By Langley Cornwell
Most people have seen the stereotypical scene of hostile dogs chasing cats, either on television or in movies. But a quick internet search will also show you plenty of adorable pictures of cats and dogs happily snuggling instead of fighting. So what’s the deal? Do most dogs really hate cats? If they do, is it instinctual? And what about cats – do they dislike dogs? Are dogs and cats born with an antagonistic attitude towards one another? Can dogs and cats co-exist peacefully only if they’re raised together, or are there other ways? Let’s find out.
The short answer is yes, cats and dogs are naturally antagonistic toward each other. Just as wolves would never hunt with or seek out wild cats, the domestic versions are naturally inclined to stay away from each other, sometimes even fighting if they do meet.
Cats and dogs – both wild and domestic – are very different species with very different ways of communicating. Just think about how difficult it is to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak the same language you do. Now multiply that several times over. This is pretty close to the way dogs and cats interact, since neither can naturally understand each other. Thusly, an offer of friendship from a cat oftentimes seems threatening to a dog.
Moreover, not only would their wild counterparts possibly be competing for territory, but they would likely be competing for food as well, giving them every reason to feel natural animosity. With domestic animals, another problem is that many dogs are instinctively prey driven, and automatically chase smaller animals that flee. This natural tendency leaves cats on the receiving end of such a chase. Cats that don’t flee may turn around to defend themselves and take a swipe at a dog. A dog that has been scratched in the nose by a cat will often show fear or even more aggression toward any cat that crosses its path. And think about it, in the wild there are no humans interfering with this process and working towards socializing the two species to be friendly.
Nature vs. Nurture
While wild dogs and cats will likely never be on friendly terms, their domestic counterparts have the human element on their side. This doesn’t mean that all dogs will be friendly with all cats, but those raised together have a much higher chance of not wrecking the house all the time. Guided by a loving human hand, and likely some trial and error, cats and dogs can learn to read each other and understand each other – at least somewhat. A dog or cat that has grown up with the opposing species opens the door to making more friends as well, since they will know how to act. So even if by instinct cats and dogs don’t get along, with a little nurturing and lots of love, they can truly be friends.
Not every dog and every cat are cut out to be best buddies, so count yourself lucky if there is peace between the two species in your home. As with many problems, if your house is less than peaceful, be sure to speak to your vet or a trusted behavior specialist on ways to help your furry friends cope and learn to get along.
Before you think about adding another pet to your family, always be careful to socialize as much as you can between species so it’s not too much of a culture shock for either party when the big day arrives.
Bringing a new pet into your home is a big deal, so remember to give everyone a little space and a safe place to retire if it all just becomes too much to handle. With the right socialization and positive reinforcements (and some CANIDAE treats thrown in for good measure!), hopefully your home will become a happy and harmonic place for both dogs and cats.
Read more articles by Langley Cornwell