We often hear about how dogs and cats don’t get along, but this idea is a bit of a stretch. Many dogs and cats do get along perfectly well, seen in how the animals interact with each other. However, this raises an interesting question.
Why do cats lick dogs?
In short, cats lick dogs for the same reasons they lick their fellow felines. The reasons include affection, maternal instincts, grooming, pack behavior, and positive reinforcement.
This video shows a cat licking a dog in a gesture of what appears to be mutual affection. Many dogs and cats have similar bonds that allow for such displays.
Read on to learn more about what a cat licking a dog means for both animals and if you need to intervene.
Do Cats Lick Dogs Out of Affection?
According to Pampered Pets, cats do lick to show affection. Even though many people see dogs and cats as being enemies, cats and dogs can be best friends in the right circumstances.
When a cat forms a tight bond with a dog, it may be due to having been raised with one. A kitten and a puppy acquired around the same age are likely to get along well with each other. Displays of affection will be typical in this situation.
A cat and a dog will require some getting used to each other when not raised together from a young age. However, the two animals will eventually accept each other with careful introductions. Displays of affection may occur with greater familiarity.
Do Cats Lick Dogs as a Maternal Act?
People who own a female cat who has ever had a litter and a puppy or very young dog may notice their cat giving the puppy or dog motherly attention. Is the cat treating her canine friend as one of her babies, or is it something else?
According to Claudia Smargiasso from Petcube, cats lick household members, including dogs, to show their acceptance. The cat is showing that she sees the dig as part of her family.
When a puppy is very young, the cat may treat it as a kitten that she feels the need to take care of. The cat will likely feel very protective of “her” puppy. A mother cat showing such affection towards a puppy is a sign that the two will remain friends.
Will Cats Groom Dogs Like They Do Other Cats?
According to Dr. Cynthia McManis cats have a reputation for grooming themselves as many as 50 times a day.
Dogs groom themselves regularly; however, they are not as fastidious as cats. A cat could be grooming the dog in much the same way as it would groom a fellow feline family member. This behavior is very common with cats and dogs that have strong bonds.
In some ways, a cat grooming a dog may also be treated as a display of affection. When a cat decides to groom a dog as a show of affection, it can be a form of reassurance. If your cat grooms your dog very often, the dog may return the favor.
Could Cats Lick Dogs as a Type of Pack Behavior?
Many people dispute whether pack behavior comes into play with cats as it does with dogs. After all, cats are usually thought of as being solitary animals. However, even if they don’t form “packs”, can some of their behaviors be similar to packs?
Dr. Gary M. Landsburg, DVM, acknowledges that cats are social animals.
In a multi-cat setting, cats lick each other as a form of social behavior. Sometimes, it is a case of one of the animals showing deference to the other. If the two pets are of different ages, the younger may be showing deference to the older.
Cats that get along exceptionally well with dogs may share food and toys with their furry friend. Some feel that the cat licking the dog is a form of “asking” to share the food or the toy. In this setting, licking shows mutual respect.
Is a Cat Licking a Dog a Type of Positive Reinforcement?
Dr. Joanna Woodnutt has highlighted the value of positive reinforcement in dog behavior.
A kind word or the right type of touch signals that a dog has done something right. When a cat licks a dog, they are showing that the dog’s behavior pleases them. The dog will take this as being every bit as much of a positive sign s getting a treat.
Cats are more likely to lick dogs when they remain calm around the cat. Licking a dog helps a cat demonstrate that it feels safe in the dog’s company. With this type of behavior, you can expect a peaceful relationship between a cat and dog.
Dogs and cats can get along very well, especially when they receive a reward in the form of positive attention from a cat. When a dog tolerates a cat’s licking, that is a sign that the two animals have excellent chances of continuing to get along.
What Should You Do If the Dog Finds the Licking Objectionable?
Even though many dogs tolerate or enjoy having a cat lick them, what do you do if the dog shows annoyance or even hostility? How do you make sure you don’t have to contend with fighting? The good news is that there are ways to mitigate potential problems.
Some dog breeds have poor or no tolerance for cats. In most cases, it is because the dog is a hunting breed bred to hunt prey of a similar size to cats. A cat’s willingness to run away from the dog that gets hostile may trigger the prey instinct.
You should avoid having a cat and dog interact with each other before they have been properly introduced. Fights that break out because of poor supervision can have lasting effects on both animals. Dogs may be unforgiving once scratched.
Careful introductions will help reduce the chances of hostility. If you see signs that one or the other of the animals is being hostile, separate them before any fighting ensues. Preventing a fight is a lot easier than breaking one up and less stressful.
If your cat persists in trying to lick the dog after the dog shows disinterest, consider using a spray on your dog’s coat containing ingredients that smell bad to cats, such as citrus.
Make sure the cat has somewhere in the house to go where the dog cannot chase it. A gate across a doorway that the dog cannot jump or climb over easily is one possible solution. You will also want to keep them separated when you cannot supervise them.
Cats Lick Dogs for Many Reasons That Are Seldom a Problem
Cats have many reasons they lick dogs, including but not limited to affection and, in the case of some female cats, maternal instincts. For cats, these behaviors are social in nature, odd as they may seem to people. Licking may signify a strong bond.
When a dog tolerates a cat licking it, they are likely to end up getting along well. However, you should watch for signs of difficulty between the two. You will find that it helps to be willing to step in if any trouble occurs.
If your cat licks your dog and the dog tolerates the licking, there is nothing to worry about. Having a cat and dog that get along that well is always a good thing for the animals involved, as well as their families.