Dogs love to play tug-of-war and chase balls.
What makes them so playful is their tendency to chase and catch stuff; however, make no mistake about it, under that playfulness, your dog is a natural-born hunter.
Some dogs have a higher prey instinct and therefore are dangerous to cats even if they are just playing.
While most dogs live comfortably with cats, when they do chase them, it's often an attempt to play.
However, even this could be dangerous. Some cats don't necessarily understand that the dog is playing and may attempt to fight or flee in defense.
Yet, these actions will inevitably lead to a fight that becomes violent, and in most cases, dogs with strong chase drives end up hurting the cat.
Let's take a look at some of the reasons why dogs are so keen on chasing cats, why it's dangerous to cats, and how as a pet owner, you can prevent this.
Why did this happen?
The sad reality is that it's inevitable for a dog owner to perceive their dog rather differently once it ends up killing their cat or someone else's for that matter.
Lots of thoughts will likely be going through the dog owner's mind, such as, why did my dog do this? Is this a sign that my dog is aggressive? What exactly happened?
You may also be wondering if your dog is capable of killing other dogs and possibly even other animals and more horrifically, children? Dog owners are often shocked that the dog is even capable of killing another animal, especially one as cherished as a pet.
Some dog owners are so traumatized by the experience that they feel they are now owners of a monster and even consider giving up the dog and in serious cases putting them down.
However, before taking such drastic measures, and considering your dog is pure evil, it's imperative to understand the behavior and get a better grasp on what happened.
There are different causes for this behavior, and if you are able to witness the behavior, it should give you some insight into what happened.
So you should be asking yourself why your dog chased the cat? Did the cat come to your dog's property? Did the cat come too close to the resource? And where the cat and dog playing?
Let's take a closer look at some potential causes and tips on how to deal with the situation and keep this from occurring again. Comprehending what happened will require you to distance yourself from the tragic event and see beyond your emotions.
Understanding the psychology of dogs
Before dogs were fed kibble from a shiny bowl and became domesticated, they were hunters at heart.
So what is predatory behavior?
Well, is it's simply an animal's ability to track down, chase, and kill animals for food. Every dog has a predatory drive. So when you see a dog picking up and shaking a toy or chasing a ball, this is his predatory drive kicking in.
Hunting and killing was the way of a dog's life in past evolution.
The predatory drive ultimately follows a precise sequence that scientists refer to as “fixed action patterns.” The sequence is, stalk, chase, grab – bite, kill – bite, dissect, and consume.
However, not all dogs will follow the entire sequence. Based on genetics, history, motivation, and other factors, this will vary between dogs.
However, if your dog is chasing a fleeing cat, the predatory drive will likely kick in, and he's going to chase it. A predatory dogs drive is triggered by movement. It is an automatic reflexive response in dogs.
When a dog spots prey at a distance, he fixates on the source with his gaze, his ears are kept upright, he's ready to capture the faintest sounds, body quivering and ready to spring into action.
So if there's movement in the bushy area nearby, he will likely pounce upon the prey and may decide to chase it. If the chase is successful, the dog will likely catch the prey by the neck, bite down, and shake.
Shaking is a typical predatory behavior that is intended to quickly finish up the prey. Usually, in such a case, you don't see any blood and the affected animals are intact.
So what you ultimately need to understand is that dogs are not motivated by morals; however, it is the instincts that ultimately control them. So when the dog is engaging in predatory behavior, it stems from the same area of the brain responsible for the “seeking circuits”.
These circuits elicit curiosity, intense interest, and anticipation as animals seek out what they want. It's a pleasurable feeling and can be likened to the feeling a cat receives when he kills a mouse.
Dogs aren’t good or evil
When it comes to classifying dogs as either good or evil, that unfortunately cannot be done.
When viewing their dogs as being cruel for killing an animal, owners are engaging in anthropomorphism. This is basically the act of attributing them to moral values.
And this, however, is counterintuitive since dogs do not have any. Predatory aggression by a dog does not reflect a psychological problem; neither is it that the perpetrator is vicious, vindictive, or malicious.
Inside a dog's brain, angry aggression and predatory killing are not the same things. In fact, it's not even close.
Reasons for dogs to kill a cat
Dogs view cats as prey. As mentioned earlier, this kind of behavior is known as predatory aggression.
So for dogs, hunting possums, squirrels, or rats is no different. They don't share our human understanding or conception of cats as being fundamentally different from rodents and other backend wildlife.
And besides, why should they? In reality, dog breeds such as shepherds are genetically selected for their ability to guard against predators. So cats being carnivores fall into the definition of predator for dogs who are wired to think like this.
So what does all of this mean for Fido?
Predatory aggression is assumed when an otherwise friendly backyard dog attacks the cat who came into the yard. It's entirely within the normal context of a predator-prey relationship. The sad reality is that for the human family, this behavior is considered unnatural and not normal.
Grief-stricken people may use words like dangerous, vicious, and malicious to describe your dog; however, it's highly unlikely to be true in this case.
Predatory may sound worse than it actually is. So getting your vet or another canine behavioral specialist to assess the dog's temperament and attest to its nature in writing is probably one of the best ideas you could have in this case.
Were there any previous indications of violence?
When a dog kills a cat, it's often due to predatory instinct.
However, as a pet owner, you can encourage this behavior. Although it is genetically normal for a dog to try to catch a cat, it's not acceptable in the society that we live in today.
Every owner loves their pets, and if anything happens to them, it can be seriously traumatizing. Likewise, a cat owner will love their cat as much as a dog owner will love their dog.
And there's nothing more tragic than seeing your beloved household pets injured and even worse killed. So it's quite a traumatizing situation for pet owners, and having your dog avoid trying to catch a cat should be of paramount importance
Some dogs may develop an exaggerated dislike of felines. It could often be because when they were pups, they were given chase to cats, which then turned on them.
