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If your dog barks, growls at or chases cats, you may be wondering if your dog can kill your cat. Unfortunately, some dogs do not know how to get along with other pets, especially if they have not received proper socialization training or if they have a behavioral problem.

In some cases, dogs will attack other pets such as cats if they feel threatened, and if they are too rough, they may even kill them. Other times, they can kill cats merely because they have a high prey drive or because the cat is on their territory.

But how do you know if your dog will kill your cat?

Will your dog kill your cat?

Surprisingly few dogs will kill a cat, and cats are remarkably adept at keeping themselves alive. After all, they are faster and more agile than most dogs, have razor-sharp claws, and can be pretty tough themselves. So even if your dog chases cats or shows aggression towards cats, the odds they can kill your cat are a bit lower than you think.

Don’t believe us? Watch these videos of cats taking on dogs.

So never underestimate an adult cat! Anybody who has tried to force a cat to do something they don’t want to knows that a cat is a tough customer.

It is not like a chicken or squirrel. But this doesn’t mean that a dog can’t or won’t kill a cat.

Is your new cat or kitten meeting your dog for the first time? You might want to read Introducing a Dog to a Kitten or Cat (The Right Way).

Be sure to read our new eye-opening post, Is Pet Insurance Worth It: 5 shocking facts you need to know... You might be in for a shock!

Factors that can influence whether your dog will kill a cat include:

  • Has your dog been raised with your cat and have they bonded?
  • Has your dog been successfully socialized with cats during the critical socialization window? You can read about the ages your puppy needs to be socialized here.
  • Is it a cat you have already had for a long time that your dog is familiar with, or is this a new cat you have brought to your home? Unfamiliar cats are at greater risk.
  • Is your dog a powerful breed that does not like cats? Small breeds, old dogs, or impaired dogs may be aggressive towards cats and not like them, but a geriatric Yorkshire Terrier can’t kill an adult cat even if they want to.
  • How reactive and tenacious is your dog? Many dogs might display aggression toward a cat once and retreat after a swift swipe to the nose. However, some dogs, such as many terriers, are “game,” meaning they do not quit a fight easily and can have an instinctually high prey drive. They can also be far more territorial, have a lower tolerance for other animals, and pose more of a threat to cats.
  • On that note, breed and genetics play a role. Breeds with a hunting background that have dogfighting in their ancestry or that are extremely territorial are more dangerous to cats in general. However, any breed can have genetic or behavioral problems. So, even usually friendly breeds such as Golden Retrievers may display dangerous behaviors to cats. This is possible in cases with dogs that show fear aggression or dogs with severe resource guarding problems. So dogs that have shown problems linked to aggression may be dangerous to your cat.
  • Do you have a multi-dog household? Occasionally, dogs in a pack are more able and likely to kill another animal if they are inclined toward aggressive behavior or are territorial. This is why a usually calm dog can join in a fight at the dog park. Pack behavior is sometimes a problem.
  • Has your dog shown any previous signs of aggression to your cat? If your dog is beginning to snarl or growl, there may be trouble brewing, and it’s time for a professional to intervene before the situation escalates. If your dog has bitten your cat before, or you struggle to control your dog when your cat is around, then your cat is in danger.

Will your dog kill your kitten?

Your dog may be fine with cats, but you should keep an eye on any kittens. A kitten cannot defend itself or flee to the extent that an adult cat can and is more at risk.

There are several instances where your dog may kill your kitten:

  • Dogs that are too active and energetic can injure the kitten or even kill it while playing.
  • A kitten is more vulnerable to a dog with a high prey drive or to a dog that doesn’t like small furry creatures.
  • A kitten does not necessarily know the rules of a house. Adult cats in households with dogs typically establish themselves at the top of the hierarchy. Even if dogs aren’t bonded to an adult cat, they usually learn to leave them alone and give them their space. See this video of cats stealing dogs’ beds as an example of how intimidated dogs often are with adult cats in the home.

