Before the Capulets and the Montagues started murdering each other, before Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci began a bitter painting contest, before Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier battled in the ring, there’s one long-standing fight that had been brewing eons ago and remains up to this day: the blood-feud between dogs and cats.
Two of man’s closest and favored allies, dogs and cats have always been depicted in books, movies, and cartoons to compete against each other—from everything to table scraps and human affection.
But what do we know really? Does the phrase “fight like cats and dogs” have some truth in it?
Busting the myth
The short answer is: no, dogs aren’t hardwired to hate cats. If they were, how can you explain the close relationship between most dogs and cats in one household? Contrary to what is portrayed in cartoons, dogs and cats can live together in peace and harmony.
The main reason why our furry friends sometimes don’t get along easily is due to their social differences.
So alike but so different
Dogs and cats are both mammals, but they speak different languages. Just ask anyone providing dog or cat care in Bay Area or near you.
For instance, when dogs are taken to a new place or meet a new person, they will typically get excited with their ears up, a wagging tail, and wide eyes. This is almost exactly how a cat would interpret a possible threat and would respond with a stare, tail up, and showing teeth. Instinct would also tell them to climb or run away. Dogs, however, would interpret it as the cat’s way of inviting them to a game, and so the inevitable chase ensues.
Cats tend to approach new people, animals, or places differently. They often prefer to hang back and investigate the situation. Appearing cold, cats would greet a new person or animal slowly and carefully, with narrowed eyes and gentle sniffs. This is why our feline friends are often dubbed as mean or antisocial when in truth they just take a while to warm up. This is probably the reason why there are not many cat parks around.
It’s also important to examine the situation from an evolutionary standpoint. Dogs are known to have descended from highly social wolves; while cats are from solitary Arabian wildcats. So you really can’t expect the two—extroverts and introverts—to immediately get along, can you?
Avoiding miscommunication and the violent kerfuffle
The key to ensuring our furry friends forget this inevitable enmity all boils down to proper introduction. A good exercise would be bringing both animals into the same room and training them how to interact with each other.
For instance, give a dog a treat when he’s calm, and take him away if he starts lunging at your cat. This will teach the dog that assaulting cats is a no-no; it will also teach the cat that it’s possible to enjoy companionship and security with the dog in the same room.
Eventually, they’ll learn to adjust their behavior and keep in mind that good things can happen when they’re together and on their best behavior.