Cats and Dogs: Mixed Species Households and Weight Control

Guest Post from Maggie Marton author of
Part 2: The Story of Newt. Read Part 1 here.

Before Newt, neither my husband John nor I had ever had a cat. Between the two of us, our cat knowledge was zilch. Everything with Newt was a learning experience, but none more so than figuring out her interactions with the dogs.
When I first arrived in Louisiana with the dogs, Newt’s waistline was… well, not obese… but not trim either. She had been the only animal living in John’s tiny apartment, so she wasn’t getting much exercise, and he was overfeeding her. That combo resulted in a chunky kitty.
Since our dog Lucas didn’t get along with Newt, she was separated from the dogs for most of the day. She would be upstairs in “her” space, while the dogs were downstairs in theirs. However, she and Cooper became buddies instantly, so we would bring him upstairs for visits or put Lucas in the bedroom and take Newt downstairs for playtime. Here’s what we discovered: When dogs and cats play well together, they both lose weight!
Cooper and Newt wrestled and chased each other all over the house. They ran circles around the living room, leapt over the sofa, and dashed up and down the stairs. Cooper has always been trim, but as they played, Newt’s waistline whittled away. We combined that with a decrease in the amount she was fed each day, and she was in tip-top shape within a few months.
Now, I know that not all dogs and cats will get along as well as Cooper and Newt. But I do think encouraging fun, safe interaction will help keep both species in fine form.
If your dog and cat get along, encourage play by tossing toys up or down the stairs. In our case, Cooper would chase the toy, and Newt would chase Cooper. But, they were both running the stairs! Another fun way to get in some multi-species exercise is to combine it with training.
Here’s one fun game that exercises body and mind: Gather up some low-cal cat treats. We break them into tons of small pieces. Ask your dog for a behavior like a down/stay or a sit/wait, whatever he knows well. As he holds the behavior, toss the treat for the kitty. It will be very difficult for your playful pup to maintain the behavior, so be sure to reinforce it with yummy treats (low-cal, too, if your pup needs to drop some weight).
Alternate the behaviors and give your dog a chance to chase a treat or two. It’s a great combo of physical exercise for the cat and a mental workout for the dog!

Maggie Marton
Guest Post from Maggie Marton, author of
Maggie Marton is an award-winning pet writer who focuses on the animal-human bond in her writing and her advocacy. She also writes the dog blog




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  1. We play with cat bro Bert sometimes. As for treats, he steals our dog treats, that rat of a cat! His treats are always thrown so he has to run and catch them for a bit of exercise. We are looking forward to our yearly family vet visit next month as we think he has slimmed down to a pretty good weight, but the scale will tell all!
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  2. Another household where the dog helped get the cat in shape….we could be onto something here!
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