4 Things That Dogs and Cats Have in Common

Discover the surprising ways that dogs and cats may be more similar than you think.

Mar 3, 2024By Donna Hobson
things that dogs and cats have in common

Are you a dog person or a cat person? It's a question you'll no doubt have been asked at some point in your life. Why? Because knowing the answer to this helps us attribute a set of characteristics to one another. Many believe cat people are more likely to be independent and creative like their feline friends, while dog people possess fierce loyalty and enjoy being sociable.

We know that there are many differences between cats and dogs, but did you know that there are many similarities between the two species? Discover each of these similarities that will help you gain a deeper insight into your four-legged friend.

Both Rely on Body Language to Communicate

dog and cat outside in snow licking and grooming
Credit: Image by yan1515 on Pixabay

Dogs and cats speak their own languages; dogs use barks and howls, while cats use meows, chirps, and purrs. Still, the foundation of communication for both species is surprisingly similar. If you own a dog or cat, you'll notice that they rely on body language for communication more than anything else.

For example, cats and dogs use their tails to communicate a message to us. The problem is that a dog trying to understand a cat is like an English speaker trying to understand someone talking in Chinese. They're communicating via the same method but speaking a different language.

A common sign of happiness in dogs is a tail wag and open mouth, but if your cat displays this behavior, it's more likely to be a sign of anger. In addition, dogs will love a playful chase, which a cat could find intimidating; as the cat tries to run away, the dog interprets it as playfulness and begins to chase even harder.

There are some common postures between the two, though. When a dog or cat turns their body to the side, they try to eliminate a threat. Forward pointing ears signal that both animals are relaxed, while ears flattened to the back of the head signal fear or submission. Dilated pupils indicate arousal, and a tail curled beneath them signifies a fear response.

Both Build Strong Relationships with Their Humans

dog and cat snuggled up on a blanket
Credit: Image by JackieLou DL on Pixabay

When we compare dogs and cats, we often view the former as loving and playful, while the latter can appear aloof and standoffish towards their humans. While there is some truth to this summarisation - cats are more challenging to train and less likely to cover their owner's face with kisses - it doesn't show the whole picture.

Both dogs and cats form strong bonds with their owners; they just express themselves in different ways. A dog that loves you will likely jump on you, wag its tail when in your company, and lick your face. In contrast, a cat who loves you is more likely to rub its cheeks against you, purr, and engage in a grooming session, which involves licking you how it would usually lick its own fur.

In addition, both dogs and cats can select a "favorite person" based on which human feeds and interacts with them the most. Cats are more likely to gravitate towards one person, but dogs can also engage in this behavior if they feel a particular bond with one human.

Both Have Territorial Instincts

dog and cat outside on grass
Credit: Image by PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay

Every animal is born with certain instincts, such as the instinct to survive or the instinct to reproduce. One commonality between dogs and cats is that they both possess the instinct to guard their territory, which leads them to defend things such as food, bedding, or toys.

Dogs use their urine - and sometimes feces - to mark any territory or possessions they consider their own. While many owners will tolerate this behavior outdoors, dogs who urinate inside or around other people can become challenging for their owners.

Cats engage in urine marking, but not in the same capacity as dogs. In the wild, cats mark their territory with urine. But in a house where they no longer have to fight for resources or survive alone, they are less likely to urinate, especially if they are spayed or neutered. Instead, a cat is most likely to mark its territory by rubbing against it or you.

Cats have scent glands along their cheeks, flanks, and paws; when they rub these body parts against something, they leave a little bit of their unique scent behind. And because a cat rubbing their face up against you is so cute, humans are less likely to intervene in this behavior.

They Have Some Shared Physical Characteristics

dog and cat being affectionate tender love
Credit: Image by María Fernanda Pérez on Pixabay

We can see that both animals have four legs, whiskers, and a tail, but the physical similarities don't stop there. Whiskers aren't the only additional sensory organs that these two species possess. Dogs and cats both have an incredible sense of smell and can pick up scents that are undetectable to humans, such as chemicals and pheromones. They can do this thanks to a kind of secondary nose called the vomeronasal organ.

In addition, both have a third eyelid called the nictitating membrane. This eyelid stretches horizontally from the corner of the eye and offers extra protection against wind, rain, dust, bacteria, and other hazards.

And both dogs and cats possess dewclaws on their front feet. The purpose of which is to act similarly to a human's thumb. The dew claw is not quite opposable, but it provides extra grip when climbing or holding on to prey.

Donna Hobson
By Donna Hobson

Donna believes that keeping a pet is the key to a happy life. Over the years, many creatures have passed through her home - Sooty the cat, Millie the rabbit, Stuart (Little) the guinea pig, and Trixie the tortoise, alongside her pet goldfish, Zippy, who lived to the grand old age of 24 years! She currently resides with her black kitten Jinx and an aquarium full of fish and snails to entrance them both. When she is not looking after her pets, Donna enjoys researching and writing the answers to all your pet-related wonders.