Why Dogs chase Cats
I acquired my first Doberman in 1987. Takoda and Reumah are my 4th & 5th respectively. From 1987 up until about five years ago, I have always been involved in dog obedience, agility and dog clubs. I did reasonably well at competing and have a box full of ribbons and trophies to reflect upon that past life. So, by no means an expert, I do know a little bit about dogs.
A wise and well respected dog trainer once told me two things I will always remember;
1). Pet dogs will not necessarily make good obedience dogs, but a good obedience dog will always make a good pet.
2). don’t try and teach your dog not to chase cats, teach the cat not to run.
My blog in this instance relates to the second piece of wisdom. There is logic here. Cats are certainly more vulnerable if they run. Dogs are natural predators and will normally chase anything that moves. Small animals like cats and rabbits are the perfect prey. Dogs will chase prey for two reasons, either as a game for the fun of it or with the intention of killing the prey if caught.
When I lived in Tauranga, I lived in a no-exit cul-de-sac. One day as I drove up the street with the dogs in the back of the car, I noticed a cat sitting on the pathway opposite our home. Unbeknown to me, Ruemah had seen it too. I pulled up the driveway, stopped the car and let the dogs out expecting them to run around the rear of the house as they usually do.
Reumah took off at full speed back down the drive and across the road. Screaming out any kind of command would have been a fruitless exercise so I stood and watched the scenario play out. The cat sat motionless and watched this Doberman powering towards it. It did not move a muscle. Ruemah came to an abrupt halt about 3-4 metres from the cat. You could see the look of confusion on her face. Why wasn’t the cat running? She waited a few seconds, lost interest, turned around and trotted back home. This brave cat made a stance; on the other hand, I still believe its life depended on the breed of dog doing the chase and the intention in the dogs mind.
My dogs are obedience trained, have always had cats as part of their family unit, and yet given the chance will chase unfamiliar cats. In their case it is a game, but I still reprimand for it. Had the cat across the road been injured, the blame would have been mine for a number of reasons; assuming my dogs had not seen the cat; knowing the cat was there I should have taken precautions prevent a problematic situation occurring; my dog was also off my property therefore rendering me liable.
I have never encouraged my dogs to chase anything and I am appalled when I have overheard other dog’s owners saying to their dog, “Get the cat get the cat”. It is a stupid and senseless thing to do. Dog owners should always try and deter cat chasing habits with appropriate training. Nevertheless a dog’s instinct, no matter what the training, will always be to chase if the owner is not around.
Terrier breeds can be some of the worst; it is an instinct that has been bred into them over centuries. If you know your dog is a cat killer, seeking advice from a professional dog trainer or animal behaviourist is the best option if you want to curb that behaviour.
Times are a changing for cat owners as well, so whilst dog owners need to be held accountable for the actions of their dogs, cat owners must also take more responsibility for their cat. In saying this I know it is difficult to keep your cat from straying onto neighbouring properties, but there are options should you chose to investigate. We know that both here in NZ and in Australia, the outcry over domestic cats (and feral cats) killing native birds and wildlife is definitely intensifying.
Finding a way to keep your cat on your own property will keep your cat safe; not only from dogs but from vehicle accidents, other cat fights, poisoning etc, and very importantly will contribute towards saving New Zealand’s precious native wildlife.