Dogs do not get along with cats? Or should it be “cats do not get along with dogs” since cats are usually the ones that run away or climb up a tree. Both statement, however, may be generally true (if human variable taken out). Most dogs do not appreciate cats being around and would start to chase them as they would do with anything smaller that runs away. On the other hand, most cats do not seem to have much appreciation for dogs as they would immediately start spitting and hissing when they encounter one.
The expression “fighting like a cat and a dog” which has been in common use for over a century must have some truth in it. Nowadays, however, its very uncommon to see a dog and a cat engage in a real bloody fight – so how did this expression ever got established?
Like so many other aphorisms, this expression might just be something of anachronism that doesn’t belong to our present times. Dogs and cats haven’t always been taken care of as well as they are today, even back to as recently as the 19th century, dogs and cats alike, roamed the streets in considerable amounts looking for left-overs of food to survive.
So are dogs and cats natural enemies?
Competition over territory, and above all, over scarce food would always led to a serious confrontation. A tense situation between two dogs is often dealt with without violence, since dogs have inherited from their old ancestors, the wolves, a set of signals and a body language that gives them the ability to signal their submission and intention to back down when the rival is considered to be too strong. Cats, being descendants of lonely predators with little need to interact in face-to-face, lack such talent, and tend to be generally more wary than dogs when it comes to engage or not in a combat. Evolution has forgot to provide any of the two species with necessary skills to communicate with one another, therefore, a combat situation is almost inevitable when neither side is willing to give up.
Their fighting styles do also vary completely. Dogs with not quite sharp fingernails try to play their strong jaws and powerful teeth card, whereas cats prefer to rather use their tiny sharp claws for a maximum enemy damage. Both opponents try to intimidate their rivals vocally at first, by spitting and hissing (for cats), barking and growling (for dogs). But once a combat between the two has broke, the situation might get into very noisy bloody violent affairs.
So are dogs and cats bound to be natural enemies? Not at all, that was probably the case once. But in terms of their relationship with mankind, cats would be the newcomers, as dogs have been man’s companion for a long long time. Dogs were actually domesticated by our ancestors over 15,000 years ago. Whether they already made “man’s best friend” in their early days with us or were just accompanied for their hunting skills, but by the time cats came along, dogs already acquired an important part in our lives, guarding our homes, hunting with us, watching over our herds …
Cats started showing around in houses about 10,000 years ago, but that was solely related to food seeking: at that time, man’s habit of storing food had led to the emergence of rats, mouses and other small annoying animals. Cats where therefore tolerated around as a mean of eradicating mouses and other vermin from the house. Apart from that, there is actually little evidence for humans admiring cats (except for, presumably, linking their benefits as rats-free basement) for another 4,000 years, when the Egyptians started to leave concrete proof of their attachment to cats, like for example, cat sculpture and figures. Prior to that, dogs would seem to have had enjoyed a far more comfortable situation for thousands of years, well taken care of by their owners to an extent that cats couldn’t have enjoyed.
With dogs enjoying hence the upper hand, the competition for food seems to be rather one-sided, therefore cats would be required to count on their agility no to encounter dogs and keep out of trouble. But mother cats having to go out looking for food, dogs might have been seen (by cats) as of some danger to kittens, cats would have thus not to just hide their little kittens out of dog’s sight, but also to inspire as much fear as possible into surrounding area dogs.
Dogs and cats thus, carry this evolutionary enmity character, one that still today they haven’t completely get red of. Dogs do always enjoy chasing cats, and with the right motive, cats will stop and fight back.
The fortunate news is that this hostility between cats and dogs is far from inevitable, considering the way they both acquire the difference between enemies and friends. This is possibly no more than a part -probably even just a side effect- of how domestication has changed the way their attitudes develop into in the first moments of their lives. Kittens and puppies alike experience a period of their life that is called the “socialization period”, it’s when they first learn who their moms are, how to act towards their own species, but also that humans are not to be afraid of. And it’s all about the lack or existence of a soft gentle contact with humans during the so called “ socialization period” that derives baby dogs and cats to develop and strengthen a self trust or distrust toward humans.
So it’s quite possible and easy to hack this process so that a cat gets included in ‘to put up with’ puppy’s list, and the other way around for a kitten. All we will need for that to happen is cat-friendly dog, or dog-friendly cat. The point is that simply being around an other specie, with no negative experiences during the “socialization period”, which is about 5 to 12 weeks for dogs and 4 to 8 weeks for cats, is usually enough. You could find out there on the Internet plenty of videos, stories, photos … of cats and dogs kept together and being best friends without there being any unpleasant consequences, that is you if you haven’t already witnessed this experience with your house pets.
What might be unfortunate though, is that once a dog has come to enjoy running behind every cat it encounters (especially those very dynamic dogs), or a cat has decided not appreciate dogs around, these attitudes might require some long patient training to change.
Find more information on: apbc.org.uk