Shiba Intelligence, Foiled

So we had this little problem. Our three Bengals have their own room in the house where their bathroom and food is, plus a bed they can sleep on and various toys and scratching posts. This is also where the spare bed is, if anyone ever stayed the night.

Oddly, we don't seem to have overnight guests. Hmm....

Given this is where the cat litter and food is, it's pretty obvious this is a room where the dog should not be allowed. When we had Ruby, the 90-pound Akita, this was easy enough. We put a baby gate on the doorway with plenty of room underneath it, so the cats could come and go as they pleased and Ruby never had a chance of getting in.

Then we got Misaki, our perfectly cute little Shiba - all 26 pounds of her. We understood there would be changes that would need to be made, but this little conundrum - keeping the dog away from the cat box and the cat food - we thought we had under control.

We were wrong.

Sometime during the first week Misaki discovered the cats' room and that she could wiggle under the gate. Um, damn, now what?

Wifey lowered the gate, from roughly seven or more inches down to five. We hoped the cats would still fit under this and thought for sure Misaki wouldn't be able to crawl under.

Measure five inches on your hand - it's not much room at all.

We were only partially right. As you can see in this next picture, the cats could fit just fine. Well, Moochie complained and would be dramatic, inverting his back as he slunk under it and talking the entire time. Whatever, he's a known drama queen.

The cats didn't mind too much, even if it meant arching their back the wrong way as Sera demonstrates here.

What we didn't expect was that our cute and sneaky Shiba, who measures 15 inches at the shoulder (only a half inch under the max for adult females according to AKC show standards), would somehow be able to compress her body enough to also fit underneath.

We'd be downstairs and realize Misaki had disappeared. Then she'd suddenly come running down the stairs, licking her lips with a sly grin on her face. Just ignoring the fact for a minute that's plain disgusting and simply not very healthy, physically that's one of the most amazing feats I've ever seen from a dog. Unfortunately I was never able to get a picture of it, but did witness her slinking under the gate once (she didn't realize I was there - learning some ninja skills from her).

Misaki would put her nose underneath the gate and drop her front legs out to the side, completely prostrating herself, and then push forward with her back legs, wriggling the first half of her body underneath. Then she would split her hips out wide and pull herself forward with her front legs. The whole process took about three seconds.

Misaki: Silly humans, that's plenty of room.

Sometimes it sucks when your dog is smarter than you.

When we caught her in the room she would give us this look that seemed to say she didn't know how she got in there, like it just happened, or she was transported by aliens, or she was forced in. Right, like we believe that. Sorry Misaki, the innocent act just wasn't very convincing - we know better. She would also refuse to come back out if we were standing there.

She would put her nose down at the gate and act like she was trying to squeeze under, then pull back like she was trying to convince us she physically couldn't do it.

I know Shibas feel they are superior to just about everything on the planet, including their humans, but really Misaki? Did you really think that would be convincing? How dumb do you think we are?

So we had a problem: how do we keep the dog out of that room? This is the kind of problem people with small dogs have when they also have cats. We happen to have big cats - Moochie is 19 pounds - and Misaki is barely bigger, so we had to come up with a solution where the cats could have access but the dog did not, taking into account their very similar sizes.

Wifey came up with the answer. What if we just remove one of the bars in the baby gate? Then it should be wide enough for the cats to wiggle through, but there is no way the dog could make her shoulders more narrow, right?

It seemed like an economical thing to try. If intentionally damaging the gate wouldn't work, we'd have to come up with a totally different solution anyway, so destroying it wasn't much of a worry. I picked up a mini hacksaw at Home Depot - it had to be small enough to fit between the bars - and got to work hacking.

Me, hacking away.

This was pretty easy. After a couple minutes of sawing at the top and bottom of the middle bar in the gate I had it removed. To us it looked like plenty of room for the cats and too narrow for Misaki - or, at least, we hoped so. We then wrapped the cut metal areas with electrician's tape, just in case there were rough edges that could catch on a kitty.

Job well done.

Lilo and Sera figured it out pretty quick. They fit through the opening with no problems, but Moochie couldn't get it. He kept trying to go under the gate, which we had moved down to almost flush with the carpet. Then he tried to go in the side.

Moochie is the one we were most concerned about, too. Not only is he the biggest of the three, he's also the most apathetic when presented with something in his way. If anyone was going to decide getting to the normal bathroom was simply too much work it was going to be him - and there is no way in hell we want that. Yuck.

Finally, after watching Mooch struggle for 10 minutes, I picked him up and put him halfway through the hole in the gate.

Moochie after I set him halfway through the opening, looking confused.

Moochie was thoroughly confused. I had to do this three more times and then watch him for a bit before he convinced us he really had the hang of it and understood the change that had been made.

Lilo: This is pretty cool!

I'm not sure if I should be worried about him or not. I mean, we thought he was a smart kitty, but maybe he's a pretty boy who just likes to have his picture taken. Sera watched him with the disgusted look on her face she usually reserves for observing us from her perch in the Ivory Tower. She may even have said something to him, which obviously I can't understand but seemed to go along the lines of: "Are you a complete moron?"

With that little issue taken care of, the next test was Misaki.

Misaki, contemplating this new obstacle, the wheels turning on possible solutions.

Misaki refused to stand right in front of the opening so I could get a good picture, but she clearly was too wide for the hole. I think if one more was removed she would be able to fit, but as it is her shoulders are simply to wide.

She's quite annoyed about this whole thing. After she realized what we did, she laid down at the end of the hall with a thoughtful look on her face and I could literally see the gears turning in her Shiba brain as she processed this new information, starting to craft some ideas on how she could get around it. Every time she walks by she pauses, looking through the opening - then she huffs to herself and walks away.

It's been two weeks now and she hasn't come up with anything new. It's nice now, because she can go anywhere in the house now and we don't have to worry about what she's doing or what she could be getting into. We are officially Shiba-proofed. (Yes, fingers are crossed as I type that. Yes, while I'm typing.)

Well, for now. I'm sure she'll come up with something else to cause us a problem. That's part of what a Shiba does, isn't it?

Misaki recognizes we have won this round. She might even respect how we came up with a solution. However, she also has made it clear it's only a matter of time before she regains the upper hand.

Your move Red Ninja...


  1. I love this post! I'm sitting here looking at Zuko who is about 27-28 pounds and measuring 5 inches and I would swear it is impossible! I guess this is why we love Shibas - they challenge us constantly.

  2. we bought a new bed specifically thinking it would keep taro out from under it.

    but, little guy that he is, he occasionally slides right under. it's ridiculously impressive. we've had to store stuff under there (which is tough since it's so low to the ground) in order to kinda shiba-proof it.

  3. Zuko's Mom: We are just waiting for the point when Misaki figures out she can make it through now by doing a cartwheel, or popping her shoulders out of socket. Hopefully it doesn't come to that - cat litter can't possibly tasted that good.

    Kai: Interesting...I'm surprised Misaki hasn't tried to go under our bed. It's definitely high enough, but we have things under there. The cats love hanging out under there.

    Uh oh, I might be giving her ideas. I know she's on the internet doing research during the day while I'm at work.

  4. Jason - Sssh... Whatever you do, don't take her into Agility training. ;-)