Old cartoons fooled us all into thinking that cats are afraid of dogs, but many of us know that this usually is far from the truth.
Pet owners that have both dogs and cats will often tell you that the cats are the ones with the real run of the house, and the dogs know to give them a wide berth.
What about when the cat is less of a boss and more of a bully?
It may be fine for the cat to sit perched atop the household pet hierarchy, but if they’re actively seeking out the dog to have a confrontation then you may have a problem on your hands and it may be time to intervene.
How Does Your Cat Bully Your Dog?
Cats may bully a dog in many ways. The cat might block the dog’s path and hold a stiff posture in an attempt to intimidate the dog. They may arch their backs, growl, or hiss to scare your poor pooch.
This body language might stop your dog in their tracks and frighten them, but the cat may escalate also and swipe, bat, bite, or claw your dog.
Many dogs will not retaliate, so the wounds will be one-sided and require immediate cleaning, disinfecting, treatment, and/or the vet. In severe cases, the dog may retaliate, causing injury to the cat as well.
Cats also prey on dogs by pouncing from high places unexpectedly. Some dogs are okay with this and see it as play, but others will grow fearful and cower when the cat is nearby.
If they are able to smell the cat, then they will learn that they can never be too relaxed for fear of being ambushed.
Do Cats Assert Dominance Over Dogs?
Sometimes the bullying is unintentional, and your furry feline friend just wants a playmate!
In other situations, cats do it to show dominance. Animals, especially dogs, rely on hierarchies to determine who is in charge and who is meant to follow.
Even if a dog accepts the cat as boss, that may not stop your kitty from seizing opportunities to show that they call the shots.
Also, check out why does my cat slap my dog
Why Does My Cat Bully My Dogs?
Here are some common reasons cats bully dogs, and what you can do to fix things before they get out of hand.
1. They Consider The Dog Prey
Big cats in the wild stalk and hunt for food, but also for sport. They are thrilled to chase and pounce at just the right moment, demonstrating their great instincts, agility, and precision in one fell swoop.
It’s exhilarating to the wild cats, but to your furry feline friend too! House cats may wrongfully decide to pick on your puppy and treat them as prey.
Some dogs don’t mind this interaction and treat it like a game. If that’s your dog and the constant darting in and out by the cat is not resulting in injuries to either animal, you probably don’t need to worry.
If, however, the dog has grown fearful of the cat’s unpredictable behavior and they shrink or cower in the cat’s presence, it’s time to intervene. Left unchecked, a fearful dog may lash out and cause harm to your cat.
Provide outlets to your cat for them to exercise their prey drive without using your poor pooch. Play with a wand and string, toy mice, balls, and bells that give them a chance to chase, run, pounce and play.
By engaging them regularly, they have an appropriate way to express their instincts without troubling the dog, and you should be able to restore harmony before long.
2. They’re Redirecting Their Aggression
Redirected aggression is common in many animals. Something riles them up, they start to feel angry, fearful, or otherwise unpleasant about something that’s going on, but they lack the tools to manage it appropriately.
Just like a person might do when they don’t know how to deal with bad feelings, they lash out at the first person or thing that they come across. For your cat, that may be the dog!
If your cat has become aggressive over something uncommon or unusual, you’ll want to keep them apart temporarily while your cat calms back down.
If the cat is upset over something that happens regularly, it’s prudent to identify what it is and stop it from happening moving forward.
Does your dog race back and forth when the doorbell rings, wiping out the cat and anything else in their path? Anticipate visitors and encourage calm behaviors from your dog when they arrive.
Get them in a sit-stay position and reinforce with treats so that they stay calm and let your cat stay peaceful during these typical times of heightened activity.
If basic obedience doesn’t curb their enthusiasm and get them to relax, try using a good leash and the best dog harness to keep them from terrorizing your poor kitty cat.
Is the impetus totally unrelated to the dog? Maybe you had the unfortunate job of bathing your cat and they’re not quite over the experience.
In these scenarios, keep the dog away from the cat until the cat gets over things. If your dog is overly curious, well, you know how the saying goes.
3. They’re Possessive
Cats love to act like they own the place, and they may think they own you too!
It’s nice to feel loved, but possessive behaviors are unhealthy and could lead to fights and injuries between your two pet pals. Try establishing a hierarchy that must be honored at all times.
Usually, and especially for feline bullies, the cat enjoys the alpha status. If they are in your lap or receiving pets, your dog must wait at a distance until it’s their turn.
Of course, you’re the real alpha in the house, so you can cut the cat’s turn short if they’re unwilling to share.
However, you don’t want to throw the kitty aside for the puppy just because the dog is more eager to get some love.
Food is another common thing that animals act possessive over. If it’s your food they’re fighting over, keep the two separated and refrain from rewarding either until their energy is calm.
