If you are a devoted, animal-obsessed, pet-lover like me – then you probably have several dogs as well as several cats. If that is the case, then you may have also had similar problems with them co-existing harmoniously due to the whole “dogs chase cats” thing. It can be difficult enough to get dogs to inhabit the same space without acting jealous or protective and getting into little scuffles, let alone adding a cat or kitten to the mix! But first, why do dogs chase cats anyway?
Well, this is a question that I’ve asked myself time and time again, when I have witnessed the same dogs of mine chase the same cats (that they’ve lived with for quite a while) over and over again. Well, the simple answer is that domesticated dogs still have remnants of their prey drive that their wild ancestors (wolves) had. Even though dogs have been domesticated for about 6,000 years, the instinct within them to chase small animals is still alive and well in their DNA. The only difference is that where wolves and other wild canines chased to kill and eat their prey, most domestic dogs do not have the intention to kill, but to simply hunt down and catch smaller animals that aren’t dogs.
When a dog chases something, it triggers the same response that their ancestors felt when they were feeling the “thrill of the hunt” – a rush of adrenaline in their bloodstream, causing them to feel extreme excitement. Whether they are chasing other dogs, people, toys, or your cat, they will literally enjoy it every single time because it’s instinctual. Unfortunately, when it concerns a party involved that does NOT wish to play “chase” as is the case with most cats, you may run into issues – hence why you are reading this blog entry.
So then how do you make sure that your feisty dog doesn’t chase your beloved feline – or even worse, paws or bites the cat and accidentally hurts it? Well, for starters – you probably didn’t introduce the cat and dog to each other effectively. Don’t blame yourself, though – it can be a tricky process, and demand quite a bit of work. Basically, you cannot let your dog show any sort of heightened interest, excitement, disapproval, or (obviously) aggression towards the cat. Just slowly introduce the two together, so it’s a “no big deal” type of situation, as if the cat has always been there and the dog just never noticed it before. It’s important to pay attention to body language (yawning, scratching, cowering, etc.) , noises (growls, whining, barking, etc.), and the eye contact between the two creatures. As soon as the dog is displaying some kind of over-the-top response to the cat, the dog should be removed from the situation. Best Friends has a great article detailing how to introduce a cat and a dog to each other!
But, since you’re reading this article, you are probably already having issues with your cats and dogs getting along – I know I am! There are a few ways to try and stop the chasing if it is already happening, one of which is to teach your dogs the simple basic commands that it should already know, such as “leave it!” or “stay!” so that you can interrupt the chasing process with one of these exclamations. Another helpful training tidbit is to teach your dog to “ask for permission” before it does anything, which will cause them to look to you for approval in order to leave your side, chase a cat, etc. Obviously if your dog is trained to ask for permission to chase the cat, you will promptly let it know that NO, it CANNOT chase the cat. Hopefully (if trained properly) your dog will resist the urge to chase, and if not, then maybe next time (or the time after that) he will catch on. Here are a bunch of commands to try according to Dog Training Excellence.com! They also have a very helpful list of exercises to do in order to ensure that your dog really does apply its training to real life examples!
Another reason why your dog could be chasing the cat is because it isn’t being exercised enough; if this is the case, then it is quite an easy fix! When a dog is cooped up in the house all day with very little physical activity, it can create a host of issues ranging from pet obesity to separation anxiety, and including the urge to chase everything and anything. This shouldn’t be too difficult to understand; if a dog isn’t getting the exercise it needs, it will find a way to get it! What better way to exercise than to chase the household cat around a few times? Well, there are plenty of better exercises like taking a walk, a hike, or even running with your dog on your treadmill if you have one. Aside from physical exercise, it’s good to exercise your dog’s brain as well – with either training (which we’ve already discussed), dog puzzles, or other games! Best Friends has another very helpful article that goes into depth about stopping your dog from chasing.
Hopefully if you are dealing with a dog-chasing-cat conflict at the moment, you will be able to attempt some of these methods and modify the chasing behaviors of your dog. Just remember that it won’t be a quick, easy fix – it will most likely take hours, days, weeks, and perhaps a couple months to undo the routine of cat-chasing. To those who have a dog and are thinking of adopting a cat (and vice versa), please go through the effort of introducing your cat and dog correctly and as slowly as possible! Preventing the chasing is way easier than trying to fix it once it has already been happening. Together, we will shatter the stereotype that dogs always chase cats – one dog and cat at a time!