How cats and dogs get along has been a fascination of pet owners, and humans in general, for as long as there have been cats and dogs, it seems. The usual view is that the two species are natural enemies. Most any cat owner — at least those who allow their furry friends outside the house — has a horror story or two of his or her cat’s frightening, sometimes tragic encounter with a neighborhood dog.
On the other hand, there are countless pet owners who preside over households where at least one dog and cat coexist in peace, love and understanding. So what’s the difference?
The fact is — and this should be obvious, but it seems many pet owners tend to forget it — cats and dogs are two completely different species. And humans are a third different species. Each has its own way of viewing and interacting with the world.
Perhaps the most significant difference in cat and dog behavior is the role played by territoriality. While both cats and dogs — and humans, too, for that matter — are prone to “mark” territory and protect it, the importance of territoriality is very different for each species. Dogs tend to place more importance on their place in the pack. They feel most secure when they’re under the protection of a pack leader.
And if you’re a dog owner, most likely that pack leader is you. That’s why dogs will bond with their human companions is ways that make them unflaggingly loyal and affectionate. They know their well-being depends on the good graces of the boss.
But for cats, territory is everything. Sure, cats bond with their owners, and as any cat person will tell you, cats can be as sweet and affectionate as any dog. Sometimes. But when push comes to shove, what really makes a cat feel safe and secure is a well-defined territory that belongs to that cat and no one else. If your cat truly trusts you, or the household pooch, he might allow you inside his sacred territory.
Just remember, it’s the cat’s world. You just live in it.
Often, this difference in the way cats and dogs behave results in — endearingly cute and funny YouTube videos. Check out this video of cats taking over one of the most important parts of a dog’s territory, the dog bed, and see how these different dogs respond.