I have a cat and a dog. It took them a few days to get accustomed to each other, but they’ve become great friends. Watching them play together is often the highlight of my day. 

Some cats and dogs get along, and even enjoy each other’s company. Mine are currently sleeping side by side. However, this isn’t always the case. Many cats are scared of dogs, and there can also be animosity between them. 

If you’ve ever wondered why cats are scared of dogs, your about to find some answers. You’ll also learn what you can do to help your dogs and cats get along, or at least tolerate each other. 

Why are cats so scared of dogs?

In the wild, cats are both predators and prey. They hunt smaller animals, including mice and birds. They are hunted by other animals, including dogs. This puts them in a unique position. They must be skilled hunters, but they must also be wary of potential predators. 

Dogs as Predators

You may find it hard to think of your pooch as a predator. In fact, most domestic dogs may go their entire lives without ever making a kill. They still have some predatory instincts, but typically not all of them. 

For example, most dogs love to chase things, especially smaller animals. This is part of the natural canine hunting instinct. However, most dogs are content to chase. They don’t want to catch their “prey”. If they did, they probably wouldn’t know what to do with it. 

However, cats don’t know this. They are not going to stop and ask a dog how they feel about hunting. “Excuse me, Rover. Do you plan to eat me, or only chase me?”

They have to assume that the dog will harm them, because some dogs will. These dogs have a stronger prey drive. For cats to stay safe, they must view dogs as predators, and take the necessary precautions. 

Size 

Size is another reason cats fear dogs. After all, if someone two or three times your size ran at you aggressively, you’d be much more scared of them than you would be with someone your own size. 

When a cat sees a large dog, they know the dog could easily overpower them if given the opportunity. A cat has some defenses against a dog of any size, but the smaller the dog, the greater their odds of survival from a physical standpoint. 

Of course, many large dogs are easy going and don’t see cats as a snack. But a cat must put themselves at risk to learn if a dog is friendly or not. 

Communication 

Dogs and cats are wonderful at communicating with members of their own species. They have scents, verbal signals, and body language to get their point across. When interacting with a member of the other species, however, communication is much more difficult. 

A dog that is barking and moving around because it wants to play, can easily be seen as aggressive to a cat, who is more reserved. Even a greeting can turn into a scary encounter, because dogs are more inclined to move in close and get personal. 

If you watch two dogs meet for the first time, they will quickly move from looking at each other to sniffing butts. Cats, on the other hand, will often circle each other for a few moments, or even minutes. Finally, they may take a tentative, careful butt sniff. 

Instinct

Cats are hardwired to be afraid of dogs, as they are any natural predator. Today’s felines may be domesticated, but they are much closer to their wild counterparts than dogs. Their wild instincts never really go away, and this includes being wary of predators. 

Previous Experiences

If the cat has had bad experiences with dogs in the past, they will remember them. If one dog scared them, they will be wary of dogs in general. Both cats and dogs have an associative memory. 

If they associate dogs with a negative experience, they will remember that they felt unpleasant when around a dog. That will affect their future experiences with dogs. 

No Exposure to Dogs

On the other hand, if a cat hasn’t been around dogs, this can also cause them to fear them. Cats are naturally wary of anything unfamiliar. When combined with their natural instinct to fear dogs as predators, it’s no surprise they are scared. 

How do I get my cat to stop being scared of my dog?

You own a cat and a dog, but your cat lives in fear of your pooch. This isn’t an ideal situation for anyone. The good news is there are things you can do to improve the relationship. You should be aware, however, it will take time and effort. 

Recognize That Your Cat’s Fear is Reasonable

It can be frustrating when your cat is scared of your dog. However, it’s important to understand that they have valid reasons for their fear. This can help you be patient when working with your cat to be comfortable around your dog. 

Safety is the First Priority 

When working with a cat and dog, you must keep safety in the front of your mind. Once they are well acclimated and you are sure your cat is safe, you can relax. In the beginning, you’ll need to be careful. 

Watch for signs that your dog views your cat as prey. These include staring at the cat, crouching, growling, lunging, and stiff posture. You don’t want your dog to chase your cat, and you certainly don’t want them to attack your cat. 

Watching for the signs your dog views your cat as prey can help you avoid these situations. Be prepared to grab one of the animals and get them to safety the moment you notice signs of aggression or hunting behavior. 

Separate Them

It’s best to introduce your cat and dog slowly. Give your cat one room of the house to stay in at first, and ensure the dog can’t get in the room. If your cat is new to the home, give them a day or two to settle in before moving to the next step. 

