Dear Max,

When we bought our first home, we lived in a rural area with a nice yard and a young family. It was time for a puppy!

If we’d taken a vote, I’m pretty sure you would have said ‘no’. Your only previous experience with a dog in the house didn’t work out very well.

This time, the pup came from the Humane Society, and he was a Pointer-type dog. He was quick and he loved to play chase. He also loved to eat anything that fit into his mouth, including cat food, cat toys and cat litter.

We didn’t plan ahead to bring a puppy into the home, but you very quickly showed us the gaps in our preparations. First order of business was to cut a cat port into the basement door, so that your food (on a shelf by the basement stairs) and your litter boxes (moved downstairs) were out of reach of puppy.

Cat toys had to be monitored carefully and picked up before Charlie came out of his crate, especially toys that were small enough to be picked up by a curious pup. We also made sure there were always toys and a scratching post available in the quiet basement area, so you could choose to be away from the dog.

We did make a good decision to crate him, so you had run of the house at night and when we were away. I think that made the transition bearable for you, just barely. And we also allowed you to set some firm boundaries with young Charlie when he was still in his socialization period. He learned early that cats are loud and sharp if you get too close too quickly, and since he was about six times your size when fully grown, that was a valuable lesson for us all.

We also took him to puppy classes (old photo above), and he actually graduated! Although he was ‘special’ in some ways, he did learn to accept our commands and he also learned to listen to you. You were brave enough from your exposure to a toddler that you didn’t immediately run and stimulate that hunting dog brain to give chase.

I think, once he learned to be respectful of your space, you didn’t mind living with a dog too much. You never became good buddies, but your coexistence was relatively peaceful. And for that, I thank you, my patient cat.

What did I learn when Max met the dog?

  • Adding a puppy, instead of a more mature dog, made the transition easier for the cats because the pup in his socialization period adapted to a household ruled by cats.
  • It was a good idea to make sure the cats had their own space and could eat and use the litter box without worrying about a canine ambush.
  • Allowing the smaller creatures to set boundaries before the pup reached full size ended up being safer for all involved.