August 2019

Audience: Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers

Fear of an unfamiliar dog is common, but can be a symptom of an underlying problem. Always take it seriously. Fear is a natural survival instinct and can lead to hiding, freezing or even fights. If you notice any signs of fear or stress in your cat, address it immediately as it is a welfare concern.

Even mild forms of fear, when not properly addressed, can evolve into serious anxiety related issues. It is important to assess your cat's interactions with an unfamiliar dog.

Pay attention to your cat's body language. Fear behavior towards an unfamiliar dog can be seen in cats of any breed, size, age, or gender. What might start as fear, can quickly turn to aggression. A fearful cat may exhibit dilated pupils, ears turning back, or a twitching tail. In this situation, your cat may growl, hiss or swat at the dog. Your cat may appear nervous and frightened and startle easily, trying to run and hide, and the dog might be inclined to chase your cat. This can make the situation worse.

If your cat shows fear of unfamiliar dogs, avoid all contact with these dogs. If a dog is visiting, separate your cat and the dog to prevent any stress. Place your cat into a room where the dog does not have access.

This document created by the San Francisco SPCA with a grant from Maddie's Fund®.