Is the Dog and Cat War Biologically-Based?

Because I have had a large number of cats and dogs throughout my life. And they never quite got along. Some were certainly more tolerant than others (dogs). But that’s the farthest it went.

We got this collie mix in 1992 we called Willow. And Willow was unusually sweet-natured. Her former owners (who apparently abused her, BTW) called her Babe. And we had this orange tabby cat who apparently didn’t realize dogs were not his friends. Anyway, the cat (Pumpernickel) tried to befriend every dog, sometimes with disastrous results. But Willow didn’t mind Pumpernickel. I even saw Willow playing with him once as a kitten. But even Willow didn’t let Pumpernickel get too close, I assume you know what I mean.

That actually brings up another good point. Are dogs biologically predisposed to hate cats? Because I’ve noticed that is more likely than not the scenario.

I mean how are dogs/cats related to each other in the wild? And is this relationship in the wild significant? And lastly if a cat’s ancestors met up with a domestic dog’s ancestors in the wild, how would the meeting go? For each?

Thank you in advance for your kindly replies :slightly_smiling_face: .

My WAG is that it is prey drive.

There’s no love lost between any two territorial predators in the wild regardless of taxonomy. Rivalries between different kinds of pets probably just comes down to both depending on the same food, shelter, and security source.

I’ve had both on many occasions and in all cases they got along just great. I always assumed the “dog” thing was only in the cartoons.

I’ve had dogs that liked cats, although the cats didn’t seem interested in reciprocating. I also had a 90-pound Labrador who was afraid of cats and would go out of his way to avoid them (but he would chase squirrels as if they were a menace to civilization).

There isn’t any “war.” Whether a dog and a cat will get along depends on the personalities of the specific pets involved.

It is kind of peculiar that people see dogs and cats in a yin/yang, matter/antimatter relationship. Ask someone “What’s the opposite of dog?” and they’ll probably say “cat.” But there isn’t any biological basis for that; they’re just different animals.

Our first Border Collie was best friends with our Netherland Dwarf rabbit – they were thick as thieves. The other dog, however, (a Golden Retriever mix) only saw a moving plush toy and probably would have shaken it to death.

As far as the wild goes, I don’t think wolves and mountain lions interact very often. It’s more likely that coyotes and wolves might interact, and both being canines I would expect the wolf to chase the coyote out of its territory.

Mountain lions are very good at hiding, and while a wolf might smell one in the vicinity, the mountain lion would probably avoid encountering a wolf whenever possible. I don’t think wolves and mountain lions are mortal enemies, they just don’t have any reason to be friends since they often hunt in the same areas.

I understand that a Mountain lion will attack and eat a bobcat should the occasion arise. A pack of wolves would probably do the same to a lone coyote if they were hungry enough.

I have had multiple cats and dogs who were great friends; played together, slept curled up together. I’ve never known a dog who was raised with cats from a puppy, or a cat who was raised with dogs from a kitten, to show general dislike for the other species; though some individuals got along better than others. But then, some combinations of cats get along better than others; some combinations of dogs get along better than others; some combinations of humans get along better than others . . . you get the idea.

In other words: I think the premise of this thread is flat out wrong.

I think cats tend to be wary of any carnivore larger than themselves, and dogs want either to eat, or to dominate, any animal smaller than themselves. But calling it “hate” is not really correct.

Adding to the anecdotes:
I had a dog who lived for chasing cats, but now lives with one. They get along fine; she’ll occasionally nip at the cat’s ankles, but that’s to get her to play. I have pictures of them napping together. Yet when the dog sees cats outside, she still wants to give chase.

From my observation, dogs have a sense of their “pack”. It includes their humans, but also the other animals in the family. So a cat who lives with with the dog is different than other cats that the dog may see out and about.

This is, I think, the biggest difference between dogs (and humans) on the one hand, and cats on the other. Cats can be friendly with other cats, but it’s always on an individual basis. Cat A will live in peace with Cat B if both cats like each other. Three cats will live in peace if A and B like each other, and A and C, and B and C. And likewise for any number of cats… but the number of relationships grows much quicker than the number of cats, such that, with more than two or three, you’re very unlikely to have all of the cats liking all of the other cats.

Dogs and humans, meanwhile, have the notion of loyalty to a group. As long as Dog A and Dog B and so on are each loyal to the group, they’ll tolerate other individuals that they don’t like, but who are members of the same group. And a dog can accept humans, or cats, or rabbits, or whatever, as being members of the same group.

So if you have a pet dog and a pet cat, and the dog accepts the cat as a member of the group, and the cat likes that particular dog, then they’ll get along fine (though they’ll probably both be very confused by the other).

Elmer_J.Fudd nailed the correct answer. Both animals are natural predators, competing for the same resources. If the resources are abundant and reliable they can somewhat relax and bond into the same tribe/pack/family unit. If that disappears both of them will eat your face off and then challenge each other.

Evolutionary biology does not disappear, it only get puts on the back burner during prosperous times.

I think you may well have something there about different attitudes toward a group – but it’s more complicated than that.

For one thing, cats who don’t much like each other but share the same living quarters will often reach a sort of neutral truce status, in which while they’re not actively friends, and they may avoid being in the same spot at the same time, they don’t harass each other. (I’ve known this to sometimes evolve into friendship over several years; but that doesn’t always happen.)

For another, some cat colonies have a lot more than three cats in them, on a fairly steady basis.

For another – I have indoor/outdoor cats. And most of them, male or female, have tried to chase off any strange cat who shows up; usually sucessfully. (I’m surrounded by neighbors with un-neutered barn cats, so other cats wander over with some frequency.) But on the occasions when I’ve taken a cat into the house, while there may be a whole lot of swearing through a closed door for a couple of days, they’ve nearly always made friends, or at least reached truce status, once they get used to the idea that the New Cat lives here too.

I don’t know how to sort out whether this is because they’ve acknowledged that the New Cat is now part of the group; or whether they’ve just gotten used to the idea and realized that they’re still being fed and patted and not in danger from the New Cat. But it’s not just a matter of deciding that they like the other cat once they’re used to that specific cat being around, because while often that does happen and there’ll be eventually an obvious friendship, sometimes there’s only the Truce.

I currently have three dogs and two cats. The cats like each other and sleep near each other and play (when Terri can persuade The Captain to get off his fat ass, anyway) quite amicably. The Captain is a big older tomcat who is afraid of nothing and he’s fine with the dogs once they figure out he’s not to be messed with. Oddly though, he and the old dog Bear, while not being friends exactly tend to partner up when it’s time for pets and if Bear comes for an ear scritch The Captain will be right there to claim the other hand but he won’t do the same with either of the other dogs. Terri the younger cat thinks she IS a dog and she plays and loves up on the younger dogs all the time. They groom her ears (Kosh, the youngest, will pin her down like she’s a puppy and wash her face for her and she’s fine with it) and clean her fluffy butt if she’s been untidy in the litter box. Terri was also absolutely devoted to Widget, who died a few years ago, and she transferred her love to the young dogs as they came along.

A lot of this is their own natural affinities but a lot of it is training too–I don’t let the dogs chase the cats aside from a very token play lunge and when the cat indicates she’s done playing I make sure the dogs stand down. I do not think there’s anything innate about dogs vs cats aside from cats being smaller and they run away and dogs love to chase anything that runs. A cat who is calm and refuses to run can stop a dog in its tracks in confusion–my former cat Stiggs was like that, I saw him perplex and face down a charging pit bull five times his size by simply sitting and refusing to get shook as the dog ran at him. Stiggs was scared of NOTHING. I miss him.

Dogs raised with cats see cats as pack members.
Cats raised with dogs see dogs as mobile furniture, like hoomans.

Domestic cats and the small wild cats they came from are both predators and prey. They are going to be very wary of a predator larger than themselves. A wolf would certainly hunt a small cat. Just look at the instances of coyotes taking pets, for examples of this.

Predators will tend towards easy prey, unless they’re desperate, and small cats probably do fall into the easy category for wolves. A small cat might do more damage than a rabbit, but both can be one shot by a wolf.

There is also a language difference. Dogs and cats have different body language, and this can confuse them when living together. For example, a dog wagging its tail is happy, a cat wagging its tail is angry.

I had a dog that would only chase a cat if it ran. If it just sat there, he’d want to go up and sniff it to death. He was a rescue, and I’m thinking he might not have ever seen a cat, and he was always really curious about them.

We got him and his “sister” as a bonded pair, and I swear when we first took them out, they’d never walked on grass before. The rescue said they’d been crated-trained, but I think they probably spent most of their lives in their crates.

When I was growing up during the winter our farm dog (a german shepherd named Rebel) would lay in front of the south facing barn door with multiple barn cats curled up with him waiting for my dad to come out and do chores. As soon as my dad opened the back door of the house Rebel would jump up and start barking at the cats causing them to scatter. I guess he didn’t want to give the impression he got along with the cats.

Well, what tends to be very noticeable to humans is that dogs are pack animals, but domestic cats are not. Dogs are with humans at an extreme end of the sociability spectrum; cats are not at the other extreme, but they are far away from dogs. So in that respect there’s behavioral yin-yang there.

Yet they are both predators, with overlapping prey. This makes them rivals that would typically be mutually aggressive in a natural setting. Rival predators often kill each other’s young if they encounter them.

Both of you need to do some research on Youtube. There are multitudes of videos disproving your theory. Take this one, for instance–the cat is in the dog’s bed. The dog tries everything short of actual violence, but the cat refuses to move. There’s plenty of disdain on view, but no wariness.

You can find plenty of examples where large dogs are clearly afraid to cross a certain line with cats, whereas the cats are either indifferent or disdainful.