For their own food, make sure your cat’s food is up high and out of reach for the dog. It’s unfair and inappropriate for your dog to sniff or lick the cat’s bowl whether they’re done or not.
4. They’re Incompatible.
When all else fails, it may be time to recognize that they may not be compatible with one another no matter what. If the cat is playful but the dog is curmudgeonly, they will not get along. If the cat is constantly irritated by the dog’s inquisitiveness, this is a problem too.
The best you could hope for in these situations is that the cat keeps to itself and out of the dog’s reach. Decorate your house with cat trees and other high objects, so cats can take advantage of their high jumping abilities and stay out of the dog’s way.
If your cat still picks a fight and there’s still constant tension, you can try to keep them totally separate at all times. Although this will work, it may not be entirely realistic or fair to either animal.
If you can’t manage to get them to tolerate one another after intervening and correcting over time, it may be time to accept that they will not cohabitate and rehoming one will be the best thing for both animals and for you as well.
Should I Let My Cat Bully My Dog?
We as owners might feel like it’s difficult to address, and the dog may just back off when the cat is ornery.
What’s the harm in letting them sort things out on their own then?
Unfortunately, it can be devastating. In the most extreme cases, your dog may reach their limit and retaliate, resulting in injuries to one or both animals. Many dogs are significantly larger than cats, so the injuries can be grave.
You’ll want to stop your cat from bullying, but here are some tips to stop your dog from being aggressive towards the cat in the meantime.
Even if the drama never culminates in a dramatic altercation, your dog may be suffering quietly on a regular basis. Not knowing if or when the cat will start with them causes anxiety, nervousness, and unease.
Your dog may feel as though they’re on pins and needles, and it could manifest in nervous or anxious behaviors. In some cases, it could start contributing to health problems as well.
Whether the bullying results in a brawl or not, it’s not a good quality of life for either animal and you should not allow it to happen.
How Do I Stop My Cat From Bullying My Dog?
How you intervene depends on the type of bullying behavior your cat is exhibiting towards the dog. The following general strategies may help reduce or eliminate bullying behaviors in cats:
- Redirect animals when bullying is occurring
- Play with your cat regularly
- Engage your cat in games that provide an outlet for their prey drive
- Keep your cat’s food bowl inaccessible to the dog
- Refrain from showing affection to either animal if they show possessive behaviors
- Encourage calm behavior from your dog through basic obedience
Some cats are very challenging to work with and will continue bullying even if the above guidelines are incorporated. When things seem like they’re getting out of hand, consult an animal behavior expert for specific strategies.
If you try your best but cannot get results, and experts agree that there’s no further action, the last resort is rehoming one or both of the animals. Rehoming an animal is very difficult, both logistically and emotionally, but it is sometimes the best when all else fails.
Hopefully, intervention on your part and some smart strategies to manage their behavior will squash the beef and restore order in your home.
Frequently Asked Questions
Sometimes the cat is the aggressor, but it’s in response to how the dog is acting. Dogs, especially younger dogs and puppies, are inquisitive, curious, and occasionally overly eager.
A dog that is too involved in entering the cat’s personal space may ignore warnings to back up and prompt an aggressive reaction from your cat.
In situations like these, try to redirect your dog and employ basic obedience commands to get them to stand down and behave. If they are not listening, try practicing obedience training in increasingly distracting environments until they’re more apt to behave while the cat is in the room.
A little extra exercise can’t hurt either. A dog with less pent-up energy is more likely to react calmly to your cat, and also more likely to heed obedience commands.
You might have tried everything possible and yielded no results. If no matter what, your dog and cat feud, you can try separating them full time. Use barriers to contain the dog and take measures to dissuade or preclude the cat from entering the dog’s space.
You could also just keep them in separate rooms with an actual door shut in between, but this may cause distress to the animal that can hear and smell you but cannot interact.
Unfortunately, keeping them apart requires a lot of effort and often hurts the quality of life of one or both of the animals. As difficult as it is, rehoming one of the animals is a better strategy when no other tactic is working to bring peace.
An old-school way of redirecting an aggressive or ill-behaved cat is by spritzing them with a water bottle. Unfortunately, modern studies show that the cat is not likely to associate the spray with bad behavior.
Because they fail to make the association, it’s a needlessly cruel way to interrupt the cat and will only lead to more stress, fear, and uncertainty.
The aggressive behaviors will continue or intensify. We do not recommend spraying your cat with a water bottle for any reason.
It’s difficult as it is caring for both a dog and cat in the same house. They both require a lot of love and attention but often express themselves in different ways.
In some instances, cats may bully the dog out of boredom, fear, or anger. It can be difficult to address, but it cannot be allowed to go unchecked.
The good news is that there are many ways to redirect and correct the cat’s bad behavior. By taking a little time to address the problem, you, your dog, and your cat will live a happy and healthy life.