Why Is My Dog Obsessed With My Cat?

Why Is My Dog Obsessed With My Cat?

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Cats and dogs have always been portrayed as mortal enemies, even cat people and dog people seem to carry a certain animosity towards each other.

The only people that seem to have escaped this long-fought battle are the pet owners who live a life of tranquility with both dog and cat companions.

Being one myself, I must admit it’s not as easy as it seems, especially since our dogs tend to be more enthusiastic than our nonchalant kitties.

And did you ever have to ask, why is my dog obsessed with my cat?

Your dog could be obsessed with your cat because they have a strong prey drive, and they get easily triggered by smaller animals. Your dog could also be curious and playful, or they might act out because they feel jealous of the cat.

If you want to learn more about the possible reasons your dog won’t leave your cat alone and how to curb this behavior, then keep on reading!

Why Is My Dog Obsessed With My Cat?

Your dog’s obsession with your cat might be a natural reaction to their initial introduction, it might be a behavior that you’ve been battling against for as long as you can remember, or it could’ve been a sudden shift in a previously indifferent coexistence.

The important question here is why is this obsession happening.

Reason 1: Your Dog Likes The Cat

Let’s start with the most positive reason on this list, love.

Your dog or puppy could be fixated on your cat and follow her around because they simply enjoy being around her. Dogs and cats are capable of developing strong friendships especially if they were both socialized early on, and have matching personalities.

If your cat seems happy and relaxed around your dog and they don’t react aggressively and they’re not avoiding the dog then what you see as obsession could be a deep friendship between the two.

According to Stephanie Gibeault, CPDT, certain breeds like the toy group and sporting group are more sociable, affectionate, and friendly. So, they are more likely to develop a friendship with a cat.

But of course, at the end of the day, it will come down to the individual cat and dog.

Reason 2: Your Dog Has A Strong Prey Drive

Some people say that dogs chase after cats because they hate them, others simply state that it’s in their nature and while the word hate is more of a projection, it’s true that cats trigger a very specific instinct in dogs.

AKC explains that “dogs enjoy chasing cats not because they hate cats, but because a fast-moving feline triggers a strong, natural instinct that takes training and socialization to override.”

While most dogs have a strong hunting instinct, certain breeds especially large dogs can have strong prey drives.

Cats are smaller and they are really quick, so seeing them dart away is what makes your dog chase after your cat or maintain their fixation over them.

If your dog chases everything or tries to chase after every little animal when you’re on your walk then it’s only natural that they will exhibit the same behavior around your cat, even if it is minimized somewhat by your training.

Certain dogs were also bred to chase down prey. These breeds are Whippets, Afghan Hounds, Sighthounds, etc.

These dogs are the perfect chasing machine and catching a small animal like a squirrel or a cat can be highly rewarding for them.

This strong prey drive can result in your dog stalking, chasing, and even hurting your cat. If that’s the case then leaving your cat alone with your dog is out of the question, even if you’re 100% certain that you’ve trained them not to.

Reason 3: Your Dog Is Curious

Your dog’s obsession doesn’t have to be rooted in aggression. Instead, they could be driven by their curiosity, more so if they are puppies or young dogs that are still trying to explore the world around them.

The reason why your dog may be curious or interested in your cat so much is the fact that cats are good at getting their attention.

You might think it’s their small size or their swift movements, but according to a study by Canisius College, “dogs were oriented more to the auditory cat stimulus than to the visual cat stimulus.”

The researchers also used cat urine in the experiment and found that this smell didn’t increase their canine interest.

They also noted that the interest in the sound was more common in dogs that have previously hurt or been aggressive towards a small animal.

If you have a vocal cat then perhaps that sound is what drives your dog to follow your cat around.

My cat is definitely chatty and whenever he mews for attention my dog will walk over to see what the deal is.

Sometimes my dog will start following my cat around until he realizes that the mews have stopped or his curiosity dissipates.

If my story sounds relatable then the reason your pooch might be so curious about your talking cat lies in their solicitation purrs.

Karen McComb, a behaviorist ecologist found in her study that solicitation purrs have a similar frequency to a baby’s cry, and this sound is designed to get human attention.

In a similar fashion, this vocalization could possibly trigger your dog’s curious nature.

Reason 4: Your Dog Wants To Play

For the most part, dogs are playful animals so it’s not surprising if your canine companion wants to interact with your cat in a playful manner that may look like obsession.

Especially if your dog is a high-energy breed or they don’t get enough exercise then they might try to interact with your kitty through play, or they might even see them as a toy.

