The rivalry between dogs and cats is long and legendary. We all take it for granted that our beloved pets aren’t so fond of one another. Many humans reinforce the feud by labeling themselves “dog people” or “cat people” and resisting the urge to house felines and canines under the same roof. Since cats and dogs are different species, we can hardly expect them to make fast and lasting friends, but what could explain the fierce rivalry between these two much-loved human companions? Let’s look at some of the factors that influence the relationship between our favorite four-legged friends and some of the steps we can take to keep the fur from flying.
Dogs vs. cats: Where did the rivalry start?
To begin to understand the age-old rivalry between cats and dogs, we need to first remember that they are different species with contrasting traits, personalities, and habits. These two very different species would never be friends in nature. In fact, dogs in a wild setting would naturally see cats as prey. Packs of wild dogs or wolves would be very likely to chase and kill cats and kittens. Cats, for their part, see dogs as a very real threat. Indeed, this threat is sometimes warranted!
If you’re having trouble introducing your cat to your new puppy, or an adult dog to a new feline family member, it’s important to remember that they aren’t just deciding to be difficult. These fears and instincts are very definitely hardwired in the brains of dogs and cats. No matter how much you insist on a close relationship, cats will tend to lack trust in dogs and dogs may feel inclined to chase or antagonize cats. In nature, cats and dogs would compete for territory and food. They’d be far more concerned with dominance and their own safety than getting along with each other.
Can cats and dogs ever get along?
While cats and dogs may be foes in nature, thoughtful, patient owners can definitely help them get along. Leticia Fanucchi, a veterinarian at Washington State University, notes that it’s impossible to be complacent about pets of the same or different species. You can’t take it for granted that your pets will get along (even two dogs or two cats) just because you tell them to. That said, owners do have significant sway over the social interactions between their pets. Fanucchi advises owners to introduce cats and dogs when they’re young and their tolerance for new companions and experiences is higher.
What’s behind this age-old rivalry?
As discussed, cats and dogs don’t get along in the wild. For this reason, they are more likely to be sworn enemies than best friends. There is not much we can do about nature, but we can help smooth things over with a careful introduction and close monitoring throughout the lifetime of the relationship.
The preferences and daily routines of cats and dogs couldn’t be more different. Cats are largely nocturnal animals and would sleep all day if they had their way. They are also solitary hunters and live alone in the wild. Dogs, by contrast, are daytime creatures that hunt and live in packs. Dogs are stereotypically friendly and loyal, while cats are known for more independent and aloof attitudes. Both cats and dogs tend to have a favorite person in the home and this can definitely cause problems if they are one and the same!
Cats are prey animals for larger species like dogs, but they serve as predators for smaller species like mice, birds, and rats. Since both dogs and cats are carnivorous predators, they may butt heads with one another as their prey drives overlap and intersect.
Dogs that get along with cats
Some of the dog breeds that are generally amiable and have a high degree of sociability with humans are also the most likely to get along with cats. These include breeds like Basset Hounds, Beagles, Bulldogs, Spaniels, Collies, Labrador Retrievers, Poodles, and Pyrenees. Working dogs that have been bred to herd animals or chase prey like Pit Bull Terriers, Deerhounds, Salukis, and other Terriers are probably less likely to make suitable companions for feline housemates.
Tips for helping cats and dogs get along
Living in a mixed-species household or considering changing things up with a new pet? Check out these tips for making an amicable introduction and keeping relations smooth over time.
First impressions are vital
As in the human world, first impressions between dogs and cats go a long way. Make sure that both the cat and dog being introduced are well fed, hydrated, healthy, and rested. Both dogs and cats, like some humans, can be very, very grumpy first thing in the morning, so avoid scheduling meetings too early. Schedule walks or playtime beforehand too to cut down on excess energy. Make sure you’re not feeling anxious either.
It’s easier when they’re young
It is much easier to introduce cats and dogs to each other when they are young. Puppies and kittens who meet in infancy may become lifelong pals thanks to their impressionability at this young age. When late-in-life intros prove necessary, owners may need to get more creative or pack an extra dose of patience.
Keeping the newcomer in an enclosed space
A newcomer to your home may not feel secure and secure for the first few weeks. Make sure that the dog or cat has a safe space of their own. This could be a special, comfy high spot for a cat or a furnished crate for a dog. Maintaining these safe spaces throughout both pets’ lifetimes will go a long way in keeping conflicts to a minimum.
Dividing love and attention equally
Because of the rivalry between cats and dogs, owners will often find themselves doling out affection in doses. It’s important to make time for both pets and avoid playing favorites. This will help avoid the natural jealousy that tends to arise between dogs and cats. Make sure to spend quality time with both your pets alone so they know they have your undivided attention.
Protect your duo (or trio)
Whether your cat and dog are bitter rivals, occasional companions, or the best of friends, a great insurance policy can help provide them both with the most comprehensive coverage possible to ensure they stay healthy and happy through any at-home social upheaval! The feline and canine rivalry may never ever go away, but you can at least keep both types of companions safe with the gift of insurance. Get a pet insurance quote from Animalia today.