Cats and dogs have a reputation for not getting along. In truth, these two species can peacefully co-exist. Communication between cats and dogs can be difficult, though. These animals use the same body language cues to convey completely different meanings.
Given time, cats and dogs can learn each other’s body language. This is likelier if both pets grow up together. Eventually, dogs will adapt to a cat’s communication style. This will involve touching noses as a greeting. Dogs will also understand when a cat wants to be left alone.
A cat will rarely communicate like a dog. Instead, your dog will learn what a cat is trying to say. Disagreements may still arise, as dogs are considerably more tactile than cats. With time and patience, a shared language will be established.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Can Cats Communicate with Dogs?
- 2 Cat and Dog Body Language
- 3 Cats and Dogs Talking
- 4 Cat and Dog Grooming
- 5 Cat and Dog Fighting
- 6 Cat and Dog Staring Behaviors
Can Cats Communicate with Dogs?
Upon first meeting, cats and dogs will struggle to communicate. The differences are too pronounced. Cats are also intimidated by dogs due to the size discrepancy. Many cats mistake canine greetings for acts of aggression.
But, according to Applied Animal Behavior Science, cats and dogs can learn to understand each other. This will lead to an amicable relationship. Under the right circumstances, felines and canines can even become friends.
You’ll know when your cat and dog have reached an understanding. Aside from the lack of fighting, they’ll rub noses to say hello. This means that your dog has learned how to communicate with your cat. From this stage, the two pets should live in harmony.
Introducing Cats and Dogs
Managing the introduction is key to mutual understanding between cats and dogs. Successful communication is reliant upon a range of criteria;
- Both pets should be young when meeting
- Settle the cat into the home before the dog
- Keep the animals separate until they are familiar with each other’s scent
- Observe early interactions carefully
It’s easier to introduce a dog to a cat’s home than vice versa. Successful communication is also likelier between kittens and puppies. Cats younger than six months are more adaptable. The same applies to dogs aged under a year.
Cat and Dog Body Language
There are many core differences between feline and canine body language. This can lead to misunderstandings between the species:
|Wagging Tail||Agitated or angry||Happy or excitable|
|Ears Pinned Back||Nervous and tense, and likely to attack if approached||Showing no threat, wants to approach and say hello|
|Lying on Back||Planning to attack. Lying on back to provide access to all claws||Wants to be approached and ideally tickled on the belly|
|Mouth Closed||Completely relaxed||Stressed and considering baring teeth|
Equally, cats and dogs share a handful of body language cues. These following generally mean the same in both species:
|Hackles Raised||“Leave me alone, or I will attack.”|
|Small Posture, Tail Tucked||“I am frightened, and I’m no threat. Please do not hurt me.”|
|Stiff Whiskers||“Something has captured my attention, and I want to investigate it.”|
|Yawning||“Let’s calm down. There’s no need to fight.”|
|Dilated Pupils||“I am overstimulated, and I am likely to attack.”|
|Blinking of the Eyes||“I’m just here to say hello. There’s no need to worry.”|
Other behaviors to observe include:
- Staring contests
Cats and dogs both use these communication cues. The pets may not understand each other, though. Learn and observe them yourself. This may prevent confrontation.
Cats and Dogs Talking
Cats and dogs speak a different language. Meows and barks are unique. The two species cannot understand each other any better than a Spanish speaker can understand Mandarin.
This will not stop cats meowing and dogs barking. It’s how these animals communicate. The fact that the other animal doesn’t understand can cause frustration. This can lead to fighting, especially if one pet is telling the other to back off.
Every cat has a unique approach to verbal communication. Learn what your cat’s meows mean and watch her interactions. If you suspect that your dog will be attacked, separate the pets.
You should also learn why your dog barks, too. Dogs bark more often than a cat meows, for a wider range of reasons. This can be intimidating for a cat. It may result in physical conflict.
My Cat Meows at My Dog
Cats do not meow at each other. They reserve this communication for humans. Usually, a meow is a request for attention. Your cat could meow at a dog for the same reason.
It’s often a basic greeting and acknowledgment. The cat may also be hungry and asking the dog if he has food. Of course, it could also be a warning sound. An elongated meow can translate as, “this is my territory and you better leave.”
Look out for other sounds. If your cat hisses or growls at your dog, separate the pets at once. These noises are precursors to a cat attacking.
My Dog Barks at My Cat
Dogs bark for a wide range of reasons. These include:
- Altering humans to the presence of a cat
- Trying to frighten the cat
- Demonstrating excitement at seeing the cat
- Warning the cat that somebody of something is approaching
Whatever the reason, cats will be intimidated by a barking dog. Most dogs are physically larger than cats. Cats have excellent hearing, so the barking will be deafening.
Train your dog out of barking at your cat. Keep the animals separate until they are used to each other. When your pets are together, praise and treat the dog for remaining silent. He’ll soon cease the barking habit.