Cats, on the other hand, are less energetic and don’t get me wrong cats can get the zoomies and they require plenty of exercise and games, but not at the same rate as most dogs.

If your cat is happy to participate in this game and you keep an eye on their body language then there’s no harm in letting them play.

However, be aware that your dog’s clumsy approach can harm your cat or irritate the poor thing, so much that they might end up retaliating.

This can both harm the dog and your cat and it certainly will create stress and a bad vibe, to say the least.

Puppies are even more energetic and curious by nature, which can be a good thing for kittens, but older cats that are less playful can find it quite stressful.

If your cat keeps running away from your dog or puppy this can actually trigger your dog’s prey drive instinct that can get more intense if not managed early on.

Reason 5: It’s A Herding Behavior

Instead of a prey drive instinct your dog might be obsessed with your cat because they are bred to herd animals.

This is something a dog can do to humans as well, and they might even grab and nip your ankles as they would with an animal.

That instinct can make a dog herd whatever is available and is moving. If you’ve taught your dog not to do it to you, or they don’t find it as rewarding then they might redirect this behavior towards your poor cat or even your children.

If that’s the case, then your dog might seem like he’s always trying to get closer to your cat so they can push them with their nose and make them move like they would with sheep.

While sheepdogs, shepherd dogs, and breeds like collies are mostly known for their herding instincts that doesn’t mean that other dogs can’t behave in a similar way.

For instance, rottweilers can get along with cats as long as they are properly trained and their herding instincts are managed.

So, even though this behavior could be part of their instinct, this doesn’t mean you can’t curb it with some proper training.

Reason 6: Your Dog Is Bored

It’s important to understand that boredom can lead your dog to many unpleasant and distracting behaviors, and that includes obsessing over your cat.

According to PDSA “regular exercise is essential for all dogs – it helps keep them in shape and is really important for their mental health.”

Perhaps you have a lot of things going on right now and you haven’t had the time to play sufficiently with your dog, or you’ve taken them for shorter walks to catch up with work.

And while all that is understandable you can also understand why your dog would take out his frustration on your cat by trying to play with her or chasing her around.

For him, your cat could be compensating for the lack of attention, and by annoying the cat your pooch also gets your attention, even if it’s in the form of scolding.

Reason 7: Your Dog Is Jealous

Science is not 100% clear on whether dogs feel jealous in the same way humans do, but studies have shown that dogs are one of the few species that can display jealous behavior like a human child would if they saw their mother giving affection to another child.

Dogs and cats can also express their jealousy in different ways, it could be aggression, being clingy, or even going to the bathroom in unwanted places.

Your dog’s fixation could actually be a sign of jealousy. Your dog could exhibit this behavior when you’re stroking the cat or if the cat is constantly claiming your lap as their own, as they usually do.

You might even hear your dog whine or bark and they might start “inhibiting another person or animal from moving freely on a regular basis, or pushing their way into a situation, demanding the attention of their owner,” as Dr. Scarlet Magda states.

And sometimes you can’t blame dogs for being jealous, I mean just look at this video.

I mean, how can something so small take so much space, especially when that space rightfully belongs to your pooch?

But jokes aside, if you just got a cat or a kitten, then it’s important that you keep giving your dog enough attention by exercising and playing with them, training them, and of course, don’t forget the cuddles.

Remember to not give them attention when they are obsessing or following your cat because you also don’t want to reward this behavior.

Reason 8: Your Cat Is Sick

Especially for those of you who have been living in a house where both animals used to get along, having your dog suddenly fixating on your cat can be unnerving.

And while I don’t want to blame your cat for your dog’s obsession, they might be somewhat responsible.

Perhaps your cat is unwell, they might be feeling anxious, or they might be sick. Pain or stress can affect how your cat behaves and they might be more avoidant or irritable than they used to be.

This can trigger your dog’s prey drive response, or your dog might simply be missing the attention they used to get from your cat.

Another argument here could be that your dog can smell that your dog is sick. This might be a stretch, but a study in 2004 showed that dogs could possibly be trained to identify bladder cancer in humans.

However, another experiment also came to an inconsistent conclusion on whether dogs can detect canine cancer.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if my pooch kept close to my cat if the little fluffball was unwell since he also does this with me.

Should I Be Worried If My Dog Is Fixated On My Cat?

There’s no problem with having your dog and cat share a close bond, after all, isn’t that something we would hope and strive for?

But not every bond is healthy or rooted in mutual agreement. If your dog is obsessed with your cat, then most likely they are expressing it in ways that your cat doesn’t like.

Cats are more independent, and they need some alone time, that’s why they need their special hiding places.

