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Do Cats Think Dogs Are Cats? Vet-Reviewed Science & Info

Written by: Brooke Billingsley

Last Updated on March 22, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Cat and dog together on sofa indoors

Do Cats Think Dogs Are Cats? Vet-Reviewed Science & Info


Dr. Luqman Javed Photo


Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Even though cats and dogs have a negative association, many get along very well. If you have dogs and cats, you probably already know that! Seeing cats and dogs interact can range anywhere from cute to hilarious, and sometimes, it may even feel like you’re watching two aliens interact.

Do cats and dogs understand each other, however? Do they recognize that they aren’t interacting with their species? Does your cat think your dog isn’t another cat in the house? To put the question to rest, cats do not think that dogs are cats. 

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Do Cats Think Dogs Are Cats?

While cats may not fully understand what dogs are, they know that they aren’t cats. The body language and verbal communication between cats and dogs are different. In some cases, the difference in communication can lead to misunderstandings and high tension.

If your dog and cat are accustomed to each other and are socialized, they likely have figured out how to communicate. This communication can sometimes fail, no matter how comfortable they are with each other. Just like human siblings, sometimes tensions run high, and hissing or scratching may occur.

cat and dog fighting
Image Credit: Moshe EINHORN, Shutterstock

Do Dog-Like Cats Think Dogs Are Cats?

Even dog-like cats are aware that dogs are different. Some cats have dog-like personalities, like Bengals and Maine Coons. This naturally occurs in these breeds without any environmental prompting.

If your cat was raised with dogs, they may take on some behaviors and habits the dogs exhibit. Both dogs and cats can learn from the animals and people around them, so it’s not unusual for cats to pick up canine behaviors if they are raised from a young age with them.

Even so, the cats are aware that dogs aren’t cats. They have instincts for the appropriate communication and actions of being a cat; in most cases, environmental influences won’t supersede instincts.

The Importance of Scent

A very important factor that humans often overlook is the fact that both cats and dogs primarily view the world around them through their noses. To a cat, a dog wouldn’t smell like another cat. They would not have the scents that they are accustomed to picking up to know that someone else is a “cat”. In addition, cats would not be able to pick up feline pheromones from a dog, as a dog would be unable to produce them.

Therefore, a cat can definitely tell that a dog isn’t a cat. They can even distinguish between another cat of their species (Felis catus) when compared to other felids (such as a lynx, tiger, or lion).

Keeping Cats With Dogs

Keeping cats in a home with dogs can be perfectly safe in many situations, but you should take some things into consideration before you attempt it. Some dogs have a high prey drive, which can lead them to chase, and sometimes injure small animals. This can occur with a cat, so consider your dog’s prey drive before attempting to introduce a cat to the home.

Slow introductions are the key to helping a cat adjust to a home with dogs. It may take some time for your cat and dog to warm up to each other. Cats are notoriously fickle and may take longer to warm up to a dog than a dog will to a new cat. In some cases, your cat may never fully take to your dog. This can be due to your cat’s personality and not wanting to share their space with a dog.

However, in most circumstances, cats and dogs can be housed together successfully with proper precautions.

cat and dog together on sofa
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock


In Conclusion

Cats are intelligent and perceptive animals, and they are perfectly aware that dogs aren’t the same as they are. Your cat and dog may work together to develop a communication system, but in some cases, your cat may simply choose to avoid your dog. Always maintain a safe environment for both pets; providing your cat with plenty of safe spaces away from the dog can maintain a positive relationship between your pets.

Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

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