Cat and Dog Grooming
Grooming is a universal language among animals. Cats and dogs both use grooming as an act of bonding. This usually occurs within the same species, but sometimes grooming crosses over.
Why Does My Cat Groom My Dog?
Ensure that your cat is grooming. Some cats look like they are grooming dogs. In reality, they are attacking. The cat is clawing and biting at the dog’s back.
This may be part of a kitten’s play pattern. Young cats like to play at hunting and stalking. Your cat may leap on your dog’s back from nowhere. She will then nip for attention and to instigate playtime.
A docile dog will accept this if he is not startled. Be mindful, though. As dogs age, they become less tolerant. An adult dog will have powerful jaws and significant weight advantage. If a fight breaks out, the cat will get hurt.
If your cat is grooming a dog, she is trying to mask a dog’s scent. Cats like to remain undetected. This is why they groom themselves so much. Regular bathing removes traces of odor.
By grooming a dog, the cat is making him invisible. This ensures that no predators can find them. The cat is saying, “if we must live together, you are not going to endanger me.”
Why Does My Dog Groom My Cat?
A dog grooming a cat is showing affection and protective instincts. The cat is being told that she is accepted as part of the pack.
Dogs groom other pack members for a variety of reasons. Oftentimes, it’s a measure of self-protection. The dogs are checking for parasites or wounds, cleaning up as they go. For a cat to receive this treatment is an honor.
Some dogs also groom to demonstrate subservience. Lower-ranking members of his pack will often groom an alpha dog. Your dog may be showing this submission to your cat. He is saying that he harbors no intention of ruling the house.
Cat and Dog Fighting
Playfighting is a common behavior in young cats and dogs. It’s how kittens and puppies learn acceptable limits of behavior. Cats and dogs have different approaches to play. This can cause problems if not managed.
Dogs like to wrestle and enjoy rough-and-tumble games. Cats like to hunt, stalking, and pouncing from the shadows. These play styles could not be more different. Either animal could be frightened by the other.
If a cat and dog grow up together, they’ll find common ground. They’ll find games that work. Just observe these playtimes. Watch out for a dog’s powerful jaws, and a cat’s sharp claws.
If you suspect that a playfight has turned sour, safely separate the animals. It’s easy for one pet to misread the verbal cues of another. After they calm down, you can reintroduce the pets.
Why Does My Cat Slap My Dog?
Cats often hit dogs, seemingly from nowhere. One moment the dog is minding his own business. The next, a cat paw has struck him.
Sometimes this is play. More often, it’s a reminder from the cat that she rules the house. Cats are territorial and insecure. Your feline pet will slap a dog that encroaches on her property.
A slap could also be a warning. If claws are kept unsheathed, there is no intention to wound. The cat is telling the dog that he is getting too close. The cat will issue a warning in advance by raising her paw. It’s down to the dog to learn and understand this cue.
Watching a cat slap a dog should not be considered funny as damage could be done. The dog may retaliate too. If your cat continually slaps your dog, seemingly without warning, keep them separated.
Cat and Dog Staring Behaviors
Cats and dogs both tend to stare. If both pets are staring into space, they can likely hear something you can’t. Felines and canines both have excellent hearing.
It’s possible that your pets are not staring but gazing. Dogs gaze into the eyes of their owners to enhance bonding. Science explains how this occurs. Your dog may be attempting the same trick with your cat. Differences between staring and gazing are outlined below:
|Cat Staring||Dog Staring||Cat Gazing||Dog Gazing|
|Mouth||Slightly open||Tightly closed||Closed||Slightly open|
|Ears||Pinned back||Flat against head||Pointed forward||Pinned back|
|Tail||Swishing and upright||Held vertically||Virtually still||Wagging|
The biggest difference between staring and gazing is in the eyes of the animals. If staring, the eyes will be bulging and watery. In gazing, the look is considerably softer.
If the animals are staring, a physical altercation will likely follow before long. Consider distracting your pets if they appear to be staring.
Why Does My Dog Stare at My Cat?
Your dog is likely trying to bond with your cat. The average dog wants to make friends. He’ll take the same approach with cats as he does humans. Unless it is afraid of your cat, your dog will keep trying to bond.
Staring is also common in working dogs. A border collie, for example, will display instinctive herding behaviors. Staring is a crucial part of this. The dog will stare at cattle to gain their attention, ahead of shepherding them. Your dog may be planning to usher your cat elsewhere.
Finally, consider whether your dog is attempting to understand your cat. If you understand a small amount of French, you’ll listen intently to a French speaker. You’ll need to concentrate to understand their meaning. The same applies to a dog learning feline body language.
Why Does My Cat Stare at My Dog?
Often, a staring cat is intimidated. Cats refuse to break eye contact. They consider this to be a sign of weakness. The cat will stare intently and make herself as large as possible.
If your cat is staring straight at your dog, distract her. There is a chance that she wants to engage. Some cats stare for attention. It’s likelier that she is planning an attack, though. A cat that stares at a dog will often strike him afterwards.