Cat - Aggression when Chased by a Dog

August 2019

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

Aggression towards a dog when being chased can be a normal survival response. However, always take aggressive episodes seriously. Being chased by a familiar or unfamiliar dog can lead to aggression and subsequently serious fights and injuries.

Pay attention to your cat's body language. If a cat is being chased by a dog and can't get away, the only defense is fight. Aggressive behaviors towards a dog when being chased can be seen in cats of any breed, size, age, or gender. It is most commonly due to fear and defense. 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, frightened and startle easily, trying to run and hide. Once your cat runs, it may trigger a predatory response from the dog and escalate the situation. 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.

Prevent your cat from being able to be chased by a dog. Separate your cat and dog to prevent injury. Cats should be safely confined to their separate areas. Use dividers or a baby gate for your cat to escape from the dog. Have multiple elevated areas for your cat available, so they can feel safe in the presence of the dog. Watch their interactions closely when they are together. Only allow them in the same area if they do not exhibit the signs of serious aggression listed above. Keep the dog on a leash to have more control. If you must separate your dog and cat to prevent serious fighting, take time to re-introduce them. Make sure the dog approaches your cat slowly, or even better, let cats choose if they want to interact. Some cat-to-dog introductions go very smoothly. Others may take weeks or months before your cat and dog learn to co-exist with each other. The best thing to do is to go as slowly as necessary - don't rush the introduction if you are working towards a positive long-term relationship. Being patient will pay off!

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

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