75: Cats Are Excellent Dog Trainers

75: Cats Are Excellent Dog Trainers

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

Cats Are Excellent Dog Trainers

The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.

~George Santayana

My three children, ages two, three and five, had just finished breakfast and made a run for outside when I heard them exclaiming over something on the front porch. When I went to investigate I was greeted with cries of, “Can we keep him? Please, please!” The “him” was a small, brown puppy about the size of a croquet ball that was shivering and crying in the corner of the porch.

Before I could make a judgment call, our mama cat Mits and her five kittens arrived on the scene. Mits examined the pup from one end to the other, looked back at me, and took the pup away with her kittens, who were approximately the same age. From then on Norton was part of her family.

We operated a bird-dog training kennel at that time and Norton was the only dog that was allowed to run loose in the yard. His constant companions were Mits and her kittens. One of the males, Oscar, became his particular buddy.

Mits took her maternal duties very seriously and decided Norton needed a lot of training to meet the standard she had set for her kittens. At that time she had the litter Norton’s age and four almost grown kittens from a previous litter. When Norton was about three months old I noticed Mits and the kittens had formed a circle in the yard with Norton in the center. When I went to investigate I discovered he wasn’t alone. There was a field rat in the circle also. As the rat would try to escape the cats would turn it back towards Norton. When he got the message and killed the rat, all of the cats got up and went on about their business. Lesson learned.

As they got older, Norton and Oscar spent more and more time together. We had a row of multiflora roses, a vine used to stop erosion in open fields, running across part of the pasture. Norton was sleeping on the porch when Oscar began to summon him loudly. I followed Norton as he headed for the barn. Oscar was waiting at the end of that row. As soon as Norton arrived they stood facing each other, noses just inches apart and apparently decided on their method of attack. They then got on opposite sides of the line of bushes and began systematically working the cover, hunting rats.

On cold days, a pile of cats would appear on the porch. If you looked closely, Norton would be at the bottom of the pile keeping their feet warm while they provided a warm place for him to sleep.

Over the eighteen years he lived, he never developed a friendship with another dog, but every cat we had considered him a very close relative. Over and over, especially when he was still a pup, I would see a cat correct him if he didn’t follow correct cat procedure in a situation. Mits oversaw his training for the first three years, and as cats came and went, others imparted their knowledge.

I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, “You can’t train a cat,” but Mits and her descendants proved a cat can do a very good job of training a pup.

~Charlotte Blood Smith

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