29 February 2012

Black cat vs. brown border collie

Dogs and cats famously do not become fast friends — even though many people might jump in with stories about how well their felines and canines tolerate each other or even seem to show affection for each other. In the case of border collies like Callie, I think the herding instinct is just too strong.

A few days ago, Callie and I went out for the afternoon walk and had an unplanned encounter with Bertie the black cat. He was out hunting, I think, in the little wooded area that borders our property on the north. Callie didn't greet the cat in a friendly way, but neither did the dog act ferocious or uncontrollably aggressive.

Bertie and Callie during an unscheduled meeting

Bertie didn't run, either. He hunkered down, ears bent back the way a cat's ears do when he's getting ready to defend himself, and he waited. Callie tried to bite his back legs, the way sheep dogs do to herd sheep. She also tried to grab the cat by the scruff of his neck — not to pick him up and shake him, I think, but just to show dominance. She drooled on the poor cat too, as she's done before.

Another outdoor encounter a day or two ago
went about the same way.

If the cat could talk to the dog, everything would be just fine. But that's obviously not going to happen. Talking to Callie is what allowed a little boy, the 5- or 6-year-old son of friends visiting from California last summer, to get Callie to settle down. Until he spoke to her, using the words that dogs learn from people — sit! down! no! good dog! — Callie wouldn't leave the boy alone. She wanted to herd him, and that scared the daylights out of him. As soon as Callie realized he was a person who could talk like a person, the dog starting obeying and playing in a tame way.

I tell myself that the cat's refusal to run and the dog's
lack of ferociousness are signs of progress.

Anybody got any clues about teaching a cat to talk? English or French will work, no problem. He just needs half a dozen of the right words.


  1. We are spending the summer in Austria, where a cat runs the house. She is actually bigger than the Chihuahua who's coming along.

    A test run over the Christmas holidays did not go so well.
    Hopefully someone can answer your question.

  2. Cats always run the house! Even when it comes to you humans.... we are the superior being after all. My Staff knows... he had a Border Collie that the catatthattime clawed into submission... after that the dog obeyed every command from that cat!

  3. Maybe they got on slightly better because they were outdoors, but as you say, progress of sorts.
    In most households where I have known a cat and a dog to live together, the cat was usually boss. But then they weren't border collies.
    We had a cat and a standard poodle at the same time, but the cat came first.

  4. I see RonRon got to the computer first... poor Bertie... being drooled on!
    RonRon is very much the superior being here... even her brother feels the benefit of her back-hand... how she learnt that I'll never know... but it's a hard stroke... you can hear the "crack" as it connects. Good luck Bertie, you'll win out!

  5. It does look in that last photo like there is some progress, non?

  6. i think Bertie knows that if he runs he will be chased so he prefers to sit tight, especially if he is not near higher ground (ie, a tree) At least they are able to exist face to face like that..... tho neither wants to look away for even an instant probably. If it got right down to it, I think if Bertie would give Callie a good bop with the claws, Miss dog would hesitate to corner him. You just have to splain that to Bertie.

  7. Well, the Chat du Rabbin ate a parrot and gained the ability to speak. But you wouldn't want to sacrifice a parrot just so Bertie could talk to Callie.

  8. Cute :-)
    Just have to be patient

  9. You could take a cue from "The Defiant Ones", and shackle them together like Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier.

    Hmmmm... Perhaps patience is a better approach.

  10. Rig up a little wi-fi speaker on Bertie's collar, then play a recording as needed. You're a techie, right?

  11. Funny, Chris. I actually thought about that. But I'm not sure the speaker would have the needed fidelity.

  12. John, I was thinking about strapping Bertie onto Callie's back, but I don't know...

  13. Talk to Mitt Romney about this, he might suggest putting both Bertie and Callie in a cage on top of your car and then going on a road trip...
    Not something I would suggest but then, (shrugs shoulders) who knew?

    Mary in Oregon

  14. Ken, I don't think voice fidelity would really be an issue. The voice doesn't have to sound like you; it only needs to issue recognizable commands. How you get the speaker to play at the right time is another problem...

  15. Filou knows "stop" and obeys me when I say this word to prevent him from entering my bathroom when I'm in it... Dunno if it's the way I say it or the word itself though :-)

    He also seems to understand "down" when I ask him to get down from my chair...

    We couldn't say the word "promenade" (walk) with our very first cat, Poupon, because he knew it meant going for a walk... :-)

    Take care



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