The Truth About the Feud Between Cats and Dogs

You’ve seen the cartoons of dogs chasing cats up trees.

The idea that cats and dogs hate each other and are natural born enemies has been around for many years. It’s such a commonly held belief that it has almost become accepted as fact. But is it true?

There’s certainly a lot of anecdotal evidence to show that cats and dogs can be pals, especially when living with a human family. But there are exceptions to every rule.

Do dogs and cats naturally dislike each other? No, not really. They just don’t understand each other.

dog cat

©istockphoto/FatCamera

Different Social Behaviors

Dogs by nature are pack animals, and as such, have to get along with others. Cats, though, are solitary creatures. They have very different ideas about appropriate interaction with others.

Take the case of Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky Hound encountering Miss Cautious Cat. Neither of them has ever met a member of the other species before.

Mr. Hound is friendly, outgoing, and curious by nature. He sees this animal that he doesn’t recognize by sight or scent. He runs over to investigate Miss Cat. His tail is wagging and he runs toward her. Following his instinct, he wants to sniff her hindquarters to learn more about her. He is being very agreeable in dog culture.

But Miss Cat takes everything he does entirely differently than he intends it. She sees this unknown animal running for her. He is likely much larger than she is. His tail is wagging, which in cat culture is a sign of annoyance or warning. He appears to be on the attack.

Fight or Flight

If she chooses to fight, she will face the dog down, hiss, scratch, and pounce. Mr. Hound, thinking he has been attacked, when he was extending the paw of friendship, will be surprised, then upset. He has now learned that whenever he sees one of these creatures in the future, he must be immediately on the offensive. The next time he sees a cat, he considers it an enemy and braces for a fight.

If Miss Cat decides flight is her best option, she takes off at a life-saving sprint. Mr. Hound, mistaking this as an invitation to play, takes off in a dead run after the cat. He doesn’t necessarily want to hurt Miss Cat, he’s just ready for a romp and following his prey drive.

Human bystanders watching all of this misinterpret what they see and take either scenario as proof that dogs and cats inherently don’t get along. The mistaken impression is then passed along until it becomes accepted as fact.

Try This At Home

The truth is, dogs and cats can live together peacefully if they are introduced in the appropriate manner. Assuming your cat and dog haven’t had negative encounters with each other or other cats and dogs already, you should be able to get them used to each other.

Since dogs generally accept new acquaintance quicker, let your cat approach your dog. If she does it at her own pace, she’ll be more open to the meeting. Don’t leave your dog and cat alone together until you’re sure they are comfortable with each other.

With a little time, your dog and cat will accept each other as just another different looking family member. Once the communication barriers are gone, dogs and cats can peacefully coexist and even become friends.

Meet the Author: Pam Hair

Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer, where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.

How Do Dogs Remember?
Are Weiner Dogs Supposed to Look Like That?