Patterico's Pontifications


Why do Dogs chase Cats?

Filed under: Real Life — DRJ @ 7:24 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Our male English cocker spaniel pup chased his first cat tonight. The cat was bigger than he is but there was never any doubt that the dog would chase and the cat would run, even though we were on the cat’s property. (Don’t worry. The pup never had a chance to catch that wily cat, and the cat never got close enough to harm the pup.) On the other hand, our 8-year-old male cocker never made a move to chase or run, but he’s always been laid back about other animals.

It made me wonder: Why do some dogs chase cats? After all, both are predators and, in this case, the dog was the smaller animal. Why didn’t the cat chase the dog or they at least have a stand-off?


41 Responses to “Why do Dogs chase Cats?”

  1. I think it is because they can! My Uncle had a poodle he would keep on a long chain in his backyard. There was a cat that was next door that had figured the distance the dog could reach and would sit about a foot outside the limit and drive the dog nuts. One day my uncle added a foot of links to the chain. The cat didn’t taunt his dog anymore after that.

    voiceofreason (1fb82e)

  2. It interesting, DRJ, because as we speak there are the 100 lb each dogs in my house and a 12 week old kitten who is fierce and unafraid of anything…only one of the dogs, Walter, is the least bit concerned and follows the kitten through the house, growling and whining at him and when he can get close enough without the kitten hissing a swiping at his nose, he nudges the kitten repeatedly his nose as if he wants to play. Never bites or barks at him, just nudges and ‘talks’ to him…

    Apparently the kitten has no intention of playing and is getting pretty fed up with this dance – hence Walter’s sliced nose. Whatever makes them chase cats, its obviously not inherent in all dogs.

    Dana (e3a6da)

  3. Dana,
    We had a lab many years ago that we picked up as a puppy. We already had an old cat who had been declawed and abandoned before we found her. The only thing the lab would do to really make her mad was put her nose against her or (really strange) eat her poop out of the litter box.
    I’ve seen her eat baby rabbits in one gulp and chase them like there was no tomorrow.

    I think dogs and cats have some sense of the owner’s priorities and affections for each pet and that may be the reason why.

    voiceofreason (1fb82e)

  4. Our neighbor’s dog ate their pet rabbit and that’s how they learned to never mix dogs and rabbits. It was a hard way to learn a lesson, especially for the rabbit but also for the kids. In hindsight, though, it’s not surprising since rabbits typically fall in the category of prey, not predator (with some exceptions, especially around Jimmy Carter and in Monty Python sketches).

    DRJ (9578af)

  5. VOR, that’s a possibility. The interesting thing with Walter is he is enormous and the in the pecking order of the three dogs, he is at the bottom of the barrel – the female is the alpha, Gus the old male is submissive to the female and Walter immediately surrenders to both of them.

    This little spitfire of a tomcat, however, has upset Walter greatly – perhaps, he senses he’s going to be bumped back down to the bottom again!

    Dana (e3a6da)

  6. I agree that dogs know their pecking order and can have problems with it, especially males.

    DRJ (9578af)

  7. Dana,

    It is curious about the pecking order but fun to watch. Do you ever check out the animal videos on or Lots of fun animal clips on those (liveleak has some war clips so be aware).
    If my wife only had two channels that we could keep they would be animal planet and lifetime!

    voiceofreason (1fb82e)

  8. VoR, With three horses galloping through my house masquerading as dogs, I live the youtube videos!

    Dana (e3a6da)

  9. We have a male Siberian, a female Shih Tzu, two queens and a tom. The tom has never known life without dogs and plays with the Siberian and the Shih Tzu all the time. The Shih Tzu behaves like Monty Python’s Killer Rabbit and jumps up to try to bite the Siberian’s neck. The queens spend a lot of time hissing at the Siberian, the older, littler queen tries to sleep with the Shih Tzu (who will put up with her for a few minutes, then growl and jump off the couch) and the younger, bigger queen just wishes all the rest would just leave so she could have us humans all to herself.

    kimsch (2ce939)

  10. Dana,
    LOL. Very true I would imagine!

    voiceofreason (1fb82e)

  11. What a relief to contemplate the mysteries of dog/cat dominion as opposed to torture and waterboarding.


    Dana (e3a6da)

  12. And how! I had to go to the dentist for a two hour procedure this afternoon and all I could think about when the water was spraying into my throat was “is this waterboarding?” It was then I knew I had spent too much time on that particular thread :)

    voiceofreason (1fb82e)

  13. My dog and cat take turns chasing each other. The dog tries to play with neighbourhood cats but chases pigeons like crazy. She could never catch one but it is funny to watch her try!

