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Are Your Cat And Dog Playing or Fighting?

Written by ADAPTIL Expert, published on April 18, 2023

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adAre your cat and dog speaking the same language? Are they happy and get along nicely, or are you always watching for sparks of conflict between them?

We do love our pets but it’s not always easy to know if they feel the same about each other, as they have different ways of showing their emotions. For example:

  • When a cat holds its tail high, it’s a sign that they feel relaxed. But when a dog’s tail is high, it could mean totally the opposite - that they are on high alert and could become aggressive!
  • We all know that if a dog is wagging its tail, they are happy! On the other hand, if a cat’s tail is wagging it’s normally a sign that they are not overly happy and want to be left alone.
  • If a dog’s ears are back slightly, it’s an indication that they want to be friends, but a cat’s ears will be forward if they are happy to interact with you.
  • And if your dog turns to the side, he’s showing he means no harm, but when a cat turns to the side it could mean they are trying to appear larger and more threatening!

Dogs are mostly sociable, like humans, and are easy to read - you know they are happy as they wag their tail and love attention. But it is not always easy to read a cat’s emotions as they can be solitary animals and can take or leave the fuss we want to give them.

So, how do you know what your pets feel towards each other? How can you identify if they are playing or fighting? It’s important that we humans can spot any signs and are able to take appropriate action if necessary.

Are Your Cat and Dog Playing or Fighting?

It’s important that you don’t leave your cat and dog alone for long periods of time without supervision. If the going gets tough, a cat can jump onto a shelf or climb up a curtain to get away from a pursuing canine, but a dog won’t always have the option to escape if a cat gets the upper hand.

If your cat allows your dog to lick and preen them, it’s fairly safe to assume they are getting along. But if your cat backs off or pats the dog with its paw, they are probably giving a warning sign that they have had enough.

If your dog mouths the cat (as they would have one with his litter siblings), their intentions are playful, but the cat may not see things that way and scoot off frightened! You should stop your pooch from doing this as they could - unintentionally - bite the cat.

On the other hand, if your cat gets its claws out, your pooch could get a nasty scratch and get aggressive as a result. Step in and separate them if you see this happening.

If your dog chases your cat, be aware that this may stress your cat and they may disappear for a while and hide. Keep your pooch out of sight until your cat return, then re-introduce them under supervision.

If you hear any growling or hissing, it’s time to step in as things aren’t going well.

There will be occasions when they both seem to be enjoying playing together, but always keep an eye on the situation.

  • If neither of them is trying to escape, all’s well in the world - and lovely to watch!
  • If the cat’s claws are not showing, you know they are happy to continue playing
  • If your dog is mouthing, but not using its teeth, your cat is safe - just check they are enjoying the game too - and are not distressed

To keep things calm, try to limit play time to around 5 minutes - it’s best to keep it brief to avoid any unintentional nips or bites; if it’s a good experience, they will be quite happy to play again but if it doesn’t end well, they might not want to be friends any more.

Other Tips To Help Your Pets Be Friends!

Train your pets

Cats will only be trained on their terms! They are creatures of habit, like a routine and will only come to you when they want to.

However, dogs do respond greatly to training. They like to please you, so if they get into a scrap with their feline friend, you should be able to call them off if you have trained them well.

Give them their own space

Understanding the needs of your individual pets is important to maintain a happy household. Make sure your cat has an escape route, like a high shelf or perch and a comfy bed that the dog cannot reach. Keep your dog’s bed in a different space - another room if possible, or put their bed in a crate that you can close if you feel the need.

You should also make sure their food and drink bowls are separate and not accessible by the other party!

What if they still fight?

If you feel that there is another underlying reason why they are fighting, get one (or both pets if necessary) checked out by a vet to ensure that they are healthy. They may be feeling off colour or have an injury that you are not aware of that will need treating. It may be that they have an aggression problem - so you may want to consult a professional animal behaviourist.

But, it might just be that they don’t get on and you will have to continue to monitor and manage the situation. But never punish or shout at your pets as this will make them more anxious and stressed.

Try ADAPTIL for Your Dog - and FELIWAY for Your Cat

An ADAPTIL Calm Home Diffuser can help to keep your dog calm as it sends odourless "comforting messages“ that are only perceived by dogs.

Similarly, FELIWAY mimics pheromones that cats emit - to support a calm, relaxed kitty environment and help your cat relieve stress and anxiety. Keep in mind that ADAPTIL will only work for dogs, and FELIWAY will only work for cats, but together you can create a happy home for both pets!

Following our expert tips will help to ensure your bond with your dog goes from strength to strength.

Make sure to join our community for weekly advice from our dog behaviour experts as well as product offers and competitions. 

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