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How to stop your collie chasing your cat!

collie and cat face to face in garden. The cat is ready to pounce

Does your Border Collie chase and stalk your cat? Maybe they bark at your cat and generally terrorise them?!

Cats can be highly exciting for collies, but I’m happy to tell you that collies and cats can coexist together happily.

With a little training and encouragement, your collie can tame their impulses and allow your cat to live in peace! Shall we explore how?

Are Border Collies good with cats?

Let’s start with the big question, are Border Collies good with cats? There isn’t a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to this.

Collies can find the movement of skittish cats quite exciting, so it’s important to work on helping your cat to feel safe around your collie and putting measures in place to prevent your collie from chasing the cat.

Initially, I recommend controlling interactions between your collie and your cat so that problem behaviours don’t develop.

This might look like using baby gates or a crate to separate the two while you train your collie. Or providing safe high up spaces where your cat can get away and relax – like a tall bookshelf or cabinet that your collie can’t reach.

Why do collies chase cats?

Before we look at how to stop a behaviour, I think it’s really helpful to understand what motivates the behaviour in the first place. This makes it much easier for us to predict and control the behaviour since we understand what triggers it.

Border Collies were bred to control the movement of sheep, and for this reason, it’s innate in collies to enjoy chasing and herding. It’s very rewarding for a clever collie brain…. And even more so for a bored collie brain!

If your dog doesn’t have an outlet for their natural desire to work and doesn’t have a job to do, they can become self-employed…. and this might mean redirecting their attention onto your cat!

border collie puppy chasing cat

If your collie has already built a bit of a habit of chasing and terrorising your cat, then the likelihood is that your cat has become nervous, wary and a little skittish around your dog.

That erratic movement or kind of slow stalking through a room to get away can be very exciting and arousing for your collie.

What we need to do is teach your collie to settle and teach your cat that they’re safe and can relax when moving through your home. And I’ll be covering how we do that further down in this blog!

Do Border Collies have a high prey drive?

Over many years, we have chosen things that we like about dogs and bred them to encourage these behaviours. In working dogs, like collies, these behaviours were very useful when we were using them to perform jobs.

But if your dog is now unemployed, they’re likely to find their own work! And one of the jobs your collie may assign themselves, is chasing the cat!

The full prey drive sequence 

Orient >> Eye >> Stalk >> Chase >> Grab-bite >> Kill-bite

Different breeds have an intrinsic enjoyment from different parts of the prey drive sequence, closely linked to the portions of the sequence that their job required (back when they were employed). Essentially, they find those particular things highly reinforcing.

For Collies, they enjoy the Orient -> Eye -> Stalk -> Chase part of the sequence.

border collie stare and stalk sheep

Collies are highly interested in movement. But Border Collies aren’t bred to move into the kill/bite/dissect piece of the prey drive sequence.

It’s not catching your cat that your collie hankers after so much (I know, surprising right?!), it’s controlling your cat’s movement.

Do Border Collies kill cats?

Generally, no. Your collie is interested in eyeballing, stalking and potentially chasing your cat – not killing them.

Vodka, one of my own collies is fascinated by cats and would happily chase given the opportunity!. So it was interesting to watch her reaction when she once found a baby rabbit out on a walk.

She caught the rabbit and picked it up very carefully. She didn’t appear to have any interest in killing or hurting it. She just wanted to make it move again to restart the chase – so she poked it and prodded it until it moved again. I’ll say it again, it’s the movement collie’s find rewarding!

NB: Once I realised the game she’d found I asked her to come away from said baby rabbit so save further trauma to the little creature. She obediently came away and the bunny disappeared stage right, apparently unharmed though likely a little dazed!

Why does my Border Collie stare at my cat?

Collies were bred to use their eyes to stalk and intimidate sheep into moving where they wanted them to go. This behaviour is now playing out with your cat – if the staring and eyeballing worked to control your cat’s movement, your Border Collie wouldn’t move into chasing/herding them.

If your cat didn’t move at all, your collie wouldn’t be interested in chasing them.

