Why does my dog go crazy when he sees a cat?

Cats and dogs are natural frenemies. They can live harmoniously for one second and be bickering like little humans the next. It gets kind of confusing especially when you see them sharing a bed and sleeping soundly. They are cute and everything but they will make you think, why does your precious dog like to chase around your lovable feline?

Dogs and their many tales of chasing

Dogs are actually very smart, they can be trained and be very loyal to their owners. However, there is always the question, why do dogs like to chase around small animals including cats?

High Predatory Tendencies

Your dog is basically a tamed predator. They have something that you can call predatory aggression. This is when dogs have high prey drive and movement mostly triggers this kind of aggression. Before dogs were domesticated, they hunted to fend for themselves. While in the wild, they adapted through sharpening their sense of sight and smell. Their senses are heightened when they lock their eyes on their target and would run and chase after their target.

Dogs like chasing because that was how they survived pre-domesticated times. Dogs like to chase while cats like to run and get away from the dog. This response actually excites the dog to chase the cat more and can possibly turn on their predatory aggression.


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Dog triggers: Smell, Sight or Sound?

There was a study conducted by Christy Hoffman, from the Department of Animal Behavior, Ecology and Conservation at Canisius College, wherein they observed 69 pet dogs to determine whether dogs are triggered by the sight, smell or sound of a cat. She examined 69 dogs with different breeds and mixed breeds.

Their findings showed that dogs are more responsive to the sound rather than sight and smell. According to Hoffman, “Our findings suggest that dogs are relying more heavily on another sense, hearing. This was surprising since most behavioral assessments focus on dogs’ responses to visual stimuli. Our findings suggest that employing assessments that engage other sensory modalities, especially sound, may provide additional clues about an individual dog’s behavior.”

They also disclosed that dogs with a history of harming small animals have the tendency to react to the sound of a cat. When Hoffman’s team displayed the cat dummy in front of the dog, they remained observant and curious. However, when the cat made a sound they barked and barked like there was no tomorrow.

Dog triggers: Movement

Dogs are known to chase anything that is moving past them. Have you seen videos of dogs following a shadow? Or dogs catching their own tails? These are all because dogs have the predatory impulse to chase. Chasing is basically embedded in their DNA. Dogs were predators before they became man’s best friend.

Movement triggers the impulse of your dog to chase around your cat. It should be noted that this does not mean that your dog is aggressive, he is just acting out on an impulse. However, this also should not be taken lightly because your dog might think that your cat is their prey. It would be best if you separate your canines and felines.

Dogs aren’t aggressive, they just have an impulse to hunt because it is imprinted in their biology. They survived years and years without humans, so the impulse is always there. They like to chase around cats because they are triggered by movement and hearing, like what a hunter does. Dogs chasing cats are normal, but it is not something that you should also ignore.

Common Questions

Do dogs hate cats?

Dogs don’t hate cats. However, historically, cats and dogs did not get along. Cats are the smaller creature and were dogs prey. Everything from the dog’s chasing, to the cats running away, is triggered by an impulse. They just need a wee bit of time to adjust to each other.

Is it normal for my dog to be barking at my new cat?

Yes, it’s normal for dogs to bark at strangers or anything that is unfamiliar to them. However, the dog’s behavior may be a sign that your dog is not yet ready for your new cat. Give them a space of their own and let them adjust gradually. According to Pet Web MD, a website for pets, lots of other things are triggering your dog to bark at your cat:

  • Territorial
  • Fear
  • Loneliness
  • Dogs want to play
  • Attention seeking
  • Separation anxiety

How to stop my dog from chasing my cat?

If your dog starts chasing your cat it would be best to:

  1. Separate them to assure that none of them will be harmed
  2. Start training your dog if s/he starts chasing your cat, put him in a cage or whatever it is that you need to do that basically tells your dog that s/he needs a time out
  3. As soon as you see your dog staring at your cat, call his name and redirect his attention. If s/he would walk towards you, give him/her a treat.
  4. If your dog is chasing your cat, redirect his attention towards you but please do not use force. If possible, get your cat to a safe place and then distract your dog. Then put him/her on timeout.
  5. If none of the above are effective, it is best if you call a professional trainer. They will know how to control a dog undergoing predatory aggression
Why does my dog go crazy when he sees a cat?