    Nanette (0b339b)

  14. I had a Brittany Spaniel that chased anything and everything that moved. She brought home a raccoon, and a variety of live wildlife, including birds, geese, and a catfish. She was so proud everytime. She would lay it at her feet at the rear entrance to the house, and sit there barking until we came out to see what she had drug home. It was cute the first 50 times … the next 200, not so much.

    JD (6887fb)

  15. I had a cat who would bring home juvenile rabbits, moles, mice, etc. It got to the point where he would wait until I got the shovel out of the garage, I’d thank him sincerely. He’d place the animal on the shovel for me and I’d take it to the end of yard and toss it over the fence into the railroad embankment.

    kimsch (2ce939)

  16. kimsch – Now that is a well trained dog.

    JD (6887fb)

  17. I had a dog like that once, kimsch. He seemed part human. That was the best dog I ever had.

    My current spaniels are more like JD’s. Maybe the love of the chase is a spaniel thing. The pup’s specialty is bringing us dead birds but he tried to get a squirrel once. I’m not sure exactly what happened but he doesn’t chase squirrels anymore.

    DRJ (9578af)

  18. Our Pitt bull cornered a cat once and had no idea what to do with it. She couldn’t decide whether she wanted to play with it or grab it. The cat knew what to do though and went to town on her face. I had never seen a dog back up that fast. So much for PITT BULLS the savage slaughter dogs. I think she chases cats now out of wounded pride. But she only goes after the ones that run. The ones that stand their ground she gives a wide berth.

    EdWood (0e4730)

  19. DRJ – Word of wisdom. Attempting, successfully, to lure a squirrel into your home is a bad bad bad idea. Not that you would consider it, you seem exponentially brighter than myself. I, on the other hand, wondered what would happen. Bad things. Bad things.

    JD (6887fb)

  20. DRJ – I still cannot figure out how our Brittany Spaniel caught a live catfish.

    JD (6887fb)

  21. JD,

    I’ve seen a cat catch a catfish but not a dog. Personally, I’ve always thought catfish are kind of dumb. I don’t know why – they seem slow to me, or maybe it’s because they’ll hit at almost any bait you use.

    But I would like to hear the squirrel story.

    DRJ (9578af)

  22. I once had some friends with three dogs and two cats who were brothers from the same litter. One of the cats, Peter was always afraid of the dogs and wouldn’t go near them. The other cat, Johnathon, would ignore the dogs with typical cat arrogance. He would walk right by them without deigning to look in their direction. One time while I was house sitting for these friends, I found Johnathon mauled to death in the back yard. Peter died of old age some eight or nine years later.

    I guess the lesson here is that a tough-guy attitude only takes you so far.

    Doc Rampage (ebfd7a)

  23. DRJ – Shortly after college, in my first apartment, my roommate and I had a spuirrel that hung out on our balcony. We thought it would be fun to try to lure it inside with a trail of food, which was successful. We closed the patio door behind it, and the demon went insane. It started making this horrific noise while running laps about 4 feet up the wall. it was so scared it shit and pissed everywhere. It shredded the back of the sofa. It bit my roommate who got the entire battery of rabies shots. They are fast, and I will never mess with them again.

    JD (a71458)

  24. Wow, that’s quite a story. I bet the ER docs got a kick out it, not to mention your landlord, parents, and friends. I’m glad your story had a happy ending, and just imagine what an impression it will make on your kids.

    DRJ (9578af)

  25. Because the cat looks at the dog funny. Any male that has sisters knows exactly what I’m talking about.


    mer (ad62dc)

  26. I think the reason dogs chase cats and rarely the other way around is that dogs are chase hunters and cats are ambushers. Exceptions abound but wolves and wild cats tend to hunt that way.

    Ken Hahn (7742d5)

  27. JD and DRJ – He was a well trained cat. His name was Cat (Dad wasn’t very imaginative with cat names – in fact, after we got another cat we had Big Cat and Little Cat even after Little Cat grew to be bigger than Big Cat). It was sweet that he waited until I had the shovel out, but he was, indeed, of the feline persuasion…

    Doc Rampage said:

    I once had some friends with three dogs and two cats who were brothers from the same litter.

    Wow! Bill Murray once said, “Dogs and cats, living together, mass hysteria.” But dogs and cats sharing a womb? Wow that’s really something…

    kimsch (2ce939)

  28. I’ve had many cats. Sassy lived to be 19 years old, and begrudgingly gave dogs permission to live in her house and yard. She didn’t purposely chase dogs, but she let them know their limits.

    I’m surprised one of the neighbors didn’t sue my parents bout Sassy as she was always knocking out that neighbor’s Black Lab with a single swat to the head.

    Sassy also had her dogs trained, except for Bear. Bear was untrainable when he saw a particular green Ford stationwagon that hit him or a female dog, otherwise, Sassy had him well in control. Oh, Bear was a AKC registered full sized Samoyed.

