Dogs and cats are notorious for not getting along, but one look at social media reveals many photos of canine/feline friendships. People who own both a cat and a dog may notice that their pup has decided he and the cat are besties, while the cat merely tolerates her enthusiastic housemate. Can a dog fall in love with a cat? It turns out that dogs may have more of an affinity for cats than their reputation would have you believe.
Do dogs and cats hate each other?
Contrary to popular belief, there's no research that shows that dogs and cats are natural enemies. There are, however, some key behavioral differences between the two species that can make for a rocky cat and dog relationship.
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Many dogs, even small breeds, have retained their instinctual prey drive that helped their ancestors survive. That prey drive doesn't always lead to actual predation, but it is why dogs love chasing fast-moving objects. Cats can bolt when startled, and a kitty in motion may trigger a dog's prey drive. Dogs might think that cats are inviting them to a game of chase, but cats who are chased by dogs might become fearful of them.
Dogs and cats both use body language to communicate, but their signals can get lost in translation between species. For a dog, a wagging tail usually means a happy, excited pup, but a cat who is swishing her tail may be indicating irritation. A dog who misinterprets that swishing tail as an invitation to play might end up getting swatted by the cat.
Can dogs and cats get along?
The cat and dog relationship can indeed be amicable and may even become a close bond. Early socialization at a young age gives the best shot at ensuring a dog and cat duo will get along, but it's also possible for older animals (or an older/younger pair) to share space after being properly introduced.
Certain breeds of dog have more cat-friendly temperaments than others, but it's possible for dogs of many different breeds to coexist with cats.
Do dogs love cats?
Like humans, dogs and cats produce oxytocin, a hormone that is linked to feelings of love and trust. Both species were found to produce higher levels of oxytocin in response to interacting with their humans, though dogs produce about five times more than cats. A study reported in The Atlantic measured the oxytocin levels of a dog before and after playing with a goat and found a 48 percent increase, indicating the dog likely saw the goat as a friend. Though the study didn't include a dog and cat playing together, dogs probably experience increased oxytocin in the presence of cats as well.
Since dogs produce more oxytocin than cats, it's possible that pups are much more enthusiastic about cats than the other way around. Dogs are more social and might view cats as potential playmates, while cats are more cautious around dogs.
Do dogs fall in love in the romantic sense? Scientists aren't sure. We know that dogs experience an increase in oxytocin when interacting with both humans and other animals and that they display behaviors common in loving relationships, such as physical affection, emotional support, and sadness when separated. There isn't any evidence to confirm that dogs experience the head over heels, keep you awake at night kind of love with which humans are familiar. Dogs love in their own way, though, and this can certainly include developing a close bond with a cat.
Cat and dog relationship
Cats and dogs can coexist peacefully and may even develop a friendship. Their different body languages may make for some confusing inter-species communication, and cats may be nervous around dogs who are inclined to chase them. Dogs are more social than cats and may want to be friends immediately, while cats are a bit more cautious. It's not known if dogs experience romantic love, but they have their own ways of showing love and might just make a cat the object of their affection.
- American Kennel Club: Dog Myths Debunked: Do Dogs Really Hate Cats?
- Best Friends Animal Society: How to Introduce a Dog to a Cat
- IFL Science: Who Loves You More, Your Cat Or Your Dog?
- Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Evaluation of the Relationship Between Cats and Dogs Living in the Same Home
- The Atlantic: Dogs (and Cats) Can Love
- Pet Sitters International
- The Telegraph