Why Do Cats and Dogs Fight? & How to Stop Them?

Written by

Amy Sawy

Veterinarian. DVM


Joseph M. Plummer

Veterinarian, DVM, MVZ

why do cats and dogs fight

The idea that cats and dogs always fight is a common perception among pet owners. A cartoon with a cat and dog fight story even features these animals brawling in a tornado-like fashion.

People living in a multi-pet home may even witness these furry animals fighting before them. But why do cats and dogs fight?

These two animals have a predator-prey relationship, so it is their instinct to fight. Both feral and domesticated cats see dogs as dangerous, so they attack in self-defense.

Reasons Why Cats and Dogs Fight (and How to Stop Them)


“Fighting like cat and dog” is a common metaphor. But in reality, these house pets don’t attack each other just because they want to.

Below are the reasons why you will see your dogs and cats fighting:

1. Predatory instinct


The primary reason for a cat vs dog fight is their predatory instinct. However, the conception that cats and dogs hate each other is not true at all.

Dogs see felines as prey, while cats see them as a danger, thus making dogs and cats enemies.

As a result, they run around the room, attacking each other. In the wild, a cat and dog fight may even result in severe injuries and even to the death of one of them.

You cannot completely separate your cat and dog. So, the best way to prevent their predatory instinct from kicking in is to introduce them slowly after bringing your new pet home.

This way, the pet who’s been living with you for longer will not feel threatened by the arrival of your new furry friend. If a gradual introduction does not work, you may need help from a pet behaviorist.

2. Attention-seeking behavior


If you are taking care of cats and dogs at home, giving them undivided attention can be challenging. If your cat sees you bonding with your dog or vice versa, it may attack to get your attention.

Giving your pets equal and separate attention is the best way to prevent such attention-seeking behavior.

For instance, you can give your pet toys that they will enjoy. This way, both animals will receive the same amount of attention, preventing jealousy from arising.

3. Territoriality


Cats are more territorial than dogs. So, if they live in the same home, you may find your cat beating a dog to protect its territory.

Felines release pheromones to mark their territories. They do not like when the scent of other animals combines with the scent they mark their territories with.

For this reason, your feline friend may guard its territory to the point of becoming aggressive, resulting in your dogs and cats not getting along.

To prevent fighting over territories, you need to give your cat and dog separate areas in the house. Your pets should have different areas for sleeping, eating, and hiding spots when they want to be alone.

4. Fighting for food


Apart from the territory, you may see your puppy and kitten fighting for food. Dogs have a larger appetite than cats. Meanwhile, cats cannot finish their food in one sitting.

Felines like going back to their food bowl from time to time to take a bite of their food.

As dogs love eating, they may try to take the food that your feline did not finish. This fight for food results in aggression between the two animals.

To prevent this behavior, giving them different areas for eating is ideal. Place your cat’s food bowl somewhere your dog cannot access and vice versa.

Sometimes, your pets may touch each other’s food because they are not satisfied with what their caretaker gave them. So, you need to ensure that you are giving enough food to your cats and dogs every feeding time.

Other Tips to Stop Cats and Dogs Fighting

1. Distract your pets


Whenever you see your pets trying to start a fight, you need to act quickly and find something that can distract them. For instance, take a toy that your cat and dog love and show it to them.

The sight of their favorite toy may attract their attention, thus breaking the fight before it even starts.

2. Introduce your pets slowly


Cats and dogs might not like each other if they did not grow up together. But as mentioned, a slow introduction may prevent the presence of a new housemate from stressing your pets.

After bringing a new cat or dog home, keep it separate from your old pet for a few days. Then, familiarize them with each other by swapping up their bedding or leashes.

Finally, let your pets interact gradually until they can stand each other’s presence.

3. Give them playtime


When a canine is chasing a feline, people think that dogs really hate cats. However, running and chasing around often steam up from the energy your pets are trying to spend.

Instead of letting your cat and dogs run around, pounce, and wrestle, give them play sessions. Allowing your pets to play will help them spend their pent-up energy without hurting each other.

The Origin of the Phrase “Fighting Like Cats and Dogs”


While there is no clear evidence, the metaphor “fighting like cats and dogs,” is used since 1550. Some 17th-century literature books even used this metaphor to describe people who are fighting violently.

For instance, in William Shakespeare’s The Tragedie Of Cymbeline: King Of Britaine, published in 1610. Shakespeare likened the killing creatures to cats and dogs.

This metaphor also came from the fact that some dog breeds were grown with a violent nature. As cats have the instinct to protect themselves, they fight back when a violent dog tries to attack them.

Frequently Asked Questions


Do cats and dogs actually fight?

Yes, but not because they hate each other. As mentioned, these animals have a predator-prey relationship, so it is their instinct to attack each other.

Can a cat hurt a dog?

Felines have claws sharper than dog nails. So, when your cat attacks your dog, it may scratch the dog’s skin, which can leave superficial wounds and pain.

Should I let my cat and dog play fight?

Another reason why you may see your pets attacking each other is play fighting. Meaning your feline may swipe at your dog, but it will keep its nails retracted.

Meanwhile, your dog may bite your cat without actually using its teeth. Allowing your pets to play fight is a great way to help them bond.

However, it is essential to recognize playing or fighting. If your pets are hissing or growling in an aggressive tone, you need to separate them, as they are already fighting.


There are countless answers to “why do cats and dogs fight?” But the best way to stop your pets from killing each other is to prevent their aggressive behavior from showing.

To prevent aggression, you need to raise your pets in a loving and encouraging environment.

Cats and dogs who receive enough attention may tolerate living in one home. But if this trick does not work, you may try the tips listed above to maintain peace within your multi-pet home.

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