Fighting Like Cats & Dogs.

Posted by Theresa Blood on

If cartoons were your only source of information about the world you’d be convinced that cats and dogs are sworn enemies, destined to a perpetual scrap. Happily, however, cats and dogs can and do live together happily, although there’s no denying that the fur sometimes flies when our two favorite domestic animals encounter each other. Despite the Tom & Jerry model (where the cat is the main culprit in any conflict and the dog is, rather unrealistically, on the side of the mouse), it is the cat who is most likely to suffer when cat and dog encounters go badly.

It’s not that dogs hate cats; in fact, they often like them very much indeed. It’s just that cats rarely enjoy the attentions of an over excited canine. Cats and dogs have very different instincts and motivations and they’re not able to read books which could give them handy tips on how to get along together. Cats can be extremely stressed by the very presence of a dog. Imagine being stuck in a cat basket at the vet and some slobbering, drooling idiot of a beast sticks its nose in at you. The fact that its owner assures your owner that the canine in question loves cats is hardly likely to reduce your blood pressure.

Some dogs are less annoying than others, from a cat’s point of view, depending on breed and individual temperament, and there are dogs that show respect to their feline friends. Dogs that are raised with cats from puppies are more likely to be able to keep their cool around them, but the way a cat moves does tend to trigger even the nicest dog’s chase instinct, which is never a pleasant experience for a cat.

Is That Budgie For Me?

While cats are most likely to be the wronged party when it comes to feline-canine relationships, the same definitely can’t be said when it comes to other species commonly kept as pets (although tortoises probably have little to fear). Cats are natural born killers of birds and rodents, and you wouldn’t bet money on the rabbit in a cat versus bunny contest. Nevertheless, some people do manage households which include numerous species. A cheeky budgerigar sat on a cat’s head, or a kitten adorably snuggling a bunny are meat and drink to the greetings-card industry and such images are often found on the internet. But small animals have an inherent fear of their natural predators and tend to freeze rather than fight if they’re in a tight spot. Just because they’re not squawking or squealing, doesn’t mean they’re not terrified.

Perverse Affection.

Cats often seem drawn to people who don’t like them. When a cat enters a room they have a knack of selecting the lap of the one person who’s a bit afraid of cats, while sauntering casually past the people who really love them. This is particularly bad news for ailurophobes (people who suffer from an irrational fear of cats) and may seem to confirm some people’s suspicions that cats are not very nice. But there is a perfectly natural explanation for this seemingly bizarre behavior. Put simply, cats don’t like to be stared at (eye contact is seen as a direct and not very friendly challenge in the feline world). Yet, what do animal lovers do when they see an animal? They stare at it. Worse still, the cat lovers in the room may not only be directly looking at the cat, but also waving their hands about and making silly puss-puss noises. The ailurophobe, on the other hand, will be still and silent, doing their best not to attract the cat’s attention. Counter intuitively, this avoidance behavior puts the cat at ease and makes for an inviting lap.

What’s My Cat Thinking?

While some cats are very affectionate, others are less demonstrative. Your cat is probably pleased you’re home – but just not enough to cut short their nap and vacate their cozy, warm spot to come and greet you. It’s easy to forget that felines haven’t been bred for millennia to work or keep us company in the way that dogs have. Cats have only been living indoors with us for around 150 years, so they aren’t as proficient at reading our body language, or as interested in our every move. They don’t know we need their esteem – they certainly don’t need ours! Pets may depend on us for life’s essentials but they’re still free-spirited. Their inner drive to please themselves isn’t arrogance, it’s a survival instinct.

What Should I Do?
  • Respect your cat’s needs and wants. Interact on their terms and let them enjoy a well-earned rest.
  • If the behavior is new, get a vet check. Lethargy, depression and avoiding interaction or hiding can all be signs your cat is anxious, in pain, or feeling unwell.
  • While some cats greet their humans with the enthusiasm of the extroverted, tail-wagging, lesser species (aka dog), the affectionate gestures of many cats are much more subtle. Look instead for cat “love” clues, such as trills, meows, purring, bunting or rubbing.
  • Whenever you come home, encourage your cat to come to you for treats and play; they may start to see your homecoming in a new light.
  • Schedule some quality one-on-one time with your cat.


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