Why do cats and dogs fight?

Why do cats and dogs fight?

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When we think of a cat and a dog together in a room, we can only assume chaos. Cats and dogs are widely known for practically hating each other and for their inability to get along. But many households with both species seem to be just fine. This makes us wonder: why do cats and dogs fight? Is there a way they can live together and get along?

Reason why dogs and cats fight

The main reason why canines and felines don’t usually get along is because dogs see cats as prey, and cats see them as a predator. It’s as simple as that. 

But if you have ever been to a house where cats and dogs live together, you might have noticed that it is actually the cat that appears to be more hostile towards the dog. How can this be possible if they are the prey in this relationship?

A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior conducted by researchers J. Thomson, S. Hall and D. Mills explains why this happens. They surveyed 748 households where cats and dogs lived together from the UK, Australia, Canada and the US, and confirmed that it is in fact the cat the one that seems to be in charge of the situation. Felines tend to feel more uncomfortable around dogs and therefore, be more aggressive towards them.

The researchers drafted two possible explanations for this phenomenon. 

  1. Since cats are usually smaller than dogs, pet owners tend to identify them as the more vulnerable ones. Therefore, they are constantly controlling and repremending any dog behavior that can seem dangerous for the cat, and they let the cat do anything they want. As a result, the dog learns to control themselves and their behaviors, meanwhile the cat acts as they please. 
  2. Cats have not been domesticated for such a long period of time, as dogs have. This can make it difficult for them to feel comfortable around other species, especially around one they see as a predator. 

Can cats and dogs live together?

This study called “Evaluation of the relationship between cats and dogs living in the same home” also revealed that more than 80% of the homeowners that participated in the survey claimed that their dog and cat were comfortable around each other. And only the 3% felt that their pets could not even stand each other.

This means that over 600 houses have a dog and cat peacefully living together. But do they just tolerate each other or do they have a close relationship?

Well, most of the participants said that their pets had an amicable relationship, this means that they had a friendly mutual bond, maintained proximity, were effective towards each other and there was no aggression between them. 

Although maintaining an amicable relationship between cats and dogs is an incredibly great accomplishment and a great goal to aspire to, almost none of the participants of the survey said that their pets were close. So, in spite of the fact that it is possible for canines and felines to have a close relationship, it’s not very common. 

Cats and dogs can definitely live together. What can vary is to what extent they get along. They can simply tolerate each other, have an amicable relationship or even be close to each other.

But how can you get a cat and a dog to get along? There are some tips you can follow to accomplish this goal. 

How to get cats and dogs to live together?

The number 1 tip to follow to get cats and dogs to live together in peace is introducing them at a young age. If you adopt a puppy and a kitten at the same time, they’ll most likely learn to coexist in the same house and can also even develop a close bond. 

Leticia Fanucchi, a veterinarian from Washington State University, says that “as long as dogs and cats meet each other when they’re very young, they can learn to interact peacefully”. 

What is more, the Journal of Veterinary Behavior mentioned before also proved that if the cat was the first one to arrive at the house, the first one to be adopted, the higher the chances were of them feeling more comfortable.

If this isn’t a possible scenario for you because you already have a pet in your house and you want to incorporate another one, there are some extra tips you can follow:

  • Introduce them outside your house. You will have better chances of a cat and a dog getting along if you let them meet in any other place that’s not your home, such as the street or a quiet park. If you already have a cat and all of a sudden you bring a dog into your house, your cat will feel like they are violating their space and will probably act hostile towards the pup. The same happens viceversa.
  • Provide a safe space for your cat. They tend to like personal space more than dogs usually do. They need some places where they can be on their own. Since cats are quite skilled and can make their way through the heights, you can add some extra shelves and your cat will definitely find some comfort there. 
  • Be patient. A relationship isn’t built overnight. You’ll need to be patient with both of your pets and give them the time they need to trust each other and learn how to coexist in the same house. 
  • Know your pet. If you are planning on incorporating a new furry member to your family, make sure to know if the pet you already have is ready for it. For example, if your dog suffers from separation anxiety and has destructive behaviors, maybe adding a new stress factor for them won’t be the greatest idea. You can give your pup calming treats and they will definitely help them feel better, but try not to add more anxiety to their life if they already suffer from it. 

Remember that you can follow all these tips and your cat and dog might still not get along. This isn’t your fault or theirs. Just as with humans, there are animals that can’t and won’t get along. This happens all the time between dogs that simply don’t like each other. So it’s more than understandable that this can happen between dogs and cats. 


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