Although cats and dogs play a similar role in our lives as pets, they are two very different species. They tend not to get along, with a natural instinct to fight or be wary of one another. Over time, this has led to the phrase “fighting like cats and dogs”.
It’s not only size and appearance that makes them so opposite – they speak a very different language and have different needs. For example, if you look at the way a dog would greet a human owner when they return home vs how a cat would, or even how they would each treat another cat or dog if they met in the street. Their body language and sounds would be very different. While cats meow, dogs bark, or while dogs wag their tail in happiness, cats can use their tail in aggression. Cats are very independent creatures enjoying time on their own, compared to dogs who are pack animals and love company.
There are lots of reasons as to why they typically clash, other than just being different species. Prior to being domesticated, cats and dogs would have roamed around in search of food – and both being carnivores, they would be after the same dinner! This caused them to fight over food when they came up against each other. They would intimidate each other, with woofing or hissing.
A natural instinct for dogs is to chase what runs away from them. Kittens will typically run from what they sense is danger, leading a dog to chase them and a mother cat to protect them, aiming to scare off the dog.
Having said this, cats and dogs can co-exist in harmony, and many pet owners have both without having any trouble! This usually works best when they’ve both been successfully socialised as puppies and kittens, when they learn threats, danger, and how to act around one another.
Personality also comes into this, so if you are aiming to introduce a new cat or dog into the family, consider the personality of the current pet – it’s best to avoid introducing a new animal if your cat or dog has territorial or aggressive traits. When living together, ensure each of them have enough of their own space that they can easily access when they want, for example separate toys, food bowls, and beds in separate areas.