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Do Dogs Know That Cats Aren’t Dogs? 7 Surprising Facts

Do Dogs Know Cats Aren't Dogs

Dogs recognize each other.

Even if they’re of different breeds, colors, and sizes.

Plus, they can also tell humans and canines apart.

But what do dogs think of cats?

Do pooches know felines are different from them?

Continue reading to find out:

  • If dogs know cats aren’t dogs.
  • Whether cats know dogs aren’t cats too.
  • 7 little-known facts about dog-cat relationships.
  • How dogs and cats seem to understand each other.
  • And a lot more…

Do dogs know that cats aren’t dogs? 

Dogs know that cats aren’t dogs. The latter are aware of it because cats don’t smell anything like them. Canines have excellent noses, so they can tell the difference. Also, felines sound and move differently. Canines wag their tail when happy, but cats do this when angry.  

A dog’s relationship with cats – 7 surprising facts

#1: Dogs see cats as prey due to instincts

Dogs and cats are dubbed as ‘frenemies’ in the animal world.

But guess what, they can befriend each other.

Contrary to the popular myth that they won’t get along well.


Although dogs had already made some BFF cats in the house, they’ll still be hostile to unknown felines.

“Why’s that?”

It’s because all animals have instincts.

For example, most dogs have the urge to chase smaller animals that flee like cats.

And it’s even stronger in hunting Fidos as they were bred for it. Say, Afghan Hounds and Terriers.

So canines ignoring stray cats is highly unlikely. And a study also proves this.

A team of researchers studied households with cats and dogs. 

And they found that:

37.2% of the canines attacked when they saw an unfamiliar cat.

While 23.8% barked, 20.5% wagged their tails, and only 0.1% ignored the feline.

So, dogs see cats as prey animals. 

And it’s proof that they don’t view them as their kind.


With time and human guidance, they can learn how to get along well.

For example, my partner’s Mum adopted a cat and a dog. The dog is a male called Banjo. The feline is a female called Naf. 

Both of them live together for some time now. And guess what?

The cat, Naf, is so sociable, that she misses Banjo when he’s away from the house. And when he’s home, she likes to stay close to him. They even clean each other’s ears by licking them.

It’s a cute sight to see. Especially considering the fact that Banjo is a huge dog. While Naf is a regular-sized kitty. 

And even though they get along so well, they know they’re different from each other. They’re just used to one another’s company.

#2: Unfamiliar dogs make cats run away

If dogs’ first instinct when seeing an unknown cat is to attack…

Cats are the exact opposites.

They escape instead.

Based on the research I mentioned earlier:

31.3% of the cats fled when they encountered an unfamiliar dog.

While 24.5% ignored the Fido, 21.4% hissed, and 13.5% went nearer in a friendly way.

So, even though cats are predators (a ‘deadly’ and ‘fearless’ one for some)…

They’re still prey for other animals. Such as coyotes and dogs.

So when a cat sees an unfamiliar Fido…

Their survival instinct will kick in. And they’ll flee right away.

#3: Cats can be more aggressive to familiar dogs

Cats Can Be More Aggressive To Familiar Dogs

Next, although cats often run when they see a new Fido…

They can still be feisty with familiar ones.


Okay. Let’s retake a look at the study above.

Based on the parents’ reports, 24.1% of the dogs were attacked by a cat. 

In contrast, only 21.6% of the canines charged a feline.

So more cats showed aggressive behaviors toward dogs than vice versa.

But this isn’t always the case. As some felines can also be gentle around Fidos. 

One more thing.

Dogs show affection to familiar cats

In another evaluation, 42.8% of the dogs lick the cats in the household.

Trivia: Licking is a sign of affection in the doggy world. It’s kind of similar to kissing in humans.

So if your pooch likes to lick your arm or does it to another Fido…

They might be doing it out of love.

Now, going back to the topic.

On the other hand, 41.8% of the felines just ignore the Fidos.

So, what am I trying to say here?

Even though dogs know that cats aren’t dogs and they’re prey animals…

They still show less aggressive behaviors towards felines

In fact, a dog may also sniff a cat’s bum as a greeting. Like what canines do when meeting new Fidos.

“What about cats’ attitude towards dogs?”

Well… Cats are solitary animals.

They’re independent and less social than most dogs.

Also, felines were domesticated later than canines.

So if you consider all of these…

It might be the reason for their ‘awkward’ behavior with dogs. And also with us humans.

You might also like: 37 Scientific Reasons Why Dogs Are Better Than Cats

#4: They somehow understand each other

Dogs and cats are as different as night and day.

But, they also share a common trait.

“What is it?”

They both use body language and noises to communicate.

However, here’s the conflict.

They ‘speak’ in different languages.

“Wait. What do you mean?”

Let me give you some examples.

