Why dogs chase cats and what you can do about it
July 18, 2019
We know that cats and dogs like to chase different things. The situation becomes sticky when they live together, or cross paths as neighbour things or stranger things, and dog goes after kitty.
It might be a game; or there might be more to it. “Something small and furry like a cat will naturally trigger the prey drive in your dog,” explains Wag Walking. “Instinct kicks in.” This doesn’t mean the dog wants to eat the cat. In many human households, dogs and cats accept each other as kin and even play together. But they play differently. Dogs play ‘chase’ and ‘catch’ with other dogs as pups and adults; cats grow out of it soon as they hit adolescence (when they become fertile and start mating). With one party wanting to chase for fun or food, and the other only chasing for food, both often misinterpret the situation – especially as they don’t speak the same language.
Distinct species, different body language cues
Dogs and cats can miscommunicate. One way dogs say ‘hi’ is with a tail in the sky. Wag wag. Cats with a tail up are saying ‘oy, you might be a problem’, so when Dog says ‘hi’ (wag wag), cats may be thinking, “uh oh I’m outta here”. And the dog might think, “oh, she wants to play, yay!”. The inherent contrasts in these forms of canine and feline communication often lead to immediate conflict, at least in both species’ minds, and that means … fight or flight.
From pooch’s perspective
It can be a sore game. When cats let dogs know that they don’t want to play chase with their claws and jaws (fight), dogs are left with the post-encounter effects and often slink away to lick their scratches (avoiding cats for a while … or forever).
From kitty’s perspective
But dogs are generally larger than cats (or, in the case of Yorkies, have larger-than-life personalities), and on top of it, cats can be extremely sensitive creatures. So, kitty bolts (flight). Wouldn’t you rather be safely up in a tree than scrambling around on the ground with an over-eager pooch?
Caught in a loop
Cats sprinting away from a perceived annoyance or danger only makes the canid creature run after them faster. Round and round the garden. Sigh.
It seems a sad cycle, unless you realise that – as the human in the household – you have some sway. You can train dog not to chase Kitty.
How to train Rover NOT to overwhelm (Kitty)
- “Begin by introducing them,” suggest Flex Pets. “It does help if one or both of them are young.” You can help your pets learn to live together by assuring them that they are safe, loved, and will still get treats or dinner even if they do nothing about this other animal. As they grow accustomed to each other, they can negotiate the terms of their unique relationship.
- Interrupt the behaviour. It’s a great idea to distract your dog when you see him settle into chase stance. But take care here. Wag Walking warns that lip licking initially and play bowing might be a sign of playfulness, where lip licking and salivating mean something more sinister …
- Pre-empt the behaviour and avoid occurrences beforehand. Ideally, catch the behaviour before it happens (which is why we love puppy school – they teach you to read dog body language much better than we did ). Avoid your doggle getting into the habit of chasing cats at all. Knowing which games your pooch finds irresistible is a good start, and making sure he’s not bored is also useful. “If the only thing your dog has to do is chase your cat,” cautions PetMD, “chasing your cat is going to be his favourite activity.”
- Train your pooch to respond to you diligently so that you can completely dispel the behaviour (by taking charge). Dog Training Excellence points out that you should teach your dog to ask your permission, come when called, drop – or let go of -something when commanded, and respond to your attempts to communicate even if he’s far away. Take care of these fundamentals of dog obedience and you can intercept and pre-empt the chase behaviour.
Best part is, when both pets are happy, there’s more cuddles for you!
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