Why Is My Cat Afraid of Dogs?
You’ve probably noticed your cat hides or is visibly uncomfortable when around dogs. It’s natural for your cat to be afraid of dogs, so don’t worry if your kitty doesn’t seem to be a fan of them. Below, Cat in a Flat looks at reasons why cats fear dogs, along with a few tricks to help minimise stress when introducing Fido and Mr Whiskers.
Cats and dogs speak different languages
As anyone who lives in a multi-cat household knows, cats are hierarchical creatures. While felines can develop close bonds with their humans, and your cat might even miss you when you’re not around, they don’t always take too kindly to the introduction of new furry creatures.
Cats are territorial with each other. They will vocalize or use body language to show either happiness or displeasure. All cats are born with the innate ability to understand and react to this language. But cats are afraid of dogs because dogs speak a completely different language and interact in unfamiliar ways.
Fido won’t automatically understand your cat’s boundaries, nor the importance of cat hierarchy. This can result in a canine invading a cat’s personal space, chasing them, or even behaving aggressively towards them. A lot gets lost in translation between the two species, which is a common reason why your cat could be afraid of dogs.
Cats see dogs as predators
Size plays a major role in why cats fear dogs. Most dogs are bigger than cats, and instinctively chase anything that is small and fast-moving. So, is it any wonder your cat is afraid of dogs? To your feline friend, a dog looks, smells, and behaves like a scary predator. Hence Mr Whiskers’ flight response kicks into high gear at the sight of one.
But it’s not just big canines that can get your furry friend stressed; cats can also be afraid of small dogs. Smaller dogs tend to be very vocal, and cats are naturally cautious. Your average feline won’t understand the concept of a pup’s bark being bigger than their bite.
Regardless of size, a single negative experience is more than enough to make a cat afraid of dogs. Afterwards, a feline will be understandably wary every time they encounter one. But don’t worry, there are ways to create a pawsitive experience for your cat, even if they’ve had an unpleasant interaction with a dog in the past.
How to get your cat used to dogs?
Having a cat in your life is great for your mental health, and it’s important for your cat to feel happy and secure, too. Short visits between dogs and cats can be stressful because a cat doesn’t have the time to fully acclimate to the dog’s presence. However, if you’re considering adopting a pup into your family there are a few ways to help them get along.
Keep the dog and cat separated
Begin by keeping your cat and dog in separate areas of your home. The cat gets first choice in this case. Allow your cat to choose where they feel most safe and comfortable.
Allow your cat to smell your dog
Scent is very important to cats, and strange odours can lead to added stress. This is one reason why it’s often a struggle to get your cat into a cat carrier—because it looks and smells unfamiliar!
A cat will be afraid of dogs if exposed to their scent all at once, so introduce your kitty in small doses. Rub a towel on Fido and let Mr Whiskers smell it. Once your cat starts reacting calmly to the new scent, reward them with treats. This creates a positive reinforcement towards the smell and lessens your cat’s fear of the new dog.
Allow your cat and dog to see each other
Next, allow your cat and dog to see, but not access each other. This can be done through a screen door or a baby gate. Do this for 10 minutes at a time, making sure to keep your dog on a leash.
At first, your kitty might run and hide, but after a while they will simply sit and observe the new pooch. Be sure to reward your cat when this happens!
Allow your cat and dog to interact
Keep your puppy on a leash and allow the cat to approach if they like. Let them interact in the same space for 10-15 minutes and repeat the process until your cat no longer hisses at or runs away from the dog. Be sure to reward both your dog and cat if they’re getting along!
Allow free interactions
Remove your dog’s leash and allow your cat and dog to interact freely. To avoid reverting to a cat-fearing-dog scenario, provide your kitty with a high spot they can escape to if they feel frightened or insecure.
Reward your cat and dog
Continue to reinforce good behaviour by rewarding both your cat and dog. When your kitty shows a calm demeanour towards your pup, give them a few treats. It’s unlikely your two pets will become best friends, but with these steps your cat won’t be living in fear of your dog.
While it might seem funny or harmless to watch cats jump at the sight of cucumbers or unfamiliar dogs, you should always avoid any situation where your cat can feel frightened. Our beloved felines are sensitive creatures and stress in cats can often manifest in painful ways. Take the time to understand why your cat is afraid of dogs and help them get used to new pups in the family. This way you can create a happy environment for all the furry friends in your household.
Looking for more ways to keep your kitty happy and healthy? Check out our blog posts on how to minimise stress for your cat when you’re away and tips for choosing a great cat sitter.