saw Chicken all of his fur stood on end and he started howling and hissing - he went totally mental. I thought he would stay up on the table where it was safe but instead he jumped down and flew at Chicken with all of his claws out. At first, Chicken was scared and cowered away but then he started barking in an aggressive way I've never seen from him before. It seemed like there was about to be a death match between my cat and my dog.

Right as they were leaping at each other I got in the middle and pushed them apart - tossing the dog into the room behind me and closing the door. At the same time I used my leg to block my cat from his attack on the dog. The puncture wounds I got from my cat landed me in the ER within a few hours - they got freakishly infected very quickly.

I honestly didn't think my cat had it in him - he had never shown aggression like that before.

I'm afraid this interaction made a shift in the way Chicken see's the cat - and that he will be aggressive with him in the future to protect himself and end up really hurting/killing my cat.

So now I have no idea how to move forward. I haven't been able to find any advice for cats who are straight up aggressive with dogs (especially uncharacteristically).

Any help?? Please help!!
 

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See a vet behaviourist. There's no other substitute. You can get advice, but without changing your whole situation and how you approach these two as a thought-out plan, it'll be much harder and not necessarily work out. Finding the right one can be hard but its worth it.

I think Jackson Galaxy has some good videos about how to introduce the two. you may just have to rotate and separate for their lives.

Your goal is for them to ignore each other nearby, not to introduce them so they interact. Always give them a way to escape the situation - if there's not escape and someone feels scared, they *will* lash out. Your cat is getting older and grumpy, and doesn't want to puppy sit for you. Your puppy needs a lot from you, and may be nervous around cats in general now without good socialization. They're also very energetic, which can be annoying if you, say, want to take a nap. This isn't about dominance, its about feeling safe-or unsafe, being scared, and fighting for your life. There's many things that contribute.

With that type of extreme an unusual reaction I'd wonder if your cat has an underlying medical issue that hasn't been looked at to make him particularly irritable.

For example, if your cat has been in pain and it started when the puppy came, but you were focused on the new puppy settling in so didn't notice enough to take the cat to the vet, and suddenly the cat has to be in a confined space with this wiggly/jump/excited puppy (or one who's just staring, like a predator, or being rude, etc) when all it wants is to feel better....you can see how all the little things escalate. Your cat has no other way of screaming "GET AWAY FROM ME NOW."

I suggest getting a cat tree, shelves for the cat to escape high up, baby gates, chew toys, interactive toys (for both animals!), and teaching them tricks (a tired dog is a good dog, same goes for cats and people...plus, learning things like impulse control games are fun and useful in everyday life). These are things you can do easily on your own, in addition to finding some professional help, and maybe reading up on your own about cat and dog body language/behaviour individually, together, calming signals, etc.
 

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I'm going to echo getting an animal behaviorist in to evaluate the situation.

If the table was in a room with only one exit, and the dog was blocking that exit, he might have felt trapped and that's why he attacked the dog. That's just a guess though, and there's a good possibility that I'm completely wrong.

With the type of reaction he had I'd not try fixing the situation by myself, and I do believe that if you want to keep them both you need a behaviorist. This link will help you find a good one http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/finding-trainer-behavior-consultant-behaviorist-113946/

I'd offer advice but honestly I'm not sure what would be best to do, and I don't want to offer the wrong advice and have the situation get worse.
 

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Sometimes when cats get scared they can go a little psycho like that. I've seen some pretty horrific wounds from cats redirecting on people. I'm so sorry that happened to you. It's kind of a normal cat thing, though... They get scared so they lash out. They are also pretty territorial so that could of been part of it as well.

I would keep them completely separated and do some scent swapping. Take two towels and rub them on each pet and then give the dog the cat's towel and the cat the dog's towel. I would also feed them near each other. Like with a closed door in between. That way they start associating each other with good things.

I would not allow them to come into contact with each other for a few weeks, keeping them totally separate but with the scent swapping and feeding them near each other (closed door in between). While they are separate, I would put a lot of training on the puppy. Then I would gradually start to re-intro them but only when the puppy is calm and not wanting to go for that cat. I would crate the puppy and let the cat out while he's sleeping so he can check him out but not feel threatened.

I would also recommend getting your kitty some cat trees and having lots of safe escapes for him so that he doesn't feel so threatened that he has to lash out and keeping his nails cut short so he can't do damage if he freaks out again.

You might also want to look into some DAP diffusers for your kitty. A lot of people have had some really good success using them.
 
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