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So my adult dog (Mabel) is being purposely scared off by my new kitten. We have another kitten (Mezzy) we got a few days ago but has a few more days at home than New Cat. But Mezzy is well mannered and gets along just fine with Mabel.

Mabel has been with me since 2014 and she was a rescue. She was always skittish/nervous but she's gotten better about it since then.

Anyways, I don't want Mabel to run to me because New Cat is purposely threatening her and hisses at her to get out of his way whenever he walks past her. He purposely runs after Mabel when she runs away or is near him even though she doesn't want to hurt New Cat.

I want Mabel to show her dominance as she did with Mezzy when he tried biting her tail/jumping on her in order to scare her. But Mezzy never hisses at her and they're okay around each other. But she's so scared of New Cat and refuses to scare him off properly.

I don't want her to feel unsafe in my household because she's very important to me. I don't live at home and I'll be heading back to college in a week. I don't wanna leave her here in fear or severely stressed in her own environment!

What should I do?

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You say the cat is the aggressor here, but from the cat's point of view, it may also feel threatened. The dog is likely bigger than it, since you say the cat is a kitten, and one way cats react to being threatened is to try to look threatening themselves. Therefore I think the goal shouldn't be to make the dog stand up for itself so much as to try to calm BOTH animals.

I suggest separating the two, by keeping them in separate areas of the house, then trying a gradual re-introduction. Find a distance at which the two can be in the same area, and not have any bad reaction, then reward them. Very slowly decrease this distance. Keep sessions short, so the animals don't get too stressed. If there is any bad reaction, you need to slow down the pace. Unfortunately, a week is probably not enough time to do this, so you will need to enlist the help of whoever is taking care of them while you are away.

It may be that some specific thing is triggering the bad interactions, like the dog is accidentally blocking the cat's access to food, water, its box, etc. Try to think of if there are any possible triggers, and possible solutions you can do to mitigate them. For example, in the case of the dog being in the cat's way, it might help to make up a room the dog can't get into, and put the cat's things in there.

In the end, it may turn out that the animals are simply incompatible, in which case it is best to keep them separated. It is not always the case that you can convince them to get along.

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Is Mabel considerably larger than New Cat? I assume so, since New Cat is a kitten. There's an interesting phenomenon I've noticed: in absence of actual evidence people are statistically more likely to blame the bigger dog.

My grandmother had a miniature pinscher, my aunt had a big muscular labrador. Whenever they played and it got rough, the labrador was always told off for being too rough.
It took me ages to convince my family that the pinscher was the aggressor. It was actually biting and fighting, whereas the labrador merely pushed the little one away. Nonetheless, the labrador was told off for interacting (nicely - relatively speaking) with the pinscher.

As a result, the labrador was afraid of small animals, because it was so often punished for even kindly interacting with them. Unsurprisingly, the pinscher was a real asshole for most of its life. It was basically spoiled and always given what it wanted, and allowed to be aggressive when it didn't get what it wanted.

The same may be true for Mabel. Maybe you inadvertently taught it, maybe it's from a previous owner; but if she's been told off for interacting with smaller animals (through what I jokingly refer to as "sizeism"), then she might have been trained to not interact with small animals (and by extension yield to them when conflicts arise).


Dogs are known for their ability to learn from positive/negative feedback (trainability is one of their major traits). Less well known is the fact that dogs can also learn as a third party, i.e. when they are not the recipient of the negative feedback.

In other words, if you give negative feedback to New Cat as if you were talking to a dog (so Mabel understands what you're saying), then Mabel will learn that New Cat is at fault for the interaction that caused Mabel to run away.
New Cat is likely not going to understand your feedback (although I have had success with my cats, it took a long time to take root), but the focus is to make Mabel understand that she's not in the wrong.

Obviously don't overdo it in a way that you paint New Cat as a villain, because then Mabel may take it too far as well. Simply point the blame at whoever is to blame, and make sure to have the wronged party observe that blame is pointed at the other party.

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You could try confronting them in a controlled manner.

Sit down on the floor and start petting New Cat. Calm him down and make him comfortable. He should at least lay down on his side, even better if he purrs. Then call Mabel to you and pet her as well.

The important part is that you are the buffer between both animals. Have each of them on opposite sides of you and keep them at (both) arms length apart. If Mable wants to go to New Cat, hold her back. If New Cat wants to chase Mabel, he has to go through you.

Watch New Cats body language when you call Mable. He will most likely lift his head, fix Mable with his gaze and whip his tail around. This is acceptable behavior. If he sits or stands up, he's getting ready to fight Mable. Then you must be very carefull and should stop Mables approach immediately. Be aware that you might be scratches if you try to hold New Cat back.

If you've pet them enough (just a few minutes is enough), first send Mabel away in the opposite direction of New Cat. Then stand up and walk away.

By this method you demonstrate to both animals that they can be close to each other without fighting. Repeat the controlled confrontation every day to get them used to each other.

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