Cats can also be pretty ferocious when they get defensive or fear for their lives. If their claws connect, they often spit and lash out and can give a dog quite a nasty scratch.
So if your dog has experienced something like this, it's best to keep him as far away from cats as possible.
How safe is the dog now should you put it down?
It may be tempting to consider a dog who kills cats a bad dog; however, he is simply driven by his instincts.
So even if tragedy does occur, never punish him or hit him because he won't understand this, and it may make his aggression worse. Never let your dog chase or catch cats in the hope that the cat will get away to teach a dog to lesson.
It might not work out the way you intended it to, and one or both animals may end up getting hurt if they get out into the street or curb area.
Furthermore, putting your dog down for killing a cat is never an ethical solution to the problem.
Will it hurt my family or children?
While most stories are happy ones, and dogs are able to live in harmony with infants and are even quite protective of them, not all stories have a happy ending.
In fact, a predatory aggressive dog living with an infant child can prove to be increasingly risky. Children under the age of three years old move with high-pitched noises and move rather quickly.
So an infant lying in a bundle of blankets looks like a small wounded prey to your dog. In most cases, if something like this were to happen, it would usually happen when you're not around.
In most cases, a dog may just stare at the baby if you are around, and this is often misinterpreted as interest. However, the reality is that lunge-bite may be suppressed; however, the desire is not.
So one of the only ways to control predatory aggression is 100% avoidance of the situation that puts cats, humans, or animals at risk.
If your dog has a tendency to chase cats, they cannot be around cats; if they have a tendency to chase smaller dogs then they shouldn't be around smaller dogs either.
In this case, if your dog has displayed these predatory instincts, they should not be left alone with children under the age of three years old. You should also be realistic about how you're going to control the situation because it's not easy.
Will it kill other cats?
If your dog has already killed one cat, you can bet your money that he's going to kill another one.
This is because the signs of predatory aggression have already been displayed, and unfortunately, it cannot be taken back. There are, however, ways in which you can discourage this behavior, but they are no guarantees.
So it is highly likely if your dog has killed a cat that he will kill again if he has the opportunity and a cat crosses his path.
Can you rehabilitate your dog?
One of the best ways to intervene is by using early prevention.
By raising your pup before he's three months old with cats, it may help the situation. Puppies are quite keen on playing with cats who may not share this enthusiasm.
So it's crucial that you don't butt or chip in during altercations unless there's a risk of serious injury. The cat's defensiveness will teach the puppy his boundaries and also ensure that he is less likely to mess about with cats later on.
Separation and containment is another alternative
If your attack dog has killed a cat and continues to keep chasing them, it's best to keep them within an open, fenced-in area alone.
In case this is not possible, then designate a large kennel area. This prevents the dog from packing with other loose dogs who also tends to foster aggressive behavior.
Also, when walking a dog, you should take note that cats are nocturnal, so they are most active before dawn and after dusk. So avoid walking your dog during these times and ensure that your dog is always on a leash so you can maintain control of him.
What are the legal ramifications?
If your dog has killed your cat, then the experience will no doubt be tragic and traumatizing.
However, if it's your dog as well, then the decision is entirely up to you as to what you decide to do. Once again, as we mentioned earlier, putting a dog down is never an ethical decision to make.
On the other hand, if it's someone else's dog that killed your cat, then you need to find out exactly what the laws in your state say when it comes to someone else's pet killing yours.
Your neighbor's Cat
Then again, if it's your neighbor's cat that your dog killed, then your neighbor will basically have to do the same and refer to the state laws pertaining to your pet killing theirs.
Moving on and rehabilitation
A dog killing a cat, irrespective of whether it is someone else's beloved cat or your own, is any pet owner's worst nightmare.
As much as you or your neighbor may be attached to the cats, blaming the dogs for acting out of instinct is not going to help the situation. Instinct is basically hard-wired behavior and can sometimes change but never be totally removed.
However, here are some tips for recovering from the loss and preventing further mishaps:
Manage the environment
If your dog has killed the neighbor's cats, you can try and offer your condolences and also offered to pay for the burial or cremation services.
It's also in your best interest to ensure that nothing similar happens again in the future. You are entirely responsible for managing your dog's environment, and it's also your responsibility to protect the animals of others.
In some cases, cats are just in the wrong place at the wrong time, so can't owners as well should do their best to ensure that their cats are on their own property and away from dogs.
If your dog is provided with ample opportunity, then he will likely, at any stage, act on his instincts again. So if your dog has killed a cat once, he's likely to do it again.
Protect your other cats
If you have cats as well, it's crucial that you prevent access to them from now on. That means keeping your dogs entirely separated from the cats or even consider re-homing your dog or your cat.
As we mentioned many times, the instinct is natural; however, that doesn't mean that it cannot be changed. In lots of cases, the implementation of force, re-training, and behavior modification can be highly helpful.
Fear of your dog hurting your children
It doesn't necessarily mean that because your dog killed a cat that they are now going to turn on your kids or infants.
However, the behavior will indicate that the dog is at risk for such problems. Some dogs are also overstimulated by fast running children. So it never hurts to practice caution and always supervise interactions between dogs and children.
Irrespective of whether your dog has a history of killing animals or not, you should always take extra measures to be around when your kids are interacting with your dogs.
While dogs killing cats is something that is normal, as the pet owner, you can take the initiative to ensure that he refrains from such behavior.
So do your research and find out as much about preventative measures as you can and if you are still struggling, then seek professional help.
Dan is a well respected content researcher who has vast experience working projects in the pets niche. He is a frequent contributor to dogtemperament.com and loves delivering numerous helpful dog articles like this one that are read by thousands of our readers monthly.