Why Do Dogs Kill Cats?


Throughout time, it has been said dogs and cats are natural enemies. However, that’s not always true. In fact, you can see situations every day where dogs and cats get along with each other just fine. Unfortunately, incidents can happen where a dog attacked cat and the result was the cat meeting its demise. When this occurs, you may be wondering why do dogs kill cats and what can be done to prevent this from happening again. Rather than look at your dog as a monster that is looking to kill again, it’s best to perhaps see your vet for a professional opinion regarding why do dogs attack cats and how to stop such behavior.

Why Do Dogs Kill Cats?

As to why dogs attack and sometimes kill cats, the reasons can be as various as the dogs and cats themselves. For example, sometimes a dog may be guarding something such as its food, a favorite toy, or a blanket where it sleeps. Should the cat come too close, the dog may perceive a threat and attack, causing a fatal injury.

In other situations, what may have started out as a time of play between your dog and a cat can turn fatal. Since the dog is almost always bigger than the cat, a play session that gets too aggressive can lead to a fatal mistake being made. If you have a multi-dog household where one dog starts playing with the cat and other dogs then join in, it’s possible a “pack mentality” may set in with the dogs, leading to more dangerous behavior and an accidental killing of a cat.

If what happened was highly unusual for your dog, you may want to have them undergo a physical exam from your veterinarian. Upon doing so, a medical problem may be discovered that could explain the behavior.

Do Dogs Naturally Attack Cats?

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In some ways, the answer to this question is yes and no. Just like humans, dogs and cats have different personalities. For some dogs, attacking a cat or anything else is almost out of the question due to their personality. However, no matter what type of dog you may have, they nevertheless do possess some predatory instincts that can be traced back to ancient times, when dogs had to hunt for their food rather than simply wait on their owner to fill up their bowl with kibble or open a can of wet food.

At the heart of this predatory drive is what scientists refer to as the fixed action pattern. In essence, this combines a dog’s genetics, history, motivation, and other factors into triggering a predatory response when certain movements of potential prey are detected. Specifically, the pattern involves a series of steps including see, stalk, chase, grab, bite, dissect, and consume. While dogs generally do not kill a cat with the intention of eating them, the general idea is still present.

If such an incident occurs, this does not mean the dog attacked cat because it was starving or just had a sick desire to kill something. Rather, it is instinctual and not of a murderous intent. As humans, we are often guilty of transference, meaning we transfer our own emotions and thoughts onto animals, assuming they are thinking just as we would in a particular situation. However, you should remember that a dog’s brain is not as complex as a human’s, meaning they rarely if ever kill a cat out of pure rage.

What Should You Do if a Dog Attacks Your Cat?

Now that you know more about why do dogs attack cats, the good news is that there are many things you can do if an attack occurs. One of the most important is to manage the environment, meaning taking steps to ensure this never happens again. For example, if a dog attacked your cat due to your cat getting into a neighbor’s yard, take steps to keep your cat inside or in a safe and secure area within your yard.

Also, if you know the dog’s owner, you should notify them as to what took place. Hopefully, they will express remorse and accept responsibility for their dog’s actions, and perhaps offer to pay for the cat’s burial or cremation. Should the dog in question belong to you and your household contains other cats, you will want to make sure they are protected by keeping them and your dog in separate areas of your home, or perhaps finding them a new home.

Finally, remember that even though a dog has natural predatory instincts, this does not mean their behavior cannot be modified. By speaking to your veterinarian and perhaps working with an animal behaviorist, it is often possible to change a dog’s behavior to prevent undesirable actions.

How Do I Stop My Dog from Attacking My Cat?

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If you want to stop your dog from attacking your cat, there are various things you can do right at home that can result in a much more favorable outcome for Fido and Fluffy. To begin with, try introducing the dog and cat when the dog is as young as possible. Generally, puppies less than 12 weeks old are more conducive to accepting cats as members of their family.

Also, give your dog the chance to get as much exercise as possible. Whether it’s running around in their yard or taking them on a walk, a tired dog is much less likely to be interested in chasing a cat. In addition, don’t forget the power of positive reinforcement. As an example, if you have a barrier such as a baby gate between your dog and cat when first introducing them, give your dog some treats and kind words along the way. Once they begin to associate the cat with positive results such as getting fed, this may work wonders.

While it may be something as simple as your dog being aggravated by a flea allergy that may have contributed to them attacking a cat, other factors may also be at play. But rather than assuming there is no hope for your dog and giving them away or even putting them down, realize it doesn’t have to end this way. By working with your vet and others, your dog may turn out to be a cat’s best friend.