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Feb 07 2014

Are dogs generally scared of cats?

The conventional view is that dogs chase cats, not the other way around. I have only had dogs as companions so have never experienced what the dynamic is between members of these two species if they live together.

But from reader Norm I received this video that indicates that in homes that have both dogs and cats, the cats seemed to be quite mean to the dogs and the latter, even big German Shepherds, were quite intimidated by them.

I had read somewhere a long time ago that dogs, being herd animals, had developed rules of behavior in a pack, one of which required them to not attack smaller dogs and that this is why larger dogs seem to allow smaller ones to seemingly bully them until they get too obnoxious. Is that what is going on in the video? Or are the big dogs actually scared of the smaller cats?

18 comments

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  1. 1
    chigau (違う)

    Sometimes it depends on who was in the house first.
    or if one was an adult and the other was not, when first introduced.

  2. 2
    wtfwhateverd00d

    Dogs are sweet, friendly and good natured.
    Cats are assholes.

    Choose your women friends accordingly.

  3. 3
    keljopy

    Having worked at a humane society where cat-testing is part of the behavioral testing process, I can say it totally depends on the individual animals involved. Some dogs hate cats and will go right for them like they’d like them for dinner, some would like to play with them, some totally ignore them, and some are actively scared of them. As for cats, some will react to all but the cat-aggressive dogs by ignoring, cuddling, or wanting to play while others will lash out at any dog that comes near.

  4. 4
    AnotherAnonymouse

    I think it depends on the personalities of the dogs and cats. Some of the personality is part of the breed–for example, I’d never trust a dog with high hunting instincts around a smaller pet (cat, hamster, ferret, iguana, whatever).

    Anecdata time; I brought a rescue dog into my cat-fostering home. The dog was very smart and agreeable, and only had to be slapped by a cat once before he understood that cats were not to be chased. After that it was a peaceful time; the dog left the cats alone and the cats left the dog alone. A few years later, I brought in a tiny kitten who took one look at the dog and was like, “What in the WORLD are YOU?!?” Later in life, the grown-up kitten would come over and clean the dog’s head. The dog didn’t care for it, but wouldn’t move away, either.

    The cat that slapped the dog also fell in love with the Great Dane mix that my BIL brought with him when he came for a visit. The dog and cat sat together like best pals and never showed any aggression toward each other–they just “clicked”.

  5. 5
    ambassadorfromverdammt

    I had a cat that always ran away when dogs were around, even if they weren’t initially chasing her. She had a safe hideyhole under a rose thicket (we were rural). One day, my gf’s little dog chased her and followed into the hideyhole. A moment later, it came out kiyiying. After that, the cat was agressive toward dogs, and would sit there and gloat whenever she succeeded in intimidating one.

  6. 6
    Rob Grigjanis

    wtf @2: If we’re doing species generalizations, I think the most accurate would be:

    Humans are assholes.
    Dogs deal with that.
    Cats don’t always.

    And that, in a nutshell, is why I love dogs and cats, in different ways.

  7. 7
    chigau (違う)

    Rob Grigjanis #6
    I agree with your trilemma.

    wtfwhateverd00d is trolling.

  8. 8
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    It really depends on the individual animals and their personalities. (You can’t observe cats — or dogs — and tell me they don’t have personalities.)

  9. 9
    lorn

    Dogs tend, on average, to be mellow. If they advance on a cat it tends to be curiosity or playfulness. Cats, probably because they are really weaker, tend to be bullies, sometimes terrorists. The mind games and attacks by cats, usually timed for maximum shock and surprise, make the most of the limited violence they can apply. Already well fed, and satisfied with their territory most domesticated dogs see little or no up side to taking on the cat. So the dogs get pushed around.

    On the other hand there are rare, usually smaller dogs, that don’t wait for the mind games. On sight, or until they are satisfied that the cats know their place, they harass the cat/s. I’ve seen two dogs, both terriers, that would tear into any cat that didn’t back out of their territory quickly enough.

    One cute and otherwise friendly dog commonly killed cats that didn’t give it a wide berth. I watch the action out my back window one evening. The large tabby failed to run and the terrier charged in through a flurry of claws and hissing, grabbed it by the neck, and started shaking. The whole thing didn’t take twenty seconds. It was so fast that I thought the cat was curled up in the sun after a fake fight. When I got close I saw the small pool of blood coming out of the cat’s mouth and the odd position of the head. I gave it a decent burial.

