Fighting like cats and dogs

That’s the old saying used to describe amongst other things, how children and siblings, and couples fight. But, it’s not really true. It should be Fighting like cats or Fighting like dogs. The general misconception is that because cats and dogs are different this is going to cause conflict.

In reality, as any animal behaviourist, or vet or long-term cat and dog (at the same time) owner can tell you, cats and dogs are different species and don’t compete directly. What in effect happens if there is a skirmish, is that the dog is trying to hunt/kill the cat, or vice versa, depending on which animal is the biggest. Usually what happens in a household of multi-species pets (who have adapted to living together), is that dogs and cats pretty much ignore each other. At best they’ll actually have similar personalities and like each other enough (or are bored enough!) to hang out or play together.

That’s the theory.

In February 2009 we got Rosie, a new Staffie (Staffordshire Bull Terrier) puppy. She was this wonderful, beautiful bundle of love, joy and energy that came into our lives. And into the cat’s. Who didn’t have quite the same experience of her. Lucy had lived quite happily with our previous Staffie, but she seemed to sense right from the start, that this was a different puppy altogether. The first afternoon Lucy (who was in one of her usual spots up on a high wall), looked down on our new bundle of joy, who was running around the garden playing until she dropped.

That evening Lucy came down off the wall, and discovered that the puppy was a doggie-terrorist-in-training. For the next year, Rosie chased Lucy around the house and yard, and Lucy ran. Before you think that Lucy is a woos (*I actually mean “wuss” as one reader has pointed out in the comments!), you have to consider that Lucy is a skinny little cat, and the dog barrelling into her at full speed and momentum, would probably have broken a couple of her bones. So Lucy retreated to the high walls, or to the side of the house that the dog was banned from (this to limit the damage the puppy did!).

Month 7: Things still not going too well . . .

One day I was talking to one of our vets, and he asked in passing how our cat and the puppy were getting on. He’d experienced Rosie’s “exuberance” a couple of times! When I explained the situation, his response was “Well, you did have to go and get a Staffie”. Like most terriers, Staffies like chasing things.

Then Rosie passed her first birthday. She started to quieten down a little. She also began to realise that all the attention she had been getting from her humans was nice . . . but that the other furry four-legged creature in the house was at times a lot more interesting.  They had the same pastimes: napping, playing, and of course eating. The fact that Rosie was severely reprimanded for rushing the cat one day, also no doubt made an impression! Staffies really don’t like their humans getting cross with them. Ours doesn’t even like the word “bad” being used in her presence.

Of course it could be that Lucy had just been biding her time, being nice to the puppy, and waiting for the fight to be a more equal one! Lucy has been known to chase the neighbours’ dogs down the street, and she routinely takes on the feline intruders in our yard.

“It is the natural order of life that cats rule. Most dogs understand this. So most cat-dog introductions go well. The cat hisses – and the dog understands”.

From “The Cat Owner’s Manual” by Bruce Fogle (veterinarian)

Whatever it was, things began to change. One day we noticed that Lucy had  stopped running, and Rosie was no longer chasing her. And now, after almost 20 months, they are best buddies. They hang out together, they nap together, they eat together, they play together.

And they’ve at last proved the theory to be correct.

Month 20: Peace in the house!

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Categories: Random


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at and (my photoblog)


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7 Comments on “Fighting like cats and dogs”

  1. Dave Joubert
    October 9, 2010 at 5:05 pm #

    Where can I get a dog like Rosie?

  2. October 9, 2010 at 6:36 pm #

    Ah, bless! The joys of having two loving animals under one roof – so precious! Lovely photos too!
    Sunshine xx

    • October 9, 2010 at 6:54 pm #

      It was just the first year that was a trial! Lucy (the cat) was adopted when we still had our old dog, who had been WELL trained by our previous cat.

  3. GeoRoMancer
    October 11, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

    “Before you think that Lucy is a woos …” – actually, Lucy might indeed be called a woos, at least tangentially, according to an original meaning (pussy):

    woos/wooss: Someone who is afraid of doing simple things. A woosy, a wimp, a pussy.
    (; an ineffectual person
    “Wuss is indeed synonymous with wimp. It is a shortened form of wussy, which is thought to come from pussy-wussy, making it, basically, a synonym for pussy, a slang word meaning “a feeble man” or even “a homosexual”. Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary dates wuss to 1980-85, but wussy is, of course, older. The OED, however, doesn’t even contain wuss, wussy, or even pussy-wussy.

    Wooss is actually quite common in England but less so in “the colonies”, I think. Never heard it in Sarth Effrika (we had much better words …). It is also a surname – which means that some poor kid had a tough time at school …

    Sorry to infest your blog with etymological notes (or was it entomological? Similar spellings sometimes “bug” me … hur, hur!).

    • October 11, 2010 at 3:07 pm #

      Thank goodness I have readers who look out of my mistakes! And thank you also for your long and very educational explanation. I hope you found the error increased your enjoyment of the post, and didn’t ruin it for you.

      I have updated the post with a small comment about what I REALLY meant.

  4. March 1, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    Such a great picture of them sleeping in the same picture- are you sure you didn’t spend hours training them for that?

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