Cats and dogs are not known to be the best of friends. Although I know of families who have cats and dogs who are close, the relationship between these two animals is, well, complicated.

Ancient Rivalry Between Cats and Dogs

Ancient canids were at their prime in the Americas about 22 million years ago, when about 30 species roamed North America at the same time. But only nine species inhabit the continent today, including the domestic dog. And scientists now think they have found a culprit – cats.

When pre-historic felines made their way over into the New World via the Bering Land Bridge about 18.5 million years ago, they began competing for prey with the region’s pre-existing canine species. Unfortunately for dogs, the cats were better equipped as hunters – their solitary ambush style coupled with a shorter muzzle and powerful jaw helped them out-hunt dogs. According to scientists, this contributed over time to the extinction of 40 canine species in the Americas.

Cats and Dogs Today

Fast forward to today, and some of the descendants of these early cats and dogs are now living in our homes, though much smaller. And the competition continues, only now they are competing for food, cuddles and attention. Some argue that fuel is added to this rivalry because dogs have adapted to help us do a variety of jobs while cats have adapted to do…well…whatever they’d like. Perhaps that has resulted in a little jealousy from jobless felines? Or maybe our pups have bitter memories of those first cats who out-hunted their ancestors.

My dogs are quite offended at the sight of felines. Rosie, in particular, barks, growls and makes a variety of other disgruntled noises when she sees one – a heightened response that is a level up from her roadrunner protocol. Could this be due to an ancient rivalry or is it just prey instinct? Perhaps its a mix of both.

Do you have a dog that can’t stand cats or does he or she love felines? Let me know in the comments below! And don’t forget to subscribe to my monthly eNewsletter to receive stories like this in your inbox once a month.