    On the other side I’ve seen at least one cat that made a habit of jumping on top of all the larger threatening dogs. It would land on top of the shoulders and start clawing. It reminded me of a rodeo rider working the spurs on a bronco, riding and clawing at the same time. Meanwhile the dog ran around in circles and otherwise struggled to get the cat off. One treatment was usually enough to keep them terrorized for a long time. It seemed to know not to try it on smaller/ more energetic dogs.

  10. 10
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    From my experience it depends on the dogs & cats individually.

    Generally they get along okay if they know each other and see each other as belonging there.

    My family had a big dog – a labrador , border collie type mix – that was chased by a cat once and would’n’t walk past an old tortiseshell cat we then had – he’d actually start crying until we moved the cat for him! My small dog a Jack Russell Fox terrier cross gets along fine and was very good when he first met my black tortoiseshell. OTOH, I’ve had a Staffy terrier and known a few other dogs that hated cats and would chase and even kill them given the chance.

    So it really depends.

  11. 11
    Compuholic

    Probably depends on how aggressive the cat is. Dogs like to wag their tails and to jump all over you when they are excited and cats typically interpret this as a sign of aggression. If the cat is a confrontational one it will probably instill fear in the dog as he was only trying to be friendly. And some cats choose to run away.

    We had two large dogs and a cat. Nobody really feared the other party although it was clear that the cat was not really keen on hanging with the dogs. When the dogs got too close the cat would deal out some punches to the dogs snout and the dog would know to back up.

  12. 12
    fentex

    It’s pack behaviour, the dogs have learnt from their leaders that cats have privileges to be respected and that they’re not allowed to bite the heads off the self centred little horrors.

    I once had to discipline an ex-junkyard dog into living with a cat and it got the message – right up to jumping between the cat and an intruding dog that caught it outside then staring the intruder down, while having later witnessed that same dog attack another cat that violated it’s territory.

    Animals aren’t thick, they learn the rules.

  13. 13
    steve oberski

    Or are the big dogs actually scared of the smaller cats?

    The smart ones are.

  14. 14
    lanir

    Both species play dominance games. It’s natural to some extent and if you want them to live together, generally the best way to start is to keep a close watch but let them sort it out and only intervene if they look to be getting overly aggressive and likely to harm each other. Posturing and noise are fine. The humans calling the dogs in all the videos are actually a distraction. Some of them might approach the cat rather differently on their own.

    You could also make more sense of this by considering how many humans are scared of mice, spiders or snakes. All are smaller but contain some measure of threat (in wild mice it’s mostly disease, which is sort of roundabout).

  15. 15
    Mobius

    Well, this certainly doesn’t fit my experiences. In college, one of my roommates had a cat. I had a chow. My chow would regularly chase the cat into the attic and then raid the cat food bowl.

  16. 16
    lsamaknight

    I’ve got to agree that it really depends on the dog and cat in question. I’ve had the opportunity observe several different interactions.

    One set of neighbours owned a Rottweiler who was very friendly and good natured but would occasionally get loose and want to play which caused both their cat and ours to run and make them selves scarce in a hurry given he was several times their size.

    A different set of neighbours owned two different dogs, one an older, fairly friendly and sedate, the other quite young and fairly badly behaved (not aggressive towards people but occasionally rather destructive) with a bad habit of getting out. One day when the younger dog was out on tear, we found both the older dog and our cat curled up next to each other on our back porch waiting until the younger dog wore himself out.

  17. 17
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    steve oberski

    Just remember — five out of six ends on a cat are pointy.

  18. 18
    Stacy

    Pretty sure the behavior we’re seeing in this video is more to do with territorial/dominance display than a dogs vs. cats thing.

    The notion of some special enmity between these two species is a human invention, anyway. As others have noted, depending on how they’re socialized, they can be friends, tolerate one another, be fearful or agressive–but it’s not likely that kittens and puppies are hardwired to have some specific reaction toward individuals of the other species (any different from that toward any other larger/smaller animal.)

    @WMDKitty–Survivor

    Just remember — five out of six ends on a cat are pointy.

    Little pink jellybean toes OF DOOM.

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