Why do dogs try to kill cats? It's a strange and worrying question to be asking yourself, isn't it? If you've just experienced your pet pooch acting in a savage and completely unexpected manner at the sight of a cat, you're probably still reeling from the shock.
Have you just watched your dog staring through the window at a cat stalking across the backyard and realized that if he got loose, he would quite possibly rip that poor kitty to shreds? It's quite a scary thing to witness your normally quiet and very affectionate dog spot a cat and completely lose his mind. You thought he wouldn't hurt a fly, but as he drools, frothing saliva down the window pane, you may have realized your dog has decided to display some seriously fierce traits he'd previously been hiding. Frightening isn't it?
So why do dogs try to kill cats?
The Root of the Behavior
While we sentimental humans see cats as a lovable mascot, what your dog sees when that tabby tiptoes over the yard is either an interloper on his territory or at the most basic level, to put it quite bluntly, dinner. Even though you may happily feed your dog kibble three times a day and offer him treats in between, somewhere still lurking in his doggy brain is the need to source his next meal. Anything that moves is a likely candidate for a protein filled snack. When he spots that cat, he's already planning the chase and the pursuit, as far as he's concerned should have only one inevitable end which happens when he catches his prey and eats it. Fortunately for the cat, there's something standing in the way of his feral feelings and that's you, his owner.
Dogs can be very protective towards their owners, which is one of the reasons we love them so much. It's good to know, no matter how big your dog is, that you've got a four-legged friend on your side when you need them. He'll bark, growl, and hopefully scare off any prospective intruder from your home, but a dog can often misgauge the level of threat and overreact. Who knows, but maybe in his mind's eye, he sees that foraging feline as a marauding tiger who is stalking you. As far as he's concerned, his major priority is to save you from being eaten alive. Call it pack protection mode if you like. You're part of his pack and he's not going to let anything happen to you if he can possibly help it.
We live with the common misconception that all of Nature's species, once domesticated, should be able to live perfectly harmoniously under the same roof. While that's okay if you're Noah and housing animals in a biblical ark, it just doesn't happen in reality as that's not what Nature intended. Yes, dogs and cats can get along and many do, but there'll always be those momentary blow ups between them which is basically your dog telling the cat that if they were still in the wild they would, without a doubt, be natural enemies and he would try to kill it.
Encouraging the Behavior
While it may be genetically normal for a dog to try to kill a cat, it's not acceptable in the society we live in today. We love our pets and if anything happens to them, it can be seriously soul destroying. Cat owners love their cats as much as dog owners love their dogs. There's nothing worse than seeing your adored mascot badly hurt or with injuries from being attacked. It can be as traumatic for the owner as it is for the animal and so letting your dog try to kill a cat should be avoided at all costs.
Some dogs can develop an exaggerated dislike of felines. It can occur because at some time, maybe when they were a pup, they've given chase to a cat which has then turned on them. When cornered or in fear of their lives, cats can be pretty ferocious. They'll spit and lash out and if their claws connect, they can give a dog a nasty scratch. If your dog has experienced something like that, he's going to be very wary and possibly even aggressive towards any cat which crosses his path. If you know your dog has had a conflictive cat moment and detests them as a result, the best thing to do to try and avoid him attempting to kill one is to keep him as far away from cats as you possibly can.
Other Solutions and Considerations
A defensive cat can cause a dog serious harm, leaving him with some pretty sore wounds. If a cat's claws connect with his eyes, he could end up with a scratched retina or worse, be blinded. If your dog has suffered injuries from a cat, you may want to consider getting him checked over by a vet to prevent the risk of the lesions becoming infected. If your dog really does hate cats and you're seriously worried he may try to harm one if given the chance, why not consider attending some training sessions with a professional dog trainer? They'll be able to give you advice and show you some techniques on how to control your dog's urge to try to kill a cat.
While it is, as far as it goes, normal for a dog to try and kill a cat, it's really something he's got to learn he just can't do. The only other option is to try and convince him that the chase isn't worth it and that cats are just not very tasty, but they are, or could be, something very nice to cuddle up to.
Written by a Chihuahua lover Liz Correal
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 02/18/2018, edited: 01/30/2020