Cat Aggression Toward a Dog when Outdoors

August 2019

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

Aggression toward a dog when being outdoors can be a normal survival response. However, always take any aggressive episodes seriously. Being approached by a familiar or unfamiliar dog outdoors can lead to aggression and serious fights. Some fights can lead to serious injury to either the dog or the cat. If you notice any aggressive or stress signs in your cat, address it immediately.

Pay attention to your cat's body language. If you don't know how your cat will respond to an approaching dog, pay close attention. Aggressive behavior towards an approaching dog can be seen in cats of any breed, size, age, or gender. It can stem from many different types of stressors. The most common include fear and defense, but it can also be due to territorial, pain, or discomfort. It is rarely due to play. A fearful cat that cannot escape 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, frightened and startle easily. They may try to run and get away, subsequently triggering a chase response from the dog and making it worse. A more offensive aggressive cat may have their ears back, constricted pupils, and their tail may be up or down with fur standing on end. Commonly, cats swat at dogs' faces and can cause serious injuries to the face or the eyes of the dog.

To prevent aggression towards dogs when outdoors, keep your cat inside.

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

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