What Does My Cat Think of My Dog?

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Today more than 90 million cats — and nearly 90 million dogs — reside in the U.S., according to data compiled by Wolfram Alpha. It stands to reason that many of these adorable pets will come into contact with one another, with a significant number even sharing the same household.

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If you are lucky enough to have both a cat and a dog in your life, then you've probably wondered what your cat is thinking about your dog.

Well, you're not alone. When scrolling through online forums like Reddit or Yahoo Answers, it's easy to see that most pet parents are fascinated about the sometimes adorable and often cantankerous relationships between their cats and dogs.

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Anecdotally, owners report thousands of observations about the nature of the bond between cats and dogs, many of which are contradictory. Here are just a few comments from a popular Quora thread:

  • "The cats appear to consider the dogs harmless, uncouth, and probably not cats"
  • "For cats, dogs are other large predators which are to avoid"
  • "Kitty made the assumption that they are all the same … though if it's that they all are cats or all are dogs isn't clear to us"
  • "Maybe cats think dogs are useful animals for friendship and food"
  • "The dogs largely ignored our elderly cat once she had made it clear she was boss"

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What does your cat think about your dog? It's complicated. However, we've rounded up studies from veterinarians and animal behaviorists to help you discover what cats are thinking about dogs.

How does your cat feel about your dog?

The Journal of Veterinary Behavior published a study examining the relationship of pets living in mixed-species households. Researchers discovered that the majority of cohabitating cats and dogs live amicably together in relationships characterized by non-aggressive and cooperative behaviors.

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In other words, when living together, cats pretty much think dogs are ok to be around (and visa versa).

Nonetheless, few of the cats studied displayed "close" relationships with their doggie roommates. So while your cat thinks your dog is a suitable companion, they'll probably never be besties or bros.

Additionally, researchers uncovered a few other things cats think about dogs:

  • Cats are more likely to think dogs are a threat and act aggressively towards them
  • Therefore, cats are more frequently "dominant" over their dog friends
  • Cats are less likely to share food, toys, and beds with dogs
  • Cats are less likely to initiate grooming with your dog

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Lead researcher, Jessica Thompson, points out that gender and neuter status do not appear to influence how your cat feels about dogs. Even so, the age your kitty is introduced to a pup is an important predictor of a cat and dog friendship.

"These results highlight the need to attend to the cat's behavior in particular, along with age of introduction, to promote positive cat-dog relationships," writes Thompson.

So, if you're wondering what your cat thinks of your dog — the age of introduction plays a significant role in whether your cat regards dogs affectionately or sees them as a threat.

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Does your cat understand your dog?

While canine cognition is a more thoroughly studied area of scientific and academic investigation — most likely due to the unique bond between dogs and humans — feline communication, unfortunately, is less studied.

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However, Dr. Laura Menchetti, an animal behaviorist with the University of São Paulo, discovered that both cats and dogs display interspecies communication behaviors that reveal a special connection between the two when living in the same home.

Menchetti's groundbreaking work suggests that cats and dogs can read one another's body language and facial expressions — even understanding the intonation of vocalizations.

"It is true that they speak different languages, but they seem to understand each other well and interpret each other's approaches in the right way," said Menchetti.

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So your cat may think your dog is a witty conversationalist, or at least, capable of keeping up their end of a good old chinwag.

Does your cat think your dog is scary?

While the belief that there are "no bad dogs, just bad owners" is common among pet parents; in truth, aggression is baked into the DNA of most animals — including your adorable Pomeranian.

A study published by the British Veterinary Association found that your cat's early experiences can permanently influence later behavior.

"Where conflict occurs and the animal experiences unpredictable, unpleasant events which it cannot avoid, stress-induced behavior may appear," the paper concludes.

Does your cat think your dog is scary? The answer depends on a number of factors including:

  • the prevalence of the ​chasing instinct​ in your dog
  • the age your cat was introduced to your dog
  • The nature of any past experiences with dogs

Cats have good reason to be fearful of dogs, especially when they encounter each other outside of the home. However, according to popular animal research, your cat probably thinks your dog can be scary, which is why she keeps him in line with occasional boops to the nose.

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In summary

Science tells us that cats feel something similar to love, but does your cat also feel waves of dopamine flood their prefrontal cortex when the terrier sits on the couch next to her? Maybe.

But we can tell you with some certainty that your cat thinks it understands your dog's communications, and that your cat thinks your dog is probably harmless — but she'll swipe him a few times just to make sure.

Lastly, much of what cats think about dogs has to do with the age of introduction and past experience. So if you want your pets to get along, then be sure to introduce them to each other in a safe environment at an early age.

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