However, a kitten cannot always immediately establish itself at the top of the hierarchy, making it a potential target for some dogs.

  • For territorial dogs, a kitten is a soft target. A kitten approaching a resource guarding dog’s food bowl is at risk of being bitten. And, due to their size, they are more vulnerable to being killed in such a case.

Naturally, any dog that is not socialized, trained, or has an intense hunting or guarding instinct is dangerous to kittens.

It is vital that new kittens are properly introduced to dogs in the home and that they are never left alone until it is clear the dog does not pose a threat.

Dog breeds that kill cats

If you are scared of your dog killing your cat and wondering which breeds are most likely to do so, keep in mind that breed isn’t the only factor that could contribute to your dog killing your cat.

There are plenty of Pit Bulls that have a feline best friend. Even active hunting dogs usually learn to coexist with cats and other animals in the house.

Nonetheless, the following dog breeds and types are more likely to clash with cats:

  • Sighthounds such as the Greyhound, Afghan Hound, Scottish Deerhound, Taigan, or Borzoi, are naturally programmed to give chase when they see something small and furry.
  • Terriers such as the Jack Russell Terrier, English Bull Terrier, or American Pit Bull Terrier are known for their strong predation instincts. They can still carry a strong instinct to hunt and kill small game or confront other animals, including cats and other dogs. They are also extraordinarily tenacious.
  • Livestock guarding dogs such as the Kangal or Anatolian Shepherd sometimes have a much lower tolerance for animals that could be viewed as other predators. Although if raised with cats, many owners report success. If raised with cats, they sometimes guard the cats as part of their “herd”.
  • Herding breeds such as the Border Collie or Australian Cattle Dog are usually high-energy, and their instinct to herd can lead them to harass cats. This doesn’t necessarily make them deadly to cats, but they typically need to be raised with cats to avoid too much upheaval since no cat likes to be herded.
  • Hunting breeds are some of the most common culprits after guard dogs and terrier types. This can range from Vizslas to Weimaraners, to even Beagles. While these dogs are not as frequently used for hunting as they once were, they retain a naturally high prey drive that is sometimes a problem for cats. These dogs need to be raised with cats and fully socialized with them early.
  • Guarding and protection dogs refer to a range of dogs, from the powerful Cane Corso to the traditional working protection dogs such as German Shepherds or the Belgian Malinois. The same instinct that makes these dogs good guardians makes them a problem for cats if they are not fully socialized and trained.

It’s important to note that most of these breeds can live full and happy lives with a cat in the household. Dedicated owners who socialize these puppies with cats in their household rarely have a problem.

dog and cat

How often do dogs kill cats?

One study suggests that just over 10% of cats died from trauma. However, the study does not specify what kind of trauma and how much of it is dog-related. Cats are probably more likely to be hit by a car than killed by a dog.

However, dog attacks on cats happen quite often, so some of that 10% is undoubtedly cats who have died from dog attacks.

Feral and outdoor cats are most at risk of being killed by dogs as they travel vast distances and are more exposed to dangerous dogs. Indoor cats killed by a dog in the household do happen, but there are no official statistics to confirm how often.

Indeed, the vast majority of dogs who are raised with a cat never pose a danger to them.

Reasons a dog might kill a cat

From one point of view, dogs and cats are evolutionary rivals, much like lions and hyenas. In fact, the issue between dogs and cats probably predates domestication. It is natural for predators to drive one another off hunting grounds or even kill each other since they compete for resources.

Nevertheless, most dogs raised and bred as companion animals are happy to accept a cat. Many dogs will even do this without any socialization simply because they are friendly dogs with a happy-go-lucky disposition. But the most common reasons for dogs attacking cats include:

  1. A dog is not socialized with cats. Sometimes a dog views one cat as part of the household, but strange and new cats are still threats and intruders.
  2. A dog has become aggressive and territorial. A cat can become a rival for resources such as food or attention in these cases.
  3. A dog has a naturally high prey drive and sees the cat as prey.
  4. A cat approaches a reactive dog that is fearful or aggressive.
  5. A dog has had a negative experience with a cat, especially a puppy, and has learned that cats are dangerous.