    Then there was George. That cat had 2 dog friends, one an attack trained Rottweiler and the other a large female dog the other neighbor had. George was the only living thing that the Rott would let near him, and when George was being chased by a cat he couldn’t handle, he’d head for his friend the Rott to help out.

    PCD (b7be44)

  29. Have you never read Rudyard Kipling’s The Cat Who Walks By Himself? Therein lies your answer. If you send me your email address, I will send you a fantastic audio rendition of this short story, and you will understand the dynamics of the cat/dog/man relationship. It is, in fact, my favorite piece of literature!

    TB (98cc7a)

  30. Spaniels are sporting dogs, used primarily to flush prey for their masters to shoot (this is what they were bred to do and even though 99% of them are not used in this fashion today, the instinct is still there.

    Keep in mind dogs are separated into groups based on their historical breeding. Some dogs were bred to fight, some to coral animals, some to kill rats and small vermin. The current domesticated dogs have much of their lineage in tact (if bred properly) so these instincts still remain even if the vast majority of them do not perform their bred-for actions on a day to day basis.

    Gabriel (6d7447)

  31. Dogs chase cats because it’s fun.

    dave (fdfaa0)

  32. #15, #27 kimsch
    Weird, I read your story as being about a dog, too, though you’re really clear about it’s having been a cat. That was some cat!

    m (1cc05e)

  33. I would guess it’s a function of how they hunt.
    Dogs are wolves in domesticated clothing, but you can see a lot of wolfishness in them.

    Dogs chase their prey depending on brute force and cooperation with others.
    Cats stalk their prey, depending on stealth and speed.

    Plus, dogs are pretty stupid. Mine chases cats all the time, if they’ll run. And when he catches them he suddenly realizes it wasn’t such a good idea. Luckily, he’s very furry so I only have to pull released cat claws out of fur instead of skin.
    Heck, he chases squirrels and when he corners one, he always lets it go. He has no idea what to do next.

    Veeshir (dfa2bf)

  34. m – he lived to 18, finally died of kidney problems. He’d lost his teeth so we bought baby food meats and cat litter at the store. No cat food, no diapers… The people at the store thought we were weird.

    Big Cat was a wonderful little cat. He was fairly small, about 10 pounds versus the 12-14 my two big ones are now. I do have an 11 year old 6 pounder, she’s like a toy cat. So small and so soft (velveteen like a rabbit). I miss Big Cat. He was around from when I was about 7 until I was about 25. I grew up with that cat.

    All black with beautiful green eyes, a torn ear, and one toe had to be amputated because of an abscess. He was a fighter he was.

    This thread was nice as a way to remember those we loved who are no longer with us.

    kimsch (2ce939)

  35. So true, kimsch, and I worry about people who never loved at least one pet.

    DRJ (9578af)

  36. DRJ, they love you just because you’re you. When they cuddle, or fall alseep in your lap… Now I’m getting a little verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves.

    kimsch (2ce939)

  37. We had a dog that liked to sit on the cat

    krazy kagu (6b296a)

  38. why do dogs try to catch things in the air that are not there?

    lori (c36902)

  39. im hoping that my dog is not sick.

    lori (c36902)

  40. Veeshir, all dogs aren’t stupid. Some are veeeery intelligent, like my dog Sammy. He’s a four year-old Silky, and in my opinion his mind is half human. I remember when I was playing a game with him. (He has a toy in his mouth, and I have to get it.) I was astonished when he pretended as though he was going to run left, and bolted to the other direction when I attempted to grab the toy.

    Anyway, both my dogs react towards cats negativly. Sammy would snarl and chase cats, while Casey would act as though she and the cat where sparing. (Bouncing around, barking at it, but never actually attempting to attack it.) Casey is a one year-old Yorkie, by the way. She barkes at anything moving above 1/25 an inch per second.

    I remember this one time Sammy cornered a cat hiding in a bush. I was worried that he had injured the cat, though I like to see him charge towards a cat whenever he sees one for some reason. I think I like to see a little fight in my beloved domestic housedog. The funny thing with Casey is that she will bark fiercly at anyone who she encounters during our walks, but she will become less aggresive when she gets close to what she’s barking at. Sammy only barks at a stranger coming into the house, never at anyone he meets outside. (Except for cats, of course.) Casy will actually lick anyone coming in, after a series of barks. Sammy just keeps barking. You should see it. It goes on, and on, and on… and on…

    Our family is very wierd.

    Matthew Cummings (e53d4f)

  41. Lori- Huh? Chase things in the air that aren’t there. Hm. Never happened to my dogs. Have you gotten your dog checked for anything?

    Matthew Cummings (e53d4f)

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