I have a 10 year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel boy and a 7-8 month old black American Shorthair girl.

My cavvie (Excalibur) is, in general, pretty leery of cats. He doesn't interact with her on purpose very much. He doesn't antagonize her or really do anything other than give her a cursory sniff if she walks near him. The only real interaction he does is if she's hassling him while he eats. He usually whips around and barks right in her face, which makes her back off. Usually two or three times and he'll have a peaceful meal. He doesn't mind if she lies next to or on him. Cavaliers (from my experience anyway) aren't really into "predator/prey" games - they're all about cuddle play.

My cat, Sombra, is young and is a bit of a savage sometimes. She's very inquisitive and is into everything at all times. She has toys, her own food and water, a private litterbox, a scratching post and lots of safe places she can lurk. She gets fed regularly, and despite eating like a horse, she's pretty waifish. Probably because she's an absolutely maniac anytime she's awake.

She bites and scratches, which gets her a spray from the compressed air can. She's learned over time not to get on the countertop in the kitchen from this. The biting and scratching isn't really stopping, and now she's taken to jumping on my dog's back and sinking her teeth into the back of his neck. My dog's kind of old, so he doesn't have the agility required to shake her off so he just yells out while she bites him.

I can't always be there to separate and spray. I love both my pets, but my partner and I agree that Sombra is 100% the instigator of their squabbles. Is there anything else we can be doing to help her learn that this is a no-bite-no-scratch household?


2 Answers 2


One thing that may be causing the cat aggression is the cat is jealous of the attention the dog receives. Also if the cat is not getting enough of your attention she may try to chase away the dog so she gets more attention. Jealousy and other bad experiences / hard feelings can develop into a bad pet to pet relationship.

You can repair their relationship by getting the cat to associate good things (like pets/praise or treats) with the dog. You do this through positive reinforcement.

For training / conditioning animals, positive reinforcement works much better than punishment. You are currently using punishment to try to eliminate the undesirable behavior. What you want to try to do is to reward good behavior.

One way to positively reinforce your cat is to praise / reward your cat when she interacts nicely or peacefully with your dog. Another trick is to place them next to each other and the give both animals a lot of pets and praise. You want to pet the dog and then pet and praise the cat. This gets the dog’s scent on the cat and the cat starts to associate the dog’s scent with the reward of being pet. With cats smell is much more critical in identifying friend from foe than sight.

Also when ever you see the cat close to the dog and either being nice to it or ignoring it gave her a lot of praise. Dogs can be prone to jealousy as well so keep an eye on your dogs behavior and see if he disapproves of all the attention the cat receives. You may want to give the dog extra attention in private so the cat does not see.

Also you want to make sure you were not giving your cat cause for jealousy in the first place such as giving your dog more attention and lap time or cuddle time than than cat. You may have to give your cat more attention than your dog just to keep her happy. Try it and see.

So try to have 2 or more good, positively reinforced experiences between the two animals every day. (The more the better) Their relationship should improve in a week or so. If not let me know and we can discuss other strategies.

I am sure you are not hurting your cat but I don’t recommend using a compressed air can as the cold air can cause burns and there may be chemicals in the compressed air cans that are not good for cats or anyone. Sometimes a bit of punishment also helps if administered right when the cat is engaged in the undesirable behavior : I recommend good old fashion yelling with an angry tone. Cats hate loud noises and yelling should make it more obvious to them that you are upset with and disapprove of their current behavior. You can very gently scruff her with two fingers or gently place her on her side putting her in submissive position as well. You can softly growl at her and scrunch up your face a bit too. These are a couple of the ways cats communicate to other cats that their behavior is unacceptable.

  • re: spraycan, I don't spray her directly. It's more for the hissing noise it makes than the blast of cold air. I used to do this with my keyring when I had loud, jangly keys, but I don't anymore. I got really upset with her the other day because she was biting both my and the dog very, very hard. Whatever I did seems to have gotten inside her little kitty skull: she's been much gentler with us and with Excalibur, while still maintaining her frenetic energy while playing. I guess she's learning? We'll see!
    – sleddog
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 15:45

Your can of compressed air seems to be working so I won't suggest you change it. Myself, I use a plant sprayer, or an empty window cleaner bottle rinsed well and filled with water. My cat Jorge just has to see the sprayer and he pretty much stops what he is doing (not all the time though; he is a cat, after all...) You don't even have to spray AT the cat, just the sound seems to be enough after the first few times you spray.

Have you heard of or considered a Thunder Shirt for your cat? I have ordered one but haven't actually received it yet, so maybe I am jumping the gun mentioning it in an answer. There are some good videos on YouTube of cat owners putting the Thunder Shirt on their pet for the 1st time. Mine was around $42 with tax, and there is a 45-day money-back return policy. Or, you can find them cheaper on eBay, without the return policy.

My cat gets anxious when I am away or when we go to the vet or take any car trip, etc. I am hoping the Thunder Shirt will help with that. Maybe it will calm your cat down a bit, also. What have you got to lose? Good luck with your pets.

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