Dogs and cats are often portrayed as sworn enemies in cartoons, TV shows, and children’s books.
But what do dogs actually think of cats? Let’s find out…
What Do Dogs Think of Cats?
Some dogs will think of cats as prey animals to be chased and attacked.
Other dogs will think of cats as fun friends to play with (even if the cat disagrees).
Some dogs can be trained to tolerate or even like cats, but this must be done carefully to avoid conflict.
It’s worth pointing out that we can’t truly know what dogs think as we can’t read their minds.
But in this article, we’ll look at what dogs probably think about cats and how the two can (hopefully) be trained to get along.
Related Post: Why Are Cats Afraid of Dogs?
Predator and Prey Mentality
It’s easy to look at today’s domestic dog and forget that these animals are the descendants of wolves – apex predators in their own right.
And while dogs have formed unshakeable bonds with the human species, their predatory instincts are still hardwired into their biology.
As such, when a dog sees a cat, its natural reaction is to give chase to try and catch its prey.
So, while your canine friend might be the sweetest being you’ve ever met, it’s also a natural hunter, and you can’t blame it if it takes off running after a cat – especially if the cat starts to run and attracts the dog’s attention.
Sadly, the cat’s instinct is often to run at first sight of a dog, making it much more likely that the dog will give chase.
The natural instincts of both these animals often aggravate the tension as dogs love chasing things that are running away from them, and most cats will run from dogs.
NOTE – You may like to read this post asking the question: what do cats think of dogs?
What a Dog Sees When It Looks at a Cat
While we can’t know precisely what a dog is thinking, observation can tell us about cat-dog relationships.
By watching how a dog behaves when confronted by a cat, we can glimpse what they think.
- Dogs know that cats are different animals. Some pet owners have a common misconception that dogs think cats, rabbits, and other animals are just other dogs. However, this isn’t true because a cat smells different. It’s clear to the dog that they’re dealing with another species.
- Dogs are often cautious around cats. While dogs will chase cats that are running. They are likely to take a step back if the cat exhibits aggressive or defensive behavior. For example, if a cat arches its back or hisses, you’ll notice that dogs will give them a wide berth.
- Dogs are curious about cats. Often dogs will chase or engage with cats out of simple curiosity.
- Most dogs don’t see cats as a threat. While getting scratched on their muzzles can be pretty painful, dogs are unlikely to see a cat as a serious threat. Especially due to the difference in size (of most breeds).
- A dog may be wary of cats if it has had a previous ad experience with them. For example, if a cat attacked your dog at some point, it may be scared or aggressive toward other cats.
NOTE – Do dogs know cats aren’t dogs? Click the link to find out.
How To Socialize Dogs and Cats
While they aren’t always compatible, many pet owners have taught their dogs to live harmoniously under the same roof as a cat.
Some have even fostered a positive and loving relationship between their canine and feline roomies.
And while it’s not straightforward, it is possible to get the two species to live alongside each other without conflict.
Here are a few tips if you’re planning to have a dog and cat at home.
1. Start Them Young
If possible, it’s ideal to get dogs and cats to socialize when they are still puppies and kittens.
Adult cats and dogs will often tolerate young puppies and kittens because they are smart enough to know they are babies.
Another advantage of bringing a puppy home is that the cat will most likely set the rules.
Every time the puppy steps out of line, the cat will probably reprimand it (usually a hiss or a bat of the paw), and the puppy will learn what behavior works around the cat.
Related: Do Dogs Think in Barks?
2. Allow the Cat To Determine the Relationship
In most cat-dog households, dogs rarely exhibit aggressive or antagonistic behavior towards cats. In some cases, they are even quite respectful and give their feline housemates a wide berth of space.
The best way to foster a healthy relationship between these two animals is to let them figure out the dynamic between themselves.
The cat will often develop specific rules and systems that your dog will eventually learn to follow.
3. Progressive Desensitization
If you’re dealing with adult cats and dogs, it can be tricky to get them to get on with each other.
However, remember that the goal isn’t to make them best friends; tolerating each other’s presence in the same household is good enough.
To start progressive desensitization, place a barrier between the dog and cat or hold your dog on a leash around the cat and observe the cat’s body language.
The goal here is to get your dog used to the cat’s presence over time.
By slowly introducing your dog, you reduce the likelihood that it will react instinctively and chase the cat.
This short (and super cute) video has more great tips to help you introduce your cat and dog safety:
NOTE – You might like to read this post asking the question: Why are dogs afraid of cats?
Final Thoughts On What Dogs Think of Cats
While it’s impossible to gauge their exact thoughts, dogs, for the most part, see cats as prey animals that are fun to chase.
So even if you socialize your dog with one particular cat, it doesn’t imply that your dog will tolerate all cats.
Remember, however, that this antagonistic behavior is hardwired into your dog’s system, and they are not at fault for seeing cats this way.
Tim is a proud, vetted, and experienced dog foster carer for a charity helping dog owners escape domestic abuse.
He has years of experience training and caring for dogs, both his own and other people’s.
He is an expert in canine behavior and is highly skilled in dealing with all dogs but specializes in the difficult ones that other people may struggle with.
When he isn’t fostering dogs, he is making friends with other people’s pups!