If your dog doesn’t give your cat that needed space, then tensions may arise.

Your dog’s fixation could also turn into aggression and even if your dog doesn’t want to hurt your cat, they might do it accidentally because they are usually stronger.

To understand whether your dog’s intentions are good and whether your cat is ok with that you need to study their body language and see if they are actually friends or a bad situation waiting to happen.

How Can You Stop Your Dog From Being Obsessed With Your Cat?

As a start, it would be helpful to consider when this obsession with your cat first began.

Did you just get a puppy or a cat?

Has it always been like this or did your dog suddenly become fixated with your cat?

The timing can help you get a better understanding of why this is happening, but even if you’re not sure you can still take a few steps to curb this behavior and help your two companions have a healthier relationship.

Early Dog And Cat Socialization

The best way you can make sure your dog and cat get along is to socialize with them at an early age.

AKC suggests that “early socialization between kittens and puppies helps them overcome suspicions, and introducing young animals to tolerant, older animals encourages respectful habits.”

But early socialization is not enough, and you’ll still have to train both animals, more so your dog to behave properly throughout their life.

Even if your dog or cat weren’t socialized you can still train your pooch a few basic commands, so they don’t obsess over the poor cat.

Socialization and introduction should also be done in a controlled environment where you can separate the animals, make the cat feel safe, and teach your dog not to chase after your cat.

If you haven’t adopted a cat or a dog yet, make sure to take the personality of your current pet into account.

A playful and social cat will get along with a social dog, or a low energy breed like a bulldog, while dogs with high prey drive will be much harder to control.

Separate Your Dog And Cat

Then again if you’ve already adopted your dog or the obsession has started recently then the first thing you should do is to separate the two pets whenever you see this behavior.

By reducing the interaction, you can deescalate any tensions or aggression and reduce the possibility of your dog harming the cat.

You might also need to separate your dog and cat for much longer and reintroduce them under new conditions, like after having worked on your dog’s prey drive and your cat’s fear of the dog.

Of course, this is only a temporary solution, and there are more steps you’ll need to make if you want to stop your dog’s obsession.

Train Your Dog

While it’s best to train your dog when they are still a puppy, you can still do it at any point in their life, but you will be faced with different levels of difficulty.

Let’s look at some of the training techniques that could help.

Commands

It’s important to have the upper hand in your relationship with your dog. One way of doing it is by teaching them certain commands.

One such command is “Watch me,” “Look,” or Look at Me.”

This command will help you get their attention and hold it, especially when your dog is fixating on your cat.

A reliable recall is another great command to redirect your dog’s attention from the cat.

According to AKC “an important part of teaching recall is to make training a game for your dog. You want your dog to think that coming and being near you is the best thing imaginable, full of fantastic treats and rewards.”

So, no matter how obsessed they are with the cat, they will come to you when you call them.

Desensitization

One of the many approaches to this situation is desensitization. With this training, your goal is to gradually increase your dog’s exposure to the cat while reducing their reaction and interest.

Basically, when your dog sees the cat in another room of the house preferably through a tall baby gate you will get them to focus on something other than the cat, like a toy.

With time you can bring the two animals closer together while still training your pouch to not react to the feline presence.

Positive Reinforcement

Remember to use treats to reward your dog’s behavior each time they don’t react.

That will make them understand that by ignoring the cat they get positive rewards and they have nothing to gain by chasing or obsessing over the cat instead.

Be careful with the timing because you don’t want to reward the unwanted behavior.

Predation Substitute Training

I also want to mention Predation Substitute Training.

This according to Canine Principles “is a motivation-based and need-oriented training program, designed to stop uncontrolled predatory chasing and to provide safe outlets for your dog’s natural predatory energy.”

There are different methods that can be used with this training and it’s best to talk to a professional to have the best results for your dog and your cat.

Reintroduce Your Dog And Cat

Part of all this process is actually testing the waters to see how well your dog can listen to you and your commands and not obsess over your cat.

Firstly, the reintroduction should only happen in your presence in an environment where you have full control over the situation.

The important thing is to make them feel safe around each other.

Before bringing the two pets together you need to make sure your dog is crate trained, so you can keep the dog in there while you let the cat in the room.

You can use a toy to take away your dog’s attention in case they try to run towards the cat or they become alert.

You can also use the toy or the treat to reward your dog when he behaves calmly around the cat.

This process will be repeated a few times until you’re sure that both your dog and cat feel secure enough to be in the same room.

The next time you can put your dog on a leash and let your cat roam the room, perhaps you can let them come closer and with time they can get used to each other.

The result you want is basically your dog’s indifference to your cat, the opposite of fixation.

