Meeting Dogs While Walking Your Cat

While walking your cat on a leash, it is really likely that you will meet a dog.

We love dogs, but not all dogs love cats and not all cats love dogs. 

The dogs you meet while out and about with your kitty may be frightened, threatened or aggressive to your cat and vice versa.

We asked the Catexplorer Community to share how they manage interactions with dogs when they are taking their cats for walks, hikes, and all other types of adventures.

Avoid Interaction with the Dog

One way to stop a tricky situation is to avoid interaction with dogs that you may meet.

Avoid Dogs All Together

Most dog owners go for a walk from mid morning to late afternoon.

If you are concerned with bumping into dogs, you can explore at a time that many are not out and about, particularly early in the morning or in the evening/at night.

Perhaps even choose locations which are not very popular as it is less likely that you will see a dog.

Move Your Cat Away From the Interaction

When you see a dog approaching, there are a few ways to remove your cat from the situation.

Pick Up Your Cat

Many cats feel safe in their owners’ arms, as this is a safe spot for them.

When you see a dog approaching, you can pick up your cat so that they are at a higher height that the dog. It may also help to tell the owner of the approaching dog that you have a frightened cat. Typically the dog owners will react by hurrying their dog past.

Retreat to Their Cat Backpack or Stroller

If your cat’s backpack or stroller is their safe spot, you can place your cat in there till the dog passes. Perhaps you can even train them to jump in on their own.

Shield Your Cat

When the dog approaches you can ‘hide’ you cat by either picking them up and turning around or having your cat at your feet and stand in between your cat and the dog.

Move Your Cat

You can also move you cat to higher ground or let them climb a tree (if you are comfortable with this) or move to another area where the dog will not notice your cat.

Inform Dog Owners You Have a Cat

You can hang up a sign at the beginning of the trail, which informs dog owners that you are walking with your cat and has some simple instructions on what they can do if they bump into you on the trail.

Interact with the Dog

Cat and Dog Friends

Some cats are comfortable with (and even love) interacting with dogs and vice versa.

If your cat loves dogs, we recommend that you first move your cat away from the interaction and ask the owner of the approaching dog if the dog likes cats. This is mainly as the dog may not be cat friendly.

If the dog likes cats and the owner is comfortable with their dog interacting with your cat, you could introduce your dog loving cat to the dog.

Help Your Cat Meet Dogs

If your cat has a positive experience with a dog, they are more likely to be comfortable and easier to manage when you do inevitably come across a dog while out and about.

A safe spot for your cat to meet dogs may be a pet shop, where dogs are kept on a leash.

Or your local vet may have a friendly resident dog that your kitty can meet.

Also, if you have a friend or family member with a dog that may be ok with cats, you could introduce your cat to this dog.

As with any cat-dog interaction we suggest you always have their owner’s permission prior to the introduction.

Create Long Term Relationships With a Dogs

It is possible for cats and dogs have a happy long term friendship. This may help your kitty become more receptive to dogs, especially when you are out and about.

While the internet is full of cats and dogs who are best buddies, this relationship may take a while to develop. As a cat owner, we also need to understand that the bond may not become very close.

The initial meeting of the cat and dog will set the basis for the relationship.

In order to develop a relationship, a cat and dog needs to learn to trust each other, which will enable them to be more accepting of each other.

We suggest that you let your cat set the pace for the interactions. If, at any time, your cat or the dog looks upset, frustrated or nervous – separate them. In order to understand their mood, keep an eye on their body language.  A happy kitty’s tail will be up high and proud and a happy doggy is likely to be submissive to the cat.

The cat and dog will need to respect each other’s space and boundaries. They both need to be given their own space when eating and sleeping. The dog will also need to learn to move away with the cat hisses or growls.

You can even use clicker training of both the cat and dog to create a positive environment and experience. Click and provide a treat for every positive interaction and this will help lead to a positive relationship.

What to do if Your Cat Gets Scared and Runs Away

There is a chance that your cat will get scared when you meet a dog while walking them on a leash.

While dogs are known to run away, a cat is more likely to run and find a place to be hidden till the danger passes.

Depending on how often you and your cat explore and area, your cat may develop a liking to a specific hiding spot. If they do get spooked, it is likely they will run to this spot.

In the moment, it is hard to do, but try and stay calm. Your cat will read your mood and react accordingly. Stay calm will help calm your kitty.

If you can, when your cat bolts, keep hold of their leash and follow them. Talk to them calmly and encourage them to stop.

When they do stop, your cat is probably still scared and anxious. As such, make sure that they can see and hear you before you touch them.

In order to help stop your kitty from bolting when they are scared, we also recommend developing a safe spot like their backpack or stroller. It would be ideal to also create a routing or technique for your cat to request to jump back into their safe spot.

We also recommend that you microchip your cat, to increase your chances of finding them again if they do become lost. There are also some great trackers on the market that will help you find them.

What to do if You Meet an Aggressive or Fearful Dog

Understanding the Dog’s Body Language

@geordi_data has some great suggestions on how to read and react to a dog's body language:

It is possible to identify fear and drive based aggression in dogs.

While it's not necessarily critical to be able to tell the two apart, since they both indicate it's unsafe for the cat and dog to interact at that moment, it's good to know there is a difference, especially for unleashed/unsupervised dog situations.

Dogs in prey drive are going to look "locked on." Pupils usually dilated, eyes fixed on "prey," muscles tensed.

Depending on the breed, their physical behavior will be different:

·         Herding dogs will stalk (freeze, move slow, silent)

·         terriers will lunge and bark pretty soon after fixating;

·         Younger dogs will get overexcited and jiggy, and their barks will usually be high-pitched.

The time that passes between fixation and engagement (moving forward, barking, attempting to seize prey) varies based on the dog's age, experience, and breed, and can be anything from seconds to minutes to never moving to engagement at all. The presence, focus, and capability of their handler is also a factor.

If an unleashed dog has fixated on your cat, you need to remove the cat from the dog's line of vision and retreat from the dog slowly.

Dogs who are exhibiting fear of your cat will look very different.

They'll be watching the cat, but the eyes will also dart to their handler for comfort/instruction and/or around the area for an escape route. The body may freeze, but usually the hind legs will be slightly tucked in preparation to wheel and bolt.

If you encounter a leashed or unleashed dog that appears to be afraid of your cat, do not allow the cat to get closer to the dog.

Pick up the cat (safety first) and cross to the other side of the street (slowly, don't turn your back on the dog) or give the dog as wide a berth as possible.

In both situations, you are essentially trying to remove the stimulus (yer beeb) as quickly as you can without doing anything to escalate the state of the dog.

Slow, deliberate movements. Calm, low voice. If you call out for help, do so loudly but calmly. Slowly increasing the space between you/your cat and the dog.

Prepping Beforehand

Some owners carry Citronella spray or other deterrents to help protect their cats in case of a worst case scenario.

How do you manage interactions with dogs while walking your cat? Tell us in the comments!