First, I’m sure you’re already familiar with tail wagging.

In dogs, it usually means they’re happy.

But in cats, a wagging tail means they’re angry. So it’s like they’re saying, “Stop it” or “Go away!”

However, VCA also says to be careful about this in dogs.


Trivia: A study found that dogs wag their tail in 2 directions depending on their mood. They move it to the right when they’re happy. And they wag it to the left when scared or depressed.

Here’s another example.

If you see your dog rolled on their back with their belly exposed

What does it mean?

It’s a clear sign of submission. And your Fido is likely asking for some belly rubs too.

So if your pooch does this in front of you next time, you know what to do.

But if a cat does this…

Never attempt to rub their belly.

It’s a trap!

Felines aren’t asking you to pet them when they roll on their backs.

They do it to get in a defensive position.

And this is because their rear legs are stronger than their front ones and create the most damage. 

Here’s what happens when you touch a cat’s belly:

They grab your hand with their front paws, claws out. And they start kicking with their rear legs, clawing at you while they do so.

But back to how cats and dogs manage to communicate and coexist…

Both dogs and cats can express basic emotions. Say fear, anger, or love.

So even if cats aren’t dogs and vice versa…

They’ll still learn to understand each other over time

The dog will realize that the cat isn’t being friendly when they wag their tail.

And they do this by picking up on the signals that a cat’s angry.

Such as:

  • Puffing up their body.
  • Having laid-back ears.
  • Wagging their tail fast.

On the other hand…

The cat will also learn the things that work well with dogs.

For example, dogs like to be approached on the side rather than in the front. That’s because the latter is perceived as intrusive and aggressive.

And also, Fidos don’t want anyone near their food bowls.

#5: They get along best if they grew up together

Although dogs and cats can live peacefully under one roof…

Most experts say that the bond is stronger when they grow up together. 

Like 2 childhood friends.

They’re around the same age.

And there’s no ‘seniority‘ in the house as they grew up simultaneously.

But aside from this…

They can also get along well if the cat is so fond of dogs.

Meaning, the feline isn’t stressed. And they’re also comfortable around Fidos.

So the dogs won’t be scared or provoked to attack them.

Not convinced yet?

Check out this adorable story of a small kitten who’s not intimidated by a giant pooch:

#6: Both are friendly to each other when approached the right way

Once dogs and cats understand each other’s language…

They’ll know the proper ways to approach each other. And they’ll be more amiable.

Let’s go back to the study earlier.

Based on it, the dogs are said to be friendly to cats when they:

  • Have their tail up.
  • Lay down beside them.
  • Bend on their front legs.
  • Walk towards them for a nose-to-nose greeting.

While cats are amiable to dogs when they:

  • Wag their tail.
  • Lay down beside them.
  • Bend on their front limbs.

But, they also…

#7: Both defend their food and belongings from each other

Dogs and cats are both territorial.

It’s innate in them.

So although they get along well, they can still fight like cats and dogs.

And there goes their love and hate relationship.

Dogs will guard their food and other belongings from the cats. 

Say, their bed, bowl, or fave spot on the couch.

And cats will also do the same.

But when things get more serious…

Vets will now refer to it as ‘territorial aggression.’

“What does it mean?”

It’s when animals become aggressive to claim their spaces.

In dogs, they’ll show it by:

  • Biting.
  • Chasing.
  • Lunging.
  • Growling.
  • Snapping.
  • Urine spraying.

While cats will display these territorial behaviors:

  • Biting.
  • Clawing.
  • Destroying things.
  • Peeing everywhere.

So they act pretty much the same, right?

Well, wait until you hear about this.

Dogs and cats may also guard their parents apart from objects or places.

Cats usually do this by rubbing their chins on their humans.

And it’s also often the reason why your dog rubs against you like a cat.

“But why do they do that?”

What they’re doing is called ‘scent-marking.’

“What is it?”

It’s when animals leave their scent to something they want to claim as theirs.

Like an invisible stamp used to label properties.

A cat has a scent gland on their chin. So when they rub it against us, they’ll leave an odor.

Then, other animals can detect it. 

And the scent will tell them that we’re already ‘marked’ or ‘taken.’

Now, territorial Fidos can do the same too.

So if you’re a parent of both cats and dogs…

They may also ‘fight’ over you. 

Reading tip: Dog Suddenly Aggressive Towards Cat? 9 Odd Reasons + 3 Tips

Do cats know that dogs aren’t cats?

Cats know that dogs aren’t cats. Like canines, they know they’re different from each other.

But, they don’t have the concept of species like us.

So for a feline, a dog can only be a strange, odd-smelling animal.

This is because they sound and move differently. And dogs also have a different scent from them.

Fun fact: Research says that cats recognize our voices. They know which one belongs to their parents. And they react to it by tilting their head or moving their ears.