For centuries dogs and cats have been painted as sworn enemies. Some of us who have both dogs and cats that live together in harmony know that this is not always true, but as with every myth, misconception and urban legend, there is a kernel of truth to this ages old war saga.

Both dogs and cats are natural predators and despite being domesticated as pets, their prey drive is often triggered by motion.  Different breeds of dogs may have higher prey drives than other breeds…like sporting breeds, who were bred specifically for hunting. Even though dogs may live in a situation where they have NEVER hunted, like your cozy home in the suburbs for instance, instinct can kick in when a cat (or squirrel, chicken, rabbit, etc.) flashes past.  The movement of the “prey” catches the dogs attention, inciting him to chase.

For some dogs, the thrill is just in the chase.  In other dogs, the prey drive is so powerful that the dog carries it through to it’s unfortunate and logical conclusion….the death of the animal being chased. As a pet sitter, I have seen this scenario carried out to it’s tragic end in homes where the dogs and cats have cohabited for sometimes even years together. I have personally witnessed dogs even differentiate between cats in the house (off limits) and cats outside (fair game). How the cat reacts could potentially save it’s life.  A cat that stands it’s ground and hisses or swipes is far more likely to escape than one who runs.

If your dog likes to chase cats or other animals, there are things that you can do to correct this behavior.

  1. Hire a professional trainer or behaviorist to help you  learn ways to correct the behavior.
  2. Keep your dog leashed, even in the house if necessary, until the situation is under control.
  3. If your dog tries to go after your cat, redirect their attention to a favorite ball or toy. Playtime with the “special” toy should be limited to when cats are around.  
  4. Sometimes, the substitution of a toy isn’t enough. If your dog continues to try to chase cats, give the dog a leash correction or use an unpleasant sound to break the dogs concentration.  When the dog focuses their attention on you instead of the cat, reward the dog.  
  5. NEVER let your dog stare intently at a cat either.  Correct the dog by saying “NO”, by using an unpleasant noise, or whatever training technique you choose.

However you decide to train, the object should be that your dog must learn that running after the cat equals trouble; ignoring them brings good things.  

– By Beth Green, Owner
Paws Pet Care Pet Sitting & Dog Walking