dog looking scared of cat

Why Are Dogs Afraid of Cats? – 10 Core Reasons

Have you ever seen a 50 pound dog nearly pee itself in fright after meeting a two-pound kitty?

No? Then you should seriously reconsider your Youtube and TikTok choices.

Obviously, seeing a German Shepherd or Great Dane have an out-of-body experience because a tiny little kitten meowed at it the wrong way is hilarious. Still, you may also be wondering how in the world it’s possible.

I mean, size has always been an essential factor in fights in the animal world, so what gives? How come these huge canines are so scared of something less than a quarter their size?

The brainy answer would be that various factors make dogs afraid of cats, especially if they’ve never interacted with one before, or that your dog may not have been socialized enough, but are there any less obvious reasons?

Animal behavior always encourages people to think outside the box, so that’s precisely what this article has done. It’s here to bring you the dubiously obvious and unbelievable reasons why dogs are scared of cats.

1. They’ve Been Burned Before

Alright, this is probably the most obvious reason we could think of. Maybe your dog had a run-in with a street cat at some point or was taught a lesson for being too annoying as a puppy.

Now, your dog, no matter how big it may be, suffers from KTSD, known in the dog world as Kitty Traumatic Stress Disorder.

If your dog encountered a mean cat before, there’s a good chance it can remember the ordeal very well and will always be nervous around cats unless taught otherwise. It’s also the most likely source of all those side-stitch-creating videos online.

2. They Had an Existential Crisis

Who are we to assume dogs don’t understand complex philosophical theories like the fear of the unknown? Sure they chase their tails as though they may one day catch them, but perhaps they too have and experience the fear of the unknown.

Maybe your dog has spent its life around humans, never once dreaming that outside there may be myriads of tiny, scratchy animals waiting to make its acquaintance. Just like humans are scared of the things we don’t understand, your dog may be scared of a cat if it has never encountered one.

This is especially true if the first cat your dog meets doesn’t take much of a liking to him and reacts aggressively. Such a reaction could leave your poor pup emotionally scarred and scared for life.

3. They Haven’t Been Socialized

Yes, yes, blame it on the pandemic, but millions of people have turned to puppies over the past two years to get over their lockdown blues.

The only downside of getting a pandemic puppy? The poor thing was probably never socialized.

Living inside a house or garden, with only its humans for company, it is natural to expect a dog to be scared of a cat, at least for the first time they come across each other.

Dogs that grow up in a familiar environment and are never exposed to outside stimuli are also far more likely to develop an anxiety disorder, making any meetings with new people or animals even more stressful to experience.

4. They Got Bamboozled

So we all know dogs are intelligent, right? Unfortunately, their mental capacity still carries some limitations that can make them more susceptible to unreasonable fears.

Take, for example, a dog that spots a cat on the other side of an electric fence. Its full attention is focused on the cat and not its surroundings. Every sense in its body aims to figure out what the fuzzy-looking thing in front of him is.

The dog moves forward to investigate, gets the shock of his life from the fence, and lets out a yelp that sends the kitty running in the opposite direction.

In that dog’s mind, it would be the cat, and not the electric fence, that caused it such sudden pain. And for the remainder of the pup’s life, there’s a good it will never be able to see a cat without remembering the negative experience associated with it and cowering in a corner.

5. Cats Fight Dirty

Let’s go for another obvious reason: cats are feisty animals that won’t hesitate to fight dirty.

How do they do this? By going for the nose, of course.

Not only are these masterminds of paw-to-paw combat as fast as lightning, but they know exactly where to aim. Instead of wasting their time trying to get through a dog’s thick fur, they aim for the most sensitive spot on a dog’s body – its nose.

Not only can one scratch across a canine’s nose send it whining down the street, but even in cat and dog households, cats won’t hesitate to use their long-time pal’s nose as a scratch post if they get annoyed.

No wonder dogs tremble at the idea of picking a fight with any feline brave enough to fight back.

6. Their Owners are Assholes

For personal safety purposes, if your dog is afraid of your cat, I’m not at all referring to you here.

My only point is that humans tend to always protect the smaller animal in a fight. Which could mean that, even though your cat started it, is very much the aggressor, and your dog is just trying to keep itself out of harm’s way, you’ll likely end up punishing the dog and not the cat.

