A standoff, near the entrance to the kitchen
Cats and dogs weren't meant to live together, my dog tells me, and if the cat could talk, he would say the same.
Regardless of this truthism, I have managed to keep peace, or near to it, for the last nine months while my daughter's cat has lived with us. It was supposed to be a temporary situation, but due to a housing situation no one could have foreseen, a fortnight has become nine months. And the cat who was once known as Basement Cat is now, well, Run of the House Cat.
Not only does Tony the Cat have the run of the house now, he also roams atop countertops and tables, inside closets, and if he can pry open the garage door with his tiny (but strong!) feet, he goes in there too.
Tony eyes Sparky, who is completely unaware that the cat is planning to stab him in the back.
And my reactive dog, who wouldn't tolerate a dog of the same size anywhere near, is fine with it. Sometimes.
They grudgingly accept each other's company, but neither one is happy with the situation. Sparky is probably more willing to share space with the cat, since we properly conditioned him by giving him treats when the cat was near—thus he associates the cat with bits of Pupperoni. The cat, though, hasn't had as much conditioning, since cats don't have a reward center as highly developed as Sparky's.
Sparky's reward center is huge. YUUUGGGE! His whole body, all 59 pounds, is basically one big reward center. He will do anything for a reward, including tolerate the presence of a rather spiteful cat.
I've even taught him to embrace the human quality of Taking Turns. We play a game: I toss a treat for Tony down the hallway, he chases it, captures it with a paw, and eats it. Then I tell Sparky it's his turn, I toss a treat, and he gobbles it. Then I tell them it's Tony's turn, and so on, while each waits patiently, even Sparky, who'd normally be all over any food that gets tossed to the floor.
Yes, the dog who'll literally lift textbooks out of a box to retrieve a lost treat waits for the cat to have a go at a treat tossed to the floor.
I never imagined this would happen when we first brought the two of them into close proximity, a basement door safely separating them. Sparky is highly reactive to squirrels, dogs, cats, anything that moves. But here we are, sort of co-existing peacefully.
Of the two of them, it's the cat who's still got issues. He'll wait around the corner, and when the dog passes, his head carefully turned to avoid causing affront, the cat bats a paw at him, hissing when he misses. He'll sit in silence, glaring at Sparky, daring him to react—and until a couple of months ago, Sparky would occasionally take him up on that challenge, erupting in barking and giving chase—but only to the top of the basement stairs. He knows the basement is Cat Territory. He only goes down there when there's a tornado warning, and frankly, the tornado is less scary than the cat.
The only complaint Sparky has is when the cat claws at the furniture. He's like that kid in second grade who told her mom every time you called her a name. He whines, looking at the cat, then at me, as if to say, "Do you SEE what he's doing?! He's destroying our furniture! Make him STOP! Also I get a treat for telling, right?"
Who knew Sparky was such a snot-nosed little tattletale? I didn't even know dogs cared about furniture.
Despite the occasional whine, the awkward hissing, the standoffs at the entrance to the Land of Plenty (ie, the kitchen), I'm quite proud of what we've accomplished with these two. In the beginning, when the dog wanted to chase and bark at the cat, and the cat wanted to shred the dog's face, I never thought we'd be at this point. I rank this as one of my top five accomplishments in life, maybe even the top three.
My furniture, though, is a lost cause.