There is an unspoken line that seems to divide dogs and cats — and sometimes even “dog people” and “cat people.” The idea that dogs dislike cats, or vice versa, is so pervasive that it’s almost a cliché. But is there any truth behind it, or is it just another dog myth?
Do Dogs Hate Cats?
Cats and dogs are by no means natural enemies, but there are a few behavioral differences that can set them at odds. The one that causes the most difficulty when it comes to peaceful interspecies relationships is prey drive.
Dogs, even toy breeds, still retain some of the hunting instincts that served their wild ancestors. This instinct is why dogs love to chase moving objects, whether it’s a ball, a squirrel, or a house cat. Since many cats flee upon seeing a dog, it’s easy to see how relations can quickly deteriorate. Dogs enjoy chasing cats not because they hate cats, but because a fast-moving feline triggers a strong, natural instinct that takes training and socialization to override.
Cats and dogs also communicate differently. A wagging tail on a Golden Retriever often indicates playfulness. A twitching, swishing cat tail, however, is usually a sign of irritation. Dogs that misread these signals may end up receiving a swipe at their nose by a bothered cat, and felines may learn to distrust dogs after getting chased around the block one too many times.
Despite these differences, many cats and dogs learn to live in harmony and even develop friendly relationships — leading them to play and nap together. Early socialization between kittens and puppies helps them overcome suspicions, and introducing young animals to tolerant, older animals encourages respectful habits.
In situations where a cat or dog was not socialized with the other species early on, training can help. Teaching your dog basic commands like “sit” and “stay” will go a long way toward making cats feel more comfortable, but keep in mind that large dog breeds with strong prey drives may injure cats, so keep your dog on a leash and consider crating or separating him from the cat in your absence to prevent accidents.
Be patient and give your dog and cat supervised time together — they may end up becoming BFFs!