Do dogs get jealous of cats?

Dogs can be jealous not only of cats but also of other people and pets in the house. This sometimes happens when a new person or pet enters their life, but it can develop over time with no clear triggers.

Cats receiving a lot of attention from their pet parents or more treats or tastier food can all foster jealousy in a dog.

This is especially a problem for a dog that has become anxiously attached to a person, and has started guarding their owner from other people and animals. Sometimes owners encourage this guarding behavior, not realizing that jealousy can escalate into a dangerous situation.

Which dog breeds are friendly with cats?

Cats and dogs can coexist if you choose the right breeds for each other’s temperaments. They can learn to live together in peace and even become best friends.

In addition, some breeds do get along well with cats more often than others. Remember, breed alone is not a guarantee. But it can help. Some breeds that typically do well with cats include:

  • Labrador Retriever
  • Golden Retriever
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Bichon Frise
  • Pug
  • Golden Retriever
  • Basset
  • Maltese
  • Shih Tzu
  • Papillon
  • Newfoundland
  • Great Dane
  • Bulldog
  • Pekingese
  • Clumber Spaniel
  • Irish Wolfhound

Leaving your dog with your cat or kitten

A puppy and kitten raised together will usually learn to tolerate each other and even bond. However, certain precautions must be taken if a dog is already a well-established household member and you want to bring a new cat into the family. 

Puppies too must be taught proper etiquette around cats, as bounding up to them can cause a cat to become defensive and lash out. This can mean lifelong problems.

You should only leave your cat and dog alone until you are certain they are getting along. This means that the dog isn’t chasing after the kitten or cat, and the cat is not hissing or snarling at them. If you are unsure, keep them separated when you are not at home to ensure they are safely integrated.

Additionally, even if you feel comfortable leaving the kitten or cat alone, they must have a place they can easily access to hide away from the dog, such as high platforms the dog cannot reach. Otherwise, keep them in separate areas of the house while you are gone.

What to do when your dog is lunging at a new kitten

If your dog lunges at your new kitten, they may be doing so out of excitement or aggression. An excited dog needs to be redirected and their energy channeled.

Exercise them thoroughly before introducing them to your cat and make sure they are worn out. Then keep them on the leash, but focused on you with treats and training exercises while the cat is in the room or nearby.

Learn to correct overexcited lunging, and redirect your dog’s energy with a toy or a treat, so that the cat becomes less interesting. Reward your dog any time they approach your cat calmly, and distract them if the cat seems hostile.

You can also use place or mat training to help your dog learn that being in a room with a cat doesn’t mean they should react. Keep all interactions short and calm.

Practice impulse control with your dog and gradually shape their behavior so that they are calm and sedate in the presence of a cat, never worked up and excited.

If a dog is lunging because they are aggressive, this is a more serious problem. Separate the cat and dog immediately before the situation escalates. A professional trainer will need to assess the severity of the aggression and the degree of threat posed to the cat. In cases that are not too severe, a behaviorist and trainer can help integrate your pets. However, if a dog is severely aggressive to a cat, it may be that one animal needs to be rehomed.

Final thoughts

Hundreds of thousands of multi-pet homes have both dogs and cats that coexist peacefully. So while dogs killing cats is a fact of life, it is actually more common that dogs and cats become friends or at least learn to tolerate one another.

However, if you have a dog that has a serious issue with cats, it may be better not to bring a kitten into the household.

Likewise, beware of bringing an adult dog into a home where there is already a cat if you do not know how this dog responds to cats.

Breed can be a factor, but so can a lack of socialization, or behavior problems like resource guarding and jealousy. Whenever an animal’s life is in danger though, it is best to get professional intervention and help rather than just hope for the best.