But it’s tricky to tell the cat that, isn’t it! So let’s look at what you can do to help your cat and collie to live in harmony together.

How to stop your dog chasing your cat

Rather than teaching your dog to STOP doing something, your dog will find it much easier if you TEACH THEM WHAT YOU’D LIKE THEM TO DO INSTEAD.

Trying to stop a dog from doing something generally relies on using aversives such as a choke chain, electric shock collar or something else equally unpleasant which damages your relationship with your dog.

Teaching your dog what you’d like them to do avoids confusion, removes fear and is a far happier experience for both of you. You can both remove your frustration and lean into boosting your relationship through positive training methods instead.

The solution to stopping your collie chasing your cat is to teach them what you’d like them to do instead. And for this, my go to behaviour is to teach your dog to go to bed and stay there.

This gives you a way to quickly intervene when your collie gets their collie stare on and starts thinking about herding/chasing your cat!

How to teach your dog to go to bed (and stay there)

Most people start trying to teach their dog to go to their bed by tossing a treat towards the bed. What often happens next is a yoyo game where you throw a treat on your dog’s bed, they zip over to retrieve it and quickly bounce off again waiting for their next reward.

Have you really taught your dog to go to bed? Or have you simply played a fun little game where your dog gets to chase/follow a treat?!

What we want to do is teach your collie that they must go to their bed and stay there until they’ve been released.

How to get it right. 

Use crate training games to teach your dog to go to bed. The key here is to make the training fun, so you both enjoy doing it.

We need to incorporate these crate games into everyday life so that it becomes an easy behaviour for them to repeat, even when there are distractions (like a cat) at play.

For example, you can use crate games when you get your dog in and out of the car, or hand feeding them some of their meals on their bed each day.

5 tips for teaching your dog to go to bed

1. Use a calming remedy

This can help relieve anxiety and support calm for everyone (including the cat). Using a natural calming remedy can help reduce stress which will make your training easier. Adaptil is specific to reducing stress in dogs, and Feliway is specific to reducing stress in cats. Pet Remedy is said to be good for both dogs and cats – I can speak to success with the dog part, but only have successful experience of Feliway for cats.

2. Use highly yummy treats

Using particularly delicious treats can make it super rewarding for your dog to go to their bed and stay there! You can tap into easy recipes for a truly scrumptious pilchard cake or liver cake recipe that you can use – your cat may enjoy it too!

3. Try a Treat & Train machine

A Treat and Train remote reward dispenser  is a nifty training tool which can reward your dog on repeat. Set it up near your dog’s bed so it can periodically reward your dog for staying there (even when you’re not there).

4. Don’t Forget Management

We have to stop your dog from practising this very self-rewarding behaviour. Use a crate, baby gates or a long house line to prevent your dog from being able to chase your cat while you work on your training. Have separate eating and sleeping areas while you’re training.

5. Adding Distraction

We want to build your dog’s ability to stay on their bed, even with distractions. For this, I start with tossing treats away from your dog’s bed, requiring them to stay in place. If your dog remains on their bed, you reward them on their bed.

I’d then work up to distracting with a tennis ball or toy to help your dog learn to control their impulses even when it’s not easy.

Total Toy Fix is my online training course which can help you with this. It’s designed especially for overexcited and distracted dogs to help them learn the skill of focus and self control… all through play!

Helping your cat

If your cat has been on the receiving end of your collie’s chase games then it’s important to help your cat to relax and feel safe. I recommend using catnip or smelly treats to help your cat settle in another room while you work on training your dog to settle on their bed.

As your dog gets better at this new skill, you can work up to introducing your cat into the same room, but begin with them separated so your dog can learn… and your cat can relax.

Our goal is for your cat to be able to move around in the same room as your dog without feeling afraid.

Your cat didn’t vote for the dog to be here. So we need to work on persuading your cat that being around the dog isn’t the worst thing in the world.

When your dog can settle on the bed with distractions present, recruit a volunteer to help you with introducing the cat back into the same room. This will allow you to focus on your dog’s training with help on hand to support your cat.

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