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Why does your dog kill cats and how to stop it?

We come to think of pets as family members and losing one of them is never easy, but it’s even worse when this tragic death falls on the shoulders of another one of our pets.

When our dog kills a random wild animal like a possum, we will either be disgusted or not think much of it because it doesn’t really affect us. However, if our cat gets killed by our dog, we might start to see them with different eyes, wrongfully so.

Why do dogs kill cats? 

There is no specific answer to that question because there is no single pattern that will surely push your dog to attack a cat.

First of all, you should know that there is no such thing as a murderous dog. Dogs aren’t killers in the human sense of the word. They don’t hurt because they want to hurt, they are merely following an instinct, which is completely normal.

Of course, we don’t see it like that because we subconsciously attribute human traits to our pets and we judge them like we would judge another human, which is why when we see a dog killing a cat we immediately declare the dog evil.

Dogs and animals in general do not have a moral compass and do not see predatory aggression as something to be ashamed of. It’s part of their nature, like when you see a cat chasing a bird or eating a mouse.

This doesn’t make it look any better when a dog kills a kitten for example, but as much as it breaks our heart, you need to consider that for a dog, a smaller animal is simply prey.

Accidents 

Many times when a dog kills a cat, it’s nothing but an accident, especially when it’s a cat that the dog knows well.

It could be that the cat was jumping or falling off a fence and your dog was trying to save them by catching them with their mouth but ended up killing them by mistake.

It could be that your dog and your cat were playing, and your dog accidentally bit them or hit them a little too hard.

Dogs are bigger and have strong jaws, and they don’t always know how to control their strength. Unless we know the dynamic of what happened before the cat died, we cannot rule out the possibility of a fatal mistake.

Chasing the prey 

When you have a dog you know how much they like to chase toys, sticks, balls, anything that you throw their way. While this looks fun and cute when you’re playing, you need to remember that this behavior, too, is born from a dog’s predatory instinct.

Some cats are easily scared or excited and most of them have those moments when they start running around like crazy for no apparent reason. If your dog catches your cat during one of these moments, they might start chasing them.

The chase is part of the hunting process for a dog, so it may not end well. Even if your dog has no intention to kill, the moment they catch the cat they may unwillingly squeeze them into a deadly hold.

Casualties 

Sometimes, a cat may just be in the wrong place at the wrong time. There are many reasons why a dog may suddenly attack a cat or another animal, such as:

  • The cat may be bothering the dog in a bad moment
  • The dog might feel like the cat is threatening their territory or their possessions (a toy, a bowl, food)
  • The dog may feel sick or scared or anxious and the presence of the cat disturbs them
  • The dog may feel threatened by a cat that is hissing or attacking
  • The dog was fighting another dog and the cat ended up in the middle of it
  • The cat was panicking or was having a seizure and the dog got stressed because of it
  • The dog may have a lot of pent-up energy because they don’t exercise enough and maybe bothering the cat for this reason

These are just some of the reasons why a dog might suddenly attack a cat, so if you have cats and dogs, it’s important to monitor their time together.

If, at any point, while observing your pets, you suddenly get the feeling “my dog is about to kill my cat” put yourself between them immediately and separate them.

What should you do if your dog killed your cat? 

You need to detach yourself from the situation and try to see it with objective eyes. Do not blame your dog. It is not easy to accept what happened, but the worst thing you can do is to lash out at your dog or worse, punish them.

Some pet parents consider giving their dog away or going as far as to suppress them because they feel like they need punishment or they’re scared of having an aggressive dog. This is usually not the case, especially if your dog hasn’t shown any aggressive behavior beforehand.

Giving your dog away or worse, killing them just because they followed an instinct they cannot control or fight, would be extremely cruel. Chances are your dog won’t do it again and is not a menace for you or your family.

If your dog started showing a somewhat aggressive attitude all of a sudden, you should investigate the causes before taking a drastic decision. Therapies or behavioral training can help you fix the issue in most cases.

It may also be that the death of your cat was a tragic occurrence due to a series of unfortunate circumstances and it’s not a symptom of aggressiveness on your dog’s side.

What should you do if your dog killed a neighbor’s cat? 

If your dog killed a cat that you later find out being someone else’s pet, you should of course send your condolences and maybe it would be a good idea to offer to pay for the burial and cremation services as well.

It’s unlikely this will fix things completely and your neighbors will probably brand your dog as a killer, which is why it’s also important that you take all the precautions so that it doesn’t happen again.

How to prevent your dog from killing cats again. 

It is better not to fool yourself: there is no guarantee your dog will not kill another animal again if the circumstances are tragically perfect. After all, their predatory instincts survived to this day despite everything and we’re not going to change that.

Behavioral training is usually the right answer for this situation, but it’s also important to create a safe space. Of course, just as you are responsible for your pet, other people should be responsible for theirs.

If your dog is chilling in your yard and a neighbor’s cat comes to disturb them, your dog is not justified in killing them, but the neighbor cannot really blame you either because it’s their responsibility to keep their cat safe.

As a general rule, try not to leave your dog alone with cats or other animals, even if it’s your own cat and your dog has grown up with them. The same applies to children too: even if your dog is the sweetest in the world, it is still an animal and you should supervise their playtime with your kids.

If you see your dog chasing a cat, call them back indoors. In order for this to work, your dog needs to be trained to answer your commands. Every dog should be taught basic commands since they are puppies because you never know when this could save their life or another animal’s life.

More importantly, if you let your dog chase and kill animals as they please, it will only reinforce this behavior and they will be more likely to do it again.

If you have other cats at home, you could try separating your dogs and cats in different rooms. However, this could be hard to do. If the situation doesn’t feel safe to you, the final solution would be to give away either your dog or your cat.

Is it normal for dogs to kill cats? 

As much as we like to see them as our soft and joyful house pets that roll around on the carpet with our children, dogs are animals with predatory instincts just like any other animal.

It has been just a few thousands of years since the pet dogs we know separated from their ancestor, the wolf. While it may seem like a long time, it’s just a grain of sand for predatory instincts that are engraved in their DNA.

This doesn’t mean all dogs are cat-killers. Some dogs, for example, those who have been bred to hunt, have stronger predatory instincts than others, but accidents can happen because it’s impossible to predict when a dog’s instinct will be triggered.

This isn’t about cats, it can be any other animal that your dog sees as prey. Surely, we most often hear about dogs killing cats because it’s not uncommon to have cats and dogs in the same house, or in the same neighborhood.

Can cats and dogs live together? 

There are many stories of dogs and cats living together in peace and harmony. Even though we are used to perceiving them as enemies, it is far from the truth.

Sure, a dog and a cat will get along better if they grew up together and have plenty of time to get used to each other while adopting a dog or a cat in a house where there was already a dog or a cat for a long time may be more difficult and could increase the likelihood of “accidents”.

However, it isn’t always the case and we cannot say that dogs and cats can’t or shouldn’t live together just because a tragic accident may or may not happen. Your pets might as well live a long life together, loving each other like siblings.

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