Let Them “Smell” Each Other

Take an item from your dog and cat. This might be a blanket or a toy. What’s important is that it has the other pets scent on it. Trade the objects, so the cat has the dog object and the dog has the cat object. 

Because they are scent oriented animals, this is a great preliminary introduction. It also allows them to become familiar with each other without your cat getting scared. If your cat is very apprehensive, you may need to repeat this process a few times, trading items every day or two. 

Careful Introduction 

Now you are ready to make a formal introduction. There are a few ways you can do this. One is to place them on either side of a door with a baby gate. They can see and smell each other, but they can’t harm each other. If the cat gets scared, it can retreat, and the dog can’t follow. 

Another method is to have someone help you. You hold your dog, and they hold your cat. Let the cat down to investigate the dog, keeping the dog in your arms. If the cat gets aggressive, have your helper pick it up immediately. End the session, and try again later. 

If the cat seems scared, it’s time to end the session. You want your cat to have positive, or at least neutral, experiences with the dog. Fear will create a negative experience. 

The Power of Positivity 

Throughout the introduction process, make things as positive for both your pets as possible. One way to do this is by giving them treats. Be careful that they don’t get jealous and try to steal each other’s treats, however. 

If your cat gets a treat when they see the dog, they will begin to associate seeing the dog with getting treats. This will hopefully lead to them liking the dog over time. If not, they will at least be willing to tolerate the dog in order to get a treat. 

Why do cats hate dogs so much?

Despite the phrase, ” fighting like cats and dogs”, most cats don’t hate dogs. What we perceive as hate is likely fear, for obvious reasons we’ve already mentioned. 

However, cats and dogs can also have other types of relationships. Put simply, one of three things will happen with cats and dogs.

The cat being scared of the dog is the first possibility. The second is the cat and dog becoming friends. The third is that the cat and dog are indifferent to each other. 


How long does it take cats to get used to dogs?

In my personal experience, it took about 3 days. I watched them carefully for the first few days. My cat spent a significant amount of time out of reach of my dog. It made her feel safe, and allowed her to get used to the dog. Within a week, they were beginning to play together. 

Of course, there are so many variables it’s impossible to say exactly how long it will take a particular cat to get used to a dog. It very much depends on the dog and cat themselves, but a proper introduction can help. 

General Time Frame 

The general time frame you should be prepared for is a few weeks to a few months. Expect the process to happen slowly and in stages. The cat may start out wary or even scared of the dog. 

The next stage may be tentative sniffs. This can eventually progress to the two spending time together and playing together. 

Patience is key. Do not rush the process. If your cat gets scared, it will only slow things down more. 

Previous Experience With Dogs

If the cat has had good experiences with dogs, they are likely to get used to a dog fairly quickly. If they’ve never seen a dog before, it depends on their age. Kittens can adjust to a dog much easier than an adult cat. 

Just like people, adult cats are set in their ways, and find it harder to accept new things. If you have a kitten that’s never been around a dog, you have a clean slate. If introduced correctly, they should get along well. 

Personality 

Personality plays a large role as well. It’s helpful if the cat and dog are somewhat similar in personality and energy level. If you have a stoic cat and a hyper dog, the cat will find it more difficult to adjust than if the dog is reserved. If the cat wants to play and the dog doesn’t, this can also take some getting used to. 

Another aspect of personality is how well the cat adjusts to things in general. Do they accept change easily, or do they become stressed by any break in the routine? 

Lastly, the friendliness of both animals matters. Are they social animals, or do they prefer to be left alone? A cat that prefers solitude can learn to tolerate a dog, but they may never like it. 

Do dogs hurt cats?

Most dogs don’t hurt cats, but some do. The dog isn’t being mean, anymore than a cat who catches a mouse is being evil. It’s simply their instinct to hunt cats. 

Because dogs are domesticated, it’s rare that they will actually hurt a cat. Most don’t have a prey drive strong enough to lead them to do so.

Breeds Likely to Harm Cats

Some breeds are more likely to harm cats than others. Generally, dogs bred for hunting are the ones to watch. Hounds, Mastiffs, Huskies, and Bull Terriers are among the most likely to make a meal out of your feline. 

Some dogs from these breeds can get along well with cats, particularly if they were socialized with them as puppies. However, some view the cat as prey, which is dangerous for the kitty. 

Author

I created and currently run Kitty Cat Tips, the website that you can go to when you have questions about your cat's behavior. It's my hope that you find Kitty Cat Tips to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your cat. You can read more about me and my website here.