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I have a four-year-old ragdoll cat and a one-year-old miniature schnauzer puppy (about half the cat's size). The cat has learned to tolerate the dog and only retreats to high ground if she is actively being pestered. Neither animal has even been aggressive toward the other.

I recently took the cat outside to explore the backyard and enjoy the warm weather. This trip happened to be her first time in the yard since getting the dog. When she returned inside, she was immediately very skittish around the dog, seeking a hiding spot if she even heard the dog in another room.

The backyard is where the dog habitually releases waste, so I'm sure it must smell very much like her to other animals. Did I inadvertently create a dominance issue by introducing the cat into the dog's "territory"? If so, is there anything I can do to reset the scales? It's been a couple days since this started, and the cat is showing great improvement on her own, but I wonder if there's anything else I can do to help besides wait.

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Great question. Just to start off with, the dominance theory is one that has been disproved by the very people who first came up with the theory. They deduced behaviours of wolves kept in captivity and as such, the wolves were not display natural behaviours. In the wild, they live in family units with the adults teaching the younger wolves. We like the adult wolves, are our pets teachers.

You mentioned that this is the first time the cat has been in the yard. Now while the smell of the dog's droppings and urine may have been unpleasant to the cat, it could be a multitude of things that made your cat skittish after coming back inside.

Cats can stay in a state of arousal or reactivity for up to 48 hours after an incident has scared them or freaked them out http://www.catbehaviorassociates.com/redirected-aggression-in-cats/

She may have seen something that made her worried or scared and as such can take up to 48 hours or longer to calm back down. In future, I'd advise to slowly introduce her back into the yard, making sure that every interaction is fun and positive. Make sure to watch for signs of unrest or uncomfortably when you are outside with her http://www.catbehaviorassociates.com/stress-in-cats/ http://auntstaceyscats.com/subtle-signs-of-feline-stress/ http://www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_journal_individual.asp?blog_id=5958454 http://www.chicagopetrescue.org/cat-information.html

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  • Thank you for the helpful links. She did return to her normal self after a few days of relaxing in the basement. It does seem more likely that she was just generally stressed by the new experience than that she was particularly upset by the dog. – Austin Mohr Mar 18 '16 at 14:43

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