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How Do Cats Play With Dogs? Body Language & Behaviors Explained

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on February 25, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

dog and cat on floor

How Do Cats Play With Dogs? Body Language & Behaviors Explained

Cats and dogs are natural enemies, right? Wrong. Many cats and dogs actually enjoy each other’s company; they can even become friends! It’s not uncommon to see best buds of different species cuddling up together or playing with one another. Just like humans, these animals have individual personalities that can determine how well they interact with each other. Both cats and dogs, will meow or bark, paw at each other, or chase each other around. 

If you want to know whether your cat’s behavior means it’s playing with your dog, here’s what to look out for.

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What to Look for When Cats Play With Dogs

Body Language

When a cat and dog are playing, both will have relaxed body language. Their eyes should be open and their movements should be light and agile – no aggression or tension. If you notice your pet’s fur standing up or ears back, it’s time to end playtime, as this could indicate fear or anger.

dog and cat with parcel at door
Photo Credit: WiP-Studio, Shutterstock

Mutually Agreeable Interaction

Cats and dogs can either take turns being the initiator of play or both participate in the same activity. For example, one may chase the other around the house or initiate a game of fetch. Whatever it is they decide to do, there should be no physical aggression toward one another or any indications of discomfort.

Signs of Affection

One way to tell if your cats and dogs are truly getting along is if they start showing signs of affection, such as grooming one another or sleeping near each other. If you notice that your dog is snuggling up with their feline friend, it’s a surefire sign that they’re playing nicely!

Cat and Golden Retriever dog cuddling
Photo Credit: Chendongshan, Shutterstock


The vocalizations of cats and dogs when playing can vary greatly, but both should sound relaxed and happy. If you notice your pet start to make high-pitched shrieks or another type of distressed noise, it’s time to break up the play session.

Signs of Play

When dogs are playing, they typically display signs such as barking, chasing, and wrestling. Cats may also show similar behaviors when playing with dogs – watch out for them batting at each other or swatting objects around the room.

cat sniffing a dog
Photo Credit: nekodg, Pixabay

Signs of Fear or Aggression

On the flip side, if your cat or dog is growling, hissing, snapping, or swatting at the other pet, then it’s best to separate them immediately. This behavior may indicate that they’re not comfortable with each other yet and need more time alone before attempting playtime again.

Other Signs of a Playful Relationship

Some cats and dogs may even start to mimic each other’s behavior after spending some time together! If they’re sleeping and spending time near each other throughout the day, it’s a good sign that they like each other.

dog and kitten_Chendongshan_Shutterstock
Photo Credit: Chendongshan, Shutterstock

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Are Certain Dog Breeds More Likely to Get Along With Cats?

Generally speaking, smaller dogs like Chihuahuas, Poodles and Shih Tzus are more likely to get along with cats than larger breeds. This is because smaller breeds are often more similar in size to a cat, and your cat is less likely to see them as an actual threat. However, this really depends on the individual dog’s personality and behavior – some large breeds may be just as friendly toward felines!

How Can I Get My Pets to Play Together?

Start off by giving your cats and dogs their own space, then slowly introduce them in a neutral area. Make sure there are plenty of toys and treats available for when they do interact so that you can reward positive behavior.

It’s important to remember that all animals are different, so they may take longer than expected to adjust to each other. Teach your pets from a young age not to play too rough and be sure to supervise them as much as possible. Also, be sure to provide plenty of distraction toys and treats for when they interact so that you can reward positive behavior. Lastly, never forget the importance of patience. It takes time for pets to learn how to get along!

What if My Cat & Dog Start Fighting?

If your pets start getting aggressive or physical with each other, it’s best to separate them immediately. Speak softly and firmly as you remove them from the situation. Never shout or scold, as this could make matters worse. Afterward, work on reinforcing positive behavior when they’re around each other.

If your pets just don’t seem to be able to interact peacefully, it may be time to seek professional help. A qualified animal behaviorist can provide you with advice on how to safely introduce your cats and dogs to each other and suggest techniques for helping them get along better.

Dog and cat with together in bed
Image Credit: AJR_photo, Shutterstock

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What if My Cat and Dog Don’t Get Along?

If your pets aren’t compatible, it’s best to just keep them separated. Don’t force playtime or try to push the relationship too quickly. Allow them time and space to adjust in their own way.

What if One of My Pets Is Very Shy?

If your pet is timid or scared, it’s best to slowly introduce them to one another on neutral ground. Take things slow and use treats and toys to help them become more comfortable with each other.

What Body Language Indicates a Scared and Frightened Cat?

If a cat feels scared or threatened, it will usually display signs of fear such as crouching down, flattening its ears, and hissing. It may also try to escape the situation by running away or hiding.

What Body Language Indicates a Friendly Dog?

A friendly dog will typically appear relaxed and happy, with its tail wagging and ears perked up. It may also appear eager to play or have a loose, bouncy body posture as it approaches you or another pet.

Is It Safe to Leave My Cat and Dog Alone Together?

It’s not recommended to leave your pets unsupervised when they’re first getting used to each other. If you do need to leave them alone, make sure there are no potential dangers (such as sharp objects or toxic substances) that could harm either of them.

cat and dog fighting
Image Credit; Esin Deniz, Shutterstock

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Introducing cats and dogs can be a long and complex process. However, with the right approach, your furry friends can become lifelong companions! Be sure to supervise them, reward positive behavior, and above all else, be patient. With patience and understanding, your pets can learn to get along in no time!

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Chendongshan, Shutterstock

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