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Why Do Dogs Hate Cats? Facts, Myths and Suggestions

When we are young, we learn a lot of bad wisdom that seems to originate from parts unknown. For example, we learn that the idea of cats and dogs getting along is really strange. Think back to those Saturday morning cartoons, where dogs would always be seen as a cat’s mortal enemy. 

Of course, we grow out of many of these kinds of ideas, though, strangely, the cat vs. dog issue persists in one form or another. Even Hollywood got in on the act with the popular Cats & Dogs movie franchise.

All of this begs the question: Why do dogs hate cats? To be fair, the question is somewhat misleading. Perhaps a more poignant question might be: Do dogs actually hate cats at all? Let’s take a closer look and explain why we have this perception and why it’s a little more complicated than just liking and hating things.

Indeed, their perceived conflict has more to do with us and our homes than cats and dogs themselves. Here’s why:

Image by huoadg5888 from Pixabay 


Why Do Dogs Hate Cats? 4 Factors to Consider

1. Are Dogs and Cats Natural Enemies?

In their wild form, animals from the dog and cat families are predators and scavengers. They are not known to predate upon each other, though, so they are not enemies in that sense. 

However, they might be seen as in competition for food and resources. They tend to stay generally clear of each other in the wild, other than to compete for that food. 

The domestic dogs and cats we know today also originally became domesticated separately and in different regions from each other. That said, they could still be seen as in competition for food and our affections. The latter even has humans divided, it seems. 

dog-cat-relaxing why do dogs hate cats
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

2. Slightly Different Origins & Relationships

When they became domesticated, cats and dogs developed a roughly similar relationship with humans. That is to say; both learned that hanging around humans was an easy way to stay fed and keep warm.

However, dogs tended to be more adapted to work or at least assist with daily living. They might shepherd livestock, protect goods or assist with the hunt. Some dogs were purely decorative, of course.

Most cats, however, weren’t really adaptable to work other than to assist with vermin control. The instinct to chase and kill small animals came in handy when rats and mice were present in early homes. 

Image by ana_olly from Pixabay 

3. Behavioral Language Differences

Cats and dogs communicate in very different ways. And this may account for why they didn’t always see eye to eye when their worlds collided in human homes. The different species may well have encountered each other and discovered an animal that just acted weird. 

Think of it like this: You wake up in your home to find an alien in your bedroom, looking at you as if you are in its bedroom. You have no idea what it might be saying or doing, and all you see is this strange being in your space. How would you react? Likely either fearfully or aggressively. That explains a lot about why some cats and dogs seem to hate each other. 

cat and germany shepherd in living room are german shepherds good with cats

Let’s look at some examples of what could go wrong:

Cat Behaviors

These are some typical cat behaviors you may observe:

Cats purr to signal that they are calm and happy, and even content. They are even known to do that when they are trying to soothe humans or perhaps heal themselves.

-Cat meows are purely invented for human communication. We don’t know what they’re saying most of the time, but they know it brings attention and results. 

-When cats wag, shake or twitch their tails, it might mean they are irritated or aggressive.

-Cats run only when they are very playful, scared, or fighting.

-A typical cat greeting involves approaching the other cat face to face. The tail will be straight and upright. If a cat is calm and non-aggressive, it may gently smell the other cat’s face and slowly blink its eyes.  

Image by Václav Závada from Pixabay

Dog Behaviors

By contrast, these behaviors in similar situations are clearly different.

-A dog does not purr and has no equivalent. If it hears a cat purr, it may even interpret it as growling. In dogs, growling is an aggressive sound and indicates a possible fight.

-While cats meow at humans for all kinds of reasons, dogs will mostly bark at humans in stressful or aggressive situations. Even if done while in play, the situation is generally high-energy and may invite aggression.

-A waggy tail means that a dog is happy or, at the very least, excited. 

-Unless specifically trained to attack, a running dog is a happy dog. It’s the favored manner of play and seems to remind them of great times in open fields!

-When dogs meet, they avoid eye contact. They run around each other, smell each other’s ears, and generally have waggly tails if they’re feeling non-aggressive. 

It’s fairly easy to see how even these most basic behaviors can cause confusion if one expects the other to behave as they would. A rambunctious dog running up to a cat with big slobbery slurps will be met with alarm and an aggressive reaction out of fear. 

Similarly, a suspiciously slow approach from a strange cat may raise red flags for a dog who is nervous by nature. 

rottweilers and cats

4. Learning to Live Together

The most conflict between cats and dogs tends to happen when you are dealing with adult animals. In truth, cats and dogs that are raised together and socialize accordingly can get along perfectly well.

Another factor is breed. Certain types of dogs (German Shepherds, for example) are just that much easier to train, and some cats will simply not mind other pets in the home. Then it’s down to the individual animal, who may or may not carry particular experiences and issues that make things difficult around other animals.

For example, a cat or dog that had a bad experience with its opposite may carry a traumatic memory and react badly to a situation where they are confronted with a trigger. 

Image by JackieLou DL from Pixabay

If you’re planning to have both cats and dogs, there are a few things you might consider:

Adopt them at the same time, as a puppy and kitten, respectively. Young animals are less likely to act aggressively towards one another. More than that, they will get used to the smell and behavior of the other early on, making it a norm.

-A cat will prefer plenty of space in which it is beyond the reach of the dog. So provide lots of high spaces like cat trees or cat walks around your home. Even when they do get along, a cat will be more obliged to sit at a safe height and observe. 

-Separate feeding spaces. In some cases, the way a dog acts around food may be distressing for a cat. Cats like to be calm and collected when eating. Some dogs get really excited.

-Be aware of possession antics, especially if you have a toy or lap dog. Cats also like to cuddle or sit on you, and if there’s only one of you around, it may result in aggression over who gets to sit where. 

-Some dogs have very strong prey instincts (as do cats). Their predilection for chasing small things may make them unsuitable for life with a cat. If, after focused training, your dog continues to aggressively “hunt” your cat (or vice-versa), you may need to reconsider the pairing.

corgi and british shorthair cat under blanket

Final Thoughts on Why Dogs Hate Cats

You can infer from the above that “hate” is a strong word when it comes to dogs and cats. The conflicts more likely arise from unfamiliarity and miscommunication, which intensifies anxieties over food and space. 

Socialization, training, and care can really go a long way to making your cat feel more at ease with the dog. It is well worth spending some time on this to ensure a happier pet all-around. 

german shepherd looks at tabby cat

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