If you’ve ever seen any kind of recreational TV, you’ve seen that cats and dogs don’t like each other at all. Then maybe you go onto YouTube and see all the cute compilations of cats and dogs being friends. Maybe you happen to own a cat and a dog–and maybe they get along. Or maybe they don’t. But let us answer the foundational question of “do cats and dogs even hate each other”? On average, they don’t get along. It typically requires human intervention and socialization for them to get along. If they’re socialized well enough, dogs might even grow up to prefer cats over other dogs (and the other way round). So why do cats and dogs hate each other?
For those who thought that communication skills were only important for your relationships and didn’t want to talk about it, we’re only kind of sorry. Dogs and cats both communicate information to other animals of the same species. Those lines of communication tend to fall apart once a dog is trying to talk to a cat and vice versa. For example, many dogs instinctively chase smaller animals–especially when those smaller animals flee. A small fluffball is something any dog is probably going to want to check out. If you’ve ever been around puppies being socialized, this is how a lot of dogs play (especially some of the herding dogs like corgis). Turns out, cats don’t like being chased around. Whether or not the dog is chasing the cat out of aggression or play is largely irrelevant to the cat, which perceives it as a signal of aggression either way.
Dogs familiarize themselves with each other by sniffing each others’ butts, which again, is often perceived as a threat when a cat is on the receiving end. For most cats the response is running away, which just compounds the issue.
Having both a cat and a dog isn’t too uncommon. Many readers’ reactions to “why do cats and dogs hate each other” may have been to recall either their friends or their own pets that get along pretty okay. When surveyed, that also seems to hold pretty true. Assessed in 2018, it was found that most people who own both a cat and dog reported that the two were largely amicable.
The study was published in the UK by Jessica Thomson, Sophie Hall, and Daniel Mills out of the University of Lincoln. They define an “amicable” relationship as having a “friedly, mutual bond, which is recognizable through the use of affiliative behaviors, maintaining proximity and effective, non-aggressive communication.” It’s maybe a bit tough to quantify, since they were asking pet owners to self-report, and most laypeople probably don’t know how to read animal behavior as well as experts. On the other hand, the argument that nobody knows their own pet better than themselves is out there too. Some of the questions asked to respondents were things like “is the cat comfortable around the dog?” Keeping the above in mind, it’s a pretty subjective question that depends on what the owner thinks “comfort” means, or if the owner is even observant enough most of the time anyway.
Anyway, it doesn’t really matter, since there were concrete observations. The study found that the sharing of food, toys, and beds was infrequent. It also found that cats and dogs sometimes groomed each other, but this behavior was also very infrequent. Respondents reported that cats were more likely to instigate threats against dogs than the other way around.
The study broadly confirmed what most of you probably already knew, though. Cats and dogs can only really get along when they’re socialized at a young age. Contemporary literature holds that puppies are most receptive from 3-14 weeks of age. Kittens are most receptive from 3-9 weeks; their receptivity to dogs wanes much faster.
Do you think literary cats and dogs get along at all? Anyway see if you know them here.