Why Does My Dog Act Like A Cat? 9 Possible Reasons

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dog acting like a cat

When you think of dog and cat behaviors, you likely imagine two completely different personalities. Felines and canines are both beloved household pets, but they could be any more distinct from one another! 

They contrast so much that they’ve developed a reputation for being mortal enemies through movies and cartoons!

While owners of both pets know that they can coexist peacefully, there’s no denying that cats and dogs have their definable quirks. 

Cats tend to be more aloof, focused on self-grooming, and courageous in where they investigate.

Meanwhile, dogs are affectionate, intensely loyal, and somewhat hyperactive when it comes time to play!

These behaviors and personality traits are so well-established that most pet-lovers know what to expect out of their furball. But in some cases, dogs can surprise you and act more like a cat than a canine!

Dogs are curious creatures that can sometimes exhibit cat-like behaviors, bewildering owners. But why does that weird personality switch-up occur?

Ways a Dog Can Behave Like a Cat

Before we get into the “why,” let’s talk about the “what.” You have to understand what kinds of actions are considered cat-like before you can do anything!

There are many stereotypically feline behaviors that dogs can present.

While there are obvious things like stretching and purring, dogs can do a lot more to blur the lines between canine and feline!

Here are some of the common behaviors you might see.

The list isn’t exhaustive, as feline and canine behavior is pretty complex. But, it’s an excellent place to start and covers some of the most recognizable cat moves.

Body Rubbing

Here’s an action that, for many, instantly reminds them of cats. Felines have a knack for rubbing their body onto yours.

They might weave in and out of your legs as you walk, pressing their head and core against your legs as hard as they can.

Many will also do the same thing when you’re just sitting and relaxing.

Whether or not this behavior is a form of affection is still up for debate. In all reality, cats are likely to it to spread their scent. Dogs can do the same thing.

They’ll lean their body weight onto you, forcing you to support them.


Cats are notorious self-groomers. Seriously: Have you ever considered how much time cats spend licking themselves? They can get lost in thought for hours as they lick their fur!

It’s an odd behavior that certainly contributes to the animal’s dainty demeanor. Dogs aren’t opposed to licking their bodies, too.

However, it’s usually only for a few minutes at a time. When it becomes a go-to activity, it crosses over to cat-like quirkiness.

Furniture Navigation

Does your dog like to hop onto chairs, tables, or counters? If so, you might start scratching your head as to why!

Dogs are keen to lounge around on sofas and beds, but using your furniture to get around the house is more of a cat’s territory.

They like to jump on any surface they can to get up high and investigate their surroundings.

Aversion to Human Touch

Here’s a behavior that tends to be a little offputting for dog owners. Canines are supposed to be super affectionate and loving.

When your pup doesn’t like to be held or pet for too long, it’s certainly a cause for concern.

Many cats exhibit the same behavior. They’re far too independent. They don’t need to rely on your touch for joy.

Cats can certainly enjoy it from time to time, but most felines are more selective about when and how you touch them.

Potty Time

Finally, we have the strangest cat-like behavior at all! If you ever spot your dog using a pile of sand in your backyard to do their business, it’ll likely catch you off guard!

Cats are most known for using sand and litter boxes to hide their droppings. On the other hand, dogs will go anywhere they want based on scent.

Seeing a dog act as if they’re using a litter box is strange, but it’s not as uncommon as you would think!

Related: Best Indoor Dog Potty Systems

Why is Your Dog Acting Like a Cat?

There’s no way to get into the mind of your dog to see what they’re really thinking. Canines are intelligent and capable of a wide range of emotions.

Psychologically, they’re more complex than most people realize.

While psychoanalyzing your furry friend is next to impossible, we can look at their environment and experiences to get to the bottom of their cat-like behavior!

Breeds Prone to Felinism

Did you know that some dogs are naturally inclined to act more like a cat? Some examples include:

  • Shibu Inu
  • Greyhound
  • Poodle
  • Great Pyrenese
  • Whippet
  • Mi-Ki
  • Vizsla
  • Basenji
  • Manchester Terrior
  • Italian Greyhound

Make no mistake: These dogs also act like your stereotypical dog. However, you may notice a more aloof and relaxed aura about them.

Rather than constantly vying for your attention, these breeds have a reputation for being confident.

They’re also inclined to lounge around and adopt stricter grooming patterns. There’s no cause for concern here. The cat-like quirks are in their nature!

9 Reasons Why Dogs Can Act Like Cats

#1. –  Your Dog is Independent

Not all dogs are going to show eagerness when it comes to human touch and affection. That doesn’t mean that your dog doesn’t love you or think highly of you.

Some dogs are just more independent than others.

Breeds like the Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute are the most independent of them all. However, any dog can exhibit aloofness.

Most associate that non-excitement for human interaction with cats, but dogs can act that way, too.

#2. –  Learned Behaviors from a Companion Cat

Do you have a cat in your house?

It’s a beautiful thing to watch cats and dogs living together in harmony. Not only does it break down stereotypes, but it can lead to some interesting behaviors across the boards.

Both cats and dogs can learn behaviors from the other species. How those learned behaviors affect your pets usually depends on which one is older!

Puppies that move into a home with an older cat tend to follow their lead. Dogs are pack animals, after all! They view the cat as their leader and will often pick up behaviors.

If your dog joins a multi-cat home, the effects can become even more noticeable!

#3. – Past Trauma

Unfortunately, not every reason for a dog acting like a cat starts innocently.

Past abuse and trauma can lead to withdrawn behavior and overall independence. You’re more likely to see this in adopted dogs with questionable backgrounds.

Your pup likely saw, felt, and experienced a world of abuse. They’ve lost trust in humans.

While they might appreciate the adoption and care you provide, establishing an overly affectionate bond isn’t easy.

It takes time to overcome those painful memories and bring out a dog’s true personality.

#4. –  Litter-Trained Canines

Here’s a potential cause for your dog gravitating to litter boxes or sand piles when they do their business.

Curiously, some breeders litter-train puppies early on.

You may have adopted one of those dogs without realizing it!

Litter-training isn’t easy, but some breeds are quick to pick it up. Yorkshire Terriers, for example, are one type of dog that takes to litter box usage pretty well. So, why do breeders do this?

In most cases, it’s for convenience or safety.

Taking out multiple litters of puppies isn’t easy or possible. Depending on the size of the breeding operation, you might be looking at constant back and forths with pups in tow. 

Plus, puppies have naturally small bladders, compounding the hassle even more.

Bad weather can be a reason for litter training, too. Breeders in super cold environments will often use litter boxes to keep the little tykes safe when nature calls.

#5. –  Skin Problems

Constant licking and grooming could be a sign of skin infