Is Your Dog Scared Of Cats? Here's What You Can Do
And how to get them to be BFFs 🐶🐱
Is your dog afraid of your cat?
Even though most dogs tend to be bigger than their feline siblings, it’s not uncommon to find a dog who’s totally terrified of her roomie cat.
While it might look a little silly from the outside, you shouldn’t ignore your dog’s fear. The best thing you can do is try to figure out how to get your pup to feel more comfortable around your cat.The Dodo reached out to Dr. Sarah Wooten, a veterinary journalist and veterinarian with Pumpkin Pet Insurance, to find out why your dog is scared of your cat, and how to get them to become besties.
Why are dogs afraid of cats?
The most common reason why dogs are afraid of cats is because they had a negative, scary or possibly painful experience with a cat in the past. “This experience could be anything from a jump scare to a painful encounter with teeth or claws, and it doesn’t matter that the dog is likely bigger than the cat, it only matters that the dog was scared by the cat at some point in their life,” Dr. Wooten told The Dodo.
Your dog’s fearful memory is evolutionarily designed to protect her from any more negative encounters with the feline species. “This fearful memory often seems irrational and excessive to humans, but in a dog’s mind it makes total sense,” Dr. Wooten said.
How to help your scared dog
The best way to deal with irrational phobias, including fear of cats, is to ensure that your dog has positive, happy experiences with cats during the critical socialization period that happens at around 7 to 15 weeks of age.
“During this time period, puppies are forming their opinions about the world around them,” Dr. Wooten said. “This is also the age when fear develops. If your puppy has happy, positive experiences with cats during this time period, it will likely lead to a harmonious relationship with these critters. If your puppy has scary, negative experiences with cats during this time, it will likely cause irrational fears.”
And while socializing your puppy is ideal to stop fears before they start, what about if your dog was already scared of cats when you adopted her? Or what if she became fearful later on?
In these cases, Dr. Wooten gave some tips on how to help your scared dog feel less anxious around your cat.
Don’t encourage the behavior
While your first instinct might be to run to snuggle your pup if she’s acting scared, it’s important to not encourage the behavior by consoling your dog with treats or cuddles.
“This seems counterintuitive to many dog owners because they just want to help their dog feel better; however, in the dog’s mind, any consoling you do when they are exhibiting fearful behaviors only reinforces that fearful behavior because it gets them what they want: your attention or food,” Dr. Wooten said.
Desensitize your dog
Instead of coddling your dog whenever she’s acting scared of your cat, Dr. Wooten recommends working with a professional dog trainer to desensitize your dog to the fearful stimulus — which in this case is your cat.
“This often requires patience and consistency on the human’s part to not get frustrated with the dog and to keep all training below the fear threshold, which a trainer can teach you how to do,” Dr. Wooten said.
Consider calming products
Calming products can aid in the process of reducing your dog’s fear of cats. They can help your pup stay calm whenever she interacts with a cat, which can encourage more positive experiences and ultimately build her trust.
You can pick and choose what you want to try in order to see what works best for you and your pup.
Some of the most common calming products include:
- Anxiety vests
- Calming chews
- Dog-appeasing pheromone products
Talk to your veterinarian
Some dogs may have extreme symptoms of fearfulness that can pose a threat to the health and safety of you or your dog. In these cases, talk with your veterinarian to see if she recommends trying prescription anxiety medicine for your dog.
Fear of cats isn’t usually a problem that’s solved overnight. It requires practice and consistency so that your dog can face her fears and finally become comfortable around your cat.
We independently pick all the products we recommend because we love them and think you will too. If you buy a product from a link on our site, we may earn a commission.