This teaches your dog to avoid and be scared of cats, not because of the cats themselves, but the consequences of interacting with them.

7. Cats Have Weapons of Mass Destruction

If you’ve ever been scratched by a cat, you’ll know the experience isn’t pleasant. Their claws are razor-sharp, and they move so fast no dog has the chance to duck or run before they’ve been turned into a low-budget Scarface.

Sure, dogs can bite too, but cats are not only fast; they’re agile and can rain down bites and scratches from all angles and directions, effectively confusing and terrifying the poor pup at the center of their hatred.

Even though dogs are more than capable of killing cats, I wouldn’t count the felines out of the battle. And if your dog has ever experienced a fight with a cat, I am not surprised it’s scared of the little demons.

8. Dogs Can Be Lovable and Clueless

Sometimes dogs just don’t expect such hostile behavior when all they’re trying to do is be friendly. Unfortunately, a dog’s version of friendly means invading your personal space, licking, and other expressions of affection.

Cats may not like PDA so much and react with a hiss or scratch, which could confuse and frighten your dog enough to keep it away from cats for the foreseeable future.

The truth is, dogs are lovable dummies at times, and more often than not, they pay the consequences for it.

9. Cats Have Bad Attitudes

If you’ve ever owned a cat, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Cats and dogs technically have no reason to fight, yet cats are the ones who start most of the animal brawls while dogs simply try to defend themselves.

Dogs are annoying too, but in an innocent, empty-headed way that screams “love me!” Often this loving behavior can be misinterpreted, especially by cats, and reacted to poorly, especially if the dog invades their space.

Cats can be mean, and your dog probably realized it far sooner than you did, which is why it treads lightly whenever it comes near a kitty.

10. They’re Lost in Translation

The last point on this list is certainly not apparent until you think about it for a while. Dogs and cats communicate and interact with each other and humans in very different ways.

Dogs are more outgoing, friendly, and forward, sniffing butts and playing games as they go. On the other hand, cats are far more reserved and may not react well to a blundering animal five times their side sticking its nose in its kitty-like face.

If your cat feels overwhelmed by the presence of an energetic or overly friendly dog, it may lash out and leave the pup with lifelong scars and fear of felines.

How Can I Help My Dog Stop Being Scared of Cats?

If you have a small or big dog scared of cats, there are a few ways to improve the situation.

1. Introduce, or Reintroduce, Them Slowly

One of the biggest socialization mistakes made with dogs is that they are exposed to various sights and sounds, resulting in them becoming stressed and anxious, especially if they’re puppies and still forming their opinions of the world.

If they encounter a cat in an uncontrolled environment, there’s little you can do to ensure a positive outcome.

However, if you want to help your dog overcome its fear, start small and introduce the pup to a kitten in gradual steps. First, switch their toys and blankets, then move on to introducing them properly.

This may even help adult dogs and cats. Keep them away from each other for at least a month, then gradually share their toys, blankets, and bowls until they have accustomed to the other’s smell. Only then should you reintroduce them to each other completely freely.

Often, a little patience and understanding can go a long way to helping your dog and cat get along.

2. Balance Positives and Negatives

This goes for both the cat and dog. If they interact and all goes well, reward both with a treat, focusing on praising your dog and keeping it calm and comfortable. If the cat becomes unnecessarily aggressive, try a light spray of water to redirect its attention. Never yell or hit your cat or dog for exhibiting negative behavior.

3. Check For Health-Related Causes

If your dog isn’t typically afraid of cats and has only recently begun to seem terrified of them, the behavioral change may be as a result of an underlying health condition.

Thyroid problems or environmental toxins could cause a sudden change in behavior in your dog, which may explain the atypical fear of felines.

Get your dog to a vet for blood tests if you suspect the reason for its newfound fear may not be psychological.

4. Call in a Professional

There’s a reason the presenter of My Cat From Hell has a job. Cats can be awful sometimes, especially to other animals in their household.

If you’ve tried reintroduction, obedience training, and taken your pup to the vet without results, you may need to find yourself a dog whisperer to get to the bottom of your dog’s fear.

Animal behavior specialists can provide valuable insight into the rivalry between cats and dogs and how you can help your canine pal regain its confidence around cats.