1. She's a black kitten, with no home, near Halloween and that in itself concerned me, because of the bad reputation black cats can have around that time of year, and are also one of the least adopted fur babies.2. Nox needed a friend, and it's a "pet" for him, someone to tend after other than his handler.3. I just love cats, especially black ones 💖
When it comes to "Service Dog" and "Regular" training, the training NEVER stops, you pick up and add things along the way, this was just one of those "add-on's". We taught to "ignore cats", "don't chase" and "Respect their space"
The Sleepover Test 💤
Since Danielle who was fostering is my best friend, I stayed the night at her house one night for game night, and we put Luna, Nox and me all in the same bedroom to sleep that night. After Nox fell asleep, Luna came up into the bed, and curled up by his belly and started to sleep. Nox looked at me all worried, like "MA, is this ok? I swear I didn't do anything!" this confirmed to me that she was comfortable in her home with him, so it'd be an easier transition.
But I was here FIRST 🤬
When first introducing into our home, since it was Nox's home first and I'm introducing Luna to his home, there's some important things to take into consideration. I would put Luna in my spare bathroom, with the door closed (cats like small spaces anyways), and I'd let Nox sniff under the door. Since this room is right next to my office, where he spends most of his days on duty while I'm at work, this gave him a chance to realize that ok, there's something there, but I can't be too distracted. After awhile I'd put up a baby gate so they could see each other, but since it's Nox's home first, he's allowed to roam freely, while Luna is confined. This allows Luna to get used to scents, while at the same time letting her get comfortable and Nox to know it's still his home, he's just sharing now. While Luna was in the bathroom, Nox was allowed to explore and sniff new things like the litterbox, cat carrier, etc.
Ignoring Cats - Play time 😒
Capturing your Service Dog's attention when a cat is in the room with a treat is a good way to start the "ignore" and "get rewarded" behavior. When I took Luna out of the bathroom, we put Luna in a cat carrier, to transport to the living room (so she'd feel safe and enclosed) and brought Nox into the room, and let him sniff the carrier, after a moment, called him away to get a treat. Shepherd's are known for picking up on things quickly, so doing this 5-6 times, made it easy and repetitive for him to remember. We rewarded the distraction with play, which also allowed Luna to observe. If he got distracted and wanted to go back to the carrier, I'd block access, and distract with play or treats again, I wanted to teach to "focus on mommy right now".
Introductions on Cat Terms 🐈
After successful ignoring, I leashed Nox, and had him in the sit position (down while excited can be a little difficult) and allowed Luna out of the carrier to explore. Now it's Nox's turn to observe. Luna gets lots of treats while Nox is in the background, focusing completely on her, her favorite treats, toys, and full on kitty attention. Distracting a cat, seems to be a lot easier, and helps them relax too. Both pets emotions are important and valid.
Dog Side Of Things 🐕
While someone or myself play with Luna, of course Nox was like "Why can't I play too?" and "I wanna see" kinda child like. which every time this was done was re-directed to o"Ok you whine, we go out of the room" Now this took a little longer to redirect and understand. As the handler you have to remain calm, if you're tense, your dog becomes tense. If he's good, reward. If he's bad, redirect and start over. Luckily Nox loves cats, cat's just don't always like him. He's never aggressive, in any way, to any one, or anything. He just wants to be in on the play too.
Don't Chase-Luna's Exploring Time 🧭
While I'm at work, which luckily I work from home, I would let Luna explore the house on her terms, and put Nox and me in my office, so she'd have "her time". After awhile I'd put a baby gate at the door of my office, so that they could "see" each other but be separated. After I noticed Luna would come by, of her own volition, I'd start to leave the gate open. Nox tends to stay with me while I work anyways, because that's when he knows he's working that's when my PTSD and Anxiety can be most triggered. He'd mostly "follow" her, but not in a rushed manner, which is when he would get rewarded. It's ok to be concerned, but cats are more calm. To be honest when any animal says back off in any way, Nox is usually like "Mom, what'd I do, help! I'm scared" and will run to me. Yes, Luna once hissed at him, and he ran away like a Chihuahua from a vacuum cleaner.