You can also introduce your dog to the cat while the cat is in their carrier or the crate. This way they can smell each other while having a barrier between them, but this might cause more agitation in your cat.

I also want to emphasize the fact that this reintroduction could happen more than once, at different times, since your dog might revert back to his old habits.

Give Your Dog Attention

Since your dog’s obsession with the cat could be rooted in jealousy, it’s important that you take a step back and assess the situation from this perspective.

Perhaps you haven’t been paying enough attention to your dog, or you’ve been giving more of it to the cat.

This behavior could also be less about the attention you give to your cat and more about the change in your dog’s routine.

Make sure you divide your attention equally, by spending some alone time with each pet.

Give your dog enough playtime, walks, and exercise, and don’t forget about the indoor cuddles as well.

Channel your dog’s desire to chase with games like fetch, tug, and hide and seek so they don’t have the need to do it with your cat.

Instead of being the sole entertainer of your pets, you should also give them toys that can engage their mind without your presence.

Interactive toys for dogs can keep your dog occupied and not focus their prey drive on your cat.

My pooch definitely has a soft spot for burrowing puzzle chewers and this Hide and Seek plush dog toy from Pet Craft Supply is so good, that it’s well worth checking

Feed Them Separately

Dogs can be very protective of their food, and it’s something known as resource guarding.

If you feed your cat together with your dog or you keep their bowls close by then your dog might feel threatened.

This instinct of guarding possessions like food could make your dog stalk or even be aggressive towards your cat and the best way to prevent it is to feed them separately, in different rooms.

Talk To A Pet Behaviorist

It’s not easy to deal with dogs that have a high prey drive, and different dogs may need different approaches.

If you feel like nothing is working, or you are not confident in your training capabilities then make sure to talk to your vet, a pet behaviorist, or a professional dog trainer.

These people can put a stop to your dog’s obsession in the most efficient way.

With their help, you can also acquire the right tools to manage your dog throughout their life and have a better understanding of the reintroduction process.

Why Is My Dog Fixated On New Kitten?

Kittens can have different personalities, some of them can be shy, and cautious especially if that’s what they’ve been taught by their mother.

Other kittens can be quite bold and the first thing they’ll do once you take them home is explore everything and play with everything, which can include your dog.

For dogs that have not been socialized with cats, the prey drive can be quite intense especially as they see a tiny fluffball running around them.

It’s important that you are in control of their interaction and in case your dog tries to catch the kitten you should be able to separate the two and remove the kitten from the room.

While some dogs might become fixated with your kitten because of their hunting or herding instinct, your dog might find the energy of a kitten as an invitation to play.

The main worry in this type of interaction is keeping your kitten safe since your dog might not be aware of how fragile they are and how much strength lies in their paw, especially if they are a large breed.

That’s why it is usually safer to adopt a kitten if you have a small or at least a medium-sized dog.

How To Tell If Your Dog And Cat Are Playing?

One of the reasons why your dog might actually be obsessed with your cat is miscommunication.

Cats and dogs have different ways of communicating their moods and needs and it’s easy for your dog to see the flicker of your annoyed cat’s tail as an invitation to play.

The only person who can interpret both your dog’s and cat’s intentions is you so it’s your responsibility to establish rules and make sure both pets are happy in each other’s presence.

Whether you’re just introducing your dog to your cat, or they’ve been companions for years paying attention to their body language when they are playing, and interacting is important.

A twitching and swishing cat tail is usually a sign of irritation and dilated pupils and pinned back ears are your cat’s way to let the other animal or human know that she had enough.

A playful cat will look alert with her ears pointed up, you may notice them pounce and stalk your dog.

As you also watch your dog make sure their body language is not threatening. That they don’t have their ears pinned down, they are growling, snapping, or biting.

Their tail can also tell you how they feel and according to a recent study, dogs tend to wag their tail to the right when they feel positive about something and to the left when they feel negative.

I also want to add that the dynamic between your dog and cat can change depending on the environment.

They might get along when they are inside, but your dog might become obsessed with your cat when they are outside together.

So, be aware of their body language, especially your cat to know how to react and keep them from harming each other.

Closing Thoughts

Dogs and cats don’t have to be enemies, and even if they don’t become best friends they can become good roommates.

But in order for this to happen, you need to put in the work, especially with your pooch.

Most cats can live their life by avoiding your dog, but if your dog has a strong prey drive then they will obsess over your cat.

So, make sure you’re on top of your dog’s training!

Now it’s your turn to tell us if your dog and cat share an unconventional bond or is your dog too obsessed to let their friendship flourish?