5 Tips to Make Your 10-year old Cat Happy that You Got a Puppy

482562_10152360259261844_6460807_nWhen our adult children bestowed a puppy on us over the 2013 Labor Day weekend, we couldn’t have been more traumatized delighted. In the years immediately preceding this arrival, we had said goodbye to two dogs and three cats. Our remaining cat—Little Mister—is 10 years old and understandably set in his—let’s be honest—spoiled, entitled, lazy, demanding and uncompromising ways.

LM3My distress elation on the first day of Lucy’s arrival caused me to forget about Little Mister until late evening when I opened the back door to coax the puppy outside for a potty. The cat stood on the stoop, ready to dart inside. He stopped and shouted, “What the hell is this?!?” Lucy froze and exclaimed, “Woo-wee, what’s this?” A high-speed chase ensued.

Little Mister didn’t reappear for three days.

The #1 Tip on how to make your elderly cat happy with the new puppy: Refrain from arranging their first meeting on opposite sides of an opened door.

Our previous cats had been introduced to our mature dogs as kittens and we rarely had a problem. I didn’t know how to get a puppy to leave a cat alone without a great deal of screaming and subsequent psychological damage to everyone. I was able to garner a couple of tips from the Internet.

Tip #2: Never leave the cat and the puppy unsupervised. Initially, you’ll find this easy if you fail to heed Tip #1 and your cat disappears for three days.

Tip #3: Whenever the cat enters the room, put the puppy on a leash and remain calm. This is super easy if (A) you always have a leash in your hand, (B) you know the exact moment the cat decides to wake for the night and enter the living room, and (C) you have not been lulled to sleep watching Nova.

Tip #4: Encourage the cat to live upstairs. This works well if you block the stairway with dining room chairs and the puppy does not discover she can take a flying leap over those chairs and race like a greyhound away from you.

Tip #5: Give up and let them work it out.

999784_10152228988656844_1512946115_nAfter five and a half months of Puppy Kindergarten, AKC Good Citizenship training and Little Mister puffing himself to twice his size, flattening his ears, and issuing long growls that would scare the dead, our puppy and 10-year old cat went through a brief period of detente.

However, a few nights ago, Lucy sensed the presence of the cat in the hallway and raced to confirm. Seconds later, Little Mister’s growls filled the air. Lucy barked. Sighing heavily, I extricated myself from the sofa, put on my Solution Architect hat and prepared to mediate.

Little Mister had taken up position near the front door. Lucy approached, wanting to play. Little Mister growled. Lucy barked. Little Mister lashed out with claws bared. Lucy made a hasty backwards retreat while leaving a river of pee.

At least this gave me the needed motivation to mop the hallway.

The following evening, Little Mister came into the living room and jumped on my chair to demand petting. Lucy maintained her cool and stayed on her bed. The cat left for a few minutes and came back. Lucy was highly aware of his movements, but didn’t chase after him. The cat again left the room.

Little Mister came into the living room once again. Apparently, the cat is allowed access to the living room one, even two times a night, but not a third. Definitely not a third time.

1601274_10152360261811844_1457279366_nLucy jumped up and ran at him. Little Mister stood his ground, puffed to the size of a cougar, growled and took a swipe in the air. Lucy backed off. Little Mister advanced, hissing and growling. Lucy backed away until she was under an end table. Little Mister continued to pursue.

Yes, I know that Tip #5 advises to let them work it out, but Little Mister looked poised to jump on Lucy’s face like the Salt Creature in Star Trek and suck the life out of her. I jumped from my chair and placed myself between them. Instead of telling Lucy to “leave it,” the command was leveled at Little Mister. He turned and sauntered across the room to claim my chair and meow for a pet. Lucy trembled beneath the end table.

I wish I could report that we are now living happily ever after. The good news is that I’m pretty well done trying to convince Lucy to listen to me. I realize her ears are better tuned to what the cat is saying. Whenever he says, “I’m going to kill you,” she either backs off peeing or hides under an end table. At this point, we’ll define it as success.

Puppy Kindergarten

There’s a program called Puppy Kindergarten and I enrolled Lucy in it this past Saturday.

It didn’t start out well.

Within minutes of arriving in the parking lot of the Evergreen Barn in Mendocino, Lucy got so hopelessly tangled up with a border collie that the owner and I had to restrain our dogs while someone else removed the collie’s collar and untangled the leashes.


Flying ears.

When the puppy group was released for play in the training room, my normally mellow darling turned into a psychotic tweeker.

Cesar Milan says not to take your puppy’s behavior personally. But how do you manage that while five other “parents” watch in horror as your great white shark ruins the delicate balance of Puppy Kindergarten?

Expert trainer, Elaine Miksak, asked me to gently coax Lucy into the “time out” area and keep her there until she settled down.

Try as I might to get Lucy’s attention away from chomping on the other dogs’ necks, it was a no go. It would have been far easier to pick her up and haul her out of Puppy Kindergarten forever.

Elaine, bless her heart, finally intervened to skillfully move Lucy away from the action.

After a few minutes, she settled enough to be allowed back into play. However, I was asked repeatedly to intervene by going to her, calling her name while gently clapping my hands, moving backwards and coaxing her to follow. This simmered her down for about 15 seconds at a time.

A gorgeous four-month old golden retriever dabbled in the play, but when it got rough, took refuge at the feet of her owner. I found myself standing by him after my one hundredth “coaxing” of Lucy to stop her bullying ways.


Looking for action.

“We used to have a golden retriever,” I said. “He was perfect.”

He gave me a weary smile, almost as if I’d said I’d once driven a Mercedes and now drive a 20-year old piece of crap Geo—almost as if to say, “I don’t care to hear your tale of woe.”

His look made me realize that I believed Lucy was less than the others, that she would never be more than the snapping, barking creature that she was at that moment.

A few minutes later, play time was thankfully called to a halt and we were asked to leash up our dogs. Lucy thrashed as we walked to my chair. She lunged to incite the other dogs to play. I quietly soothed her into a sit.

Elaine gave a sweet lecture on I don’t know what because I was giving myself a silent lecture to straighten out my thought process with my dog.

This was Lucy’s first experience with playing with puppies outside of her littermates. In her defense, littermate play is like my childhood—a turbulent mob of sibling rivalry. Lucy took what she had learned in her kennel at the Humane Society and transferred it to these strangers.

Most of Lucy’s experiences are first-time. It is up to us, as her owners, to be patient with helping her learn. It is a daily process. Unfortunately, I am not good with daily processes.

New mantra: I am good with daily processes.

After Elaine’s lecture, the puppies were allowed two additional mosh pit sessions intermixed with two basic training periods. (It was the longest 90 minutes in recent memory.) In the end, Lucy sat quietly at my feet before slumping into a down position. One of the “fathers” commented on how well she was behaving.


Too tired to misbehave.

I wanted to proclaim, “This is the puppy I know, not that monster from before. She is a good puppy, I swear she is.” I wanted to cry. Puppy Kindergarten was hard. It was really, really hard.

This class helped me realize that my initial two weeks with Lucy had turned me into a neurotic mess. My desperate need to make certain she is well behaved and the dog everyone loves gave me occasional bouts of vertigo.

As I write this, she is quietly chewing a rawhide bone on the rug in my office. She has had two walks today. She has met people on the street and exhibited great affection towards them. She has been played with and loved.



She is perfect right now.

She will be perfect as she grows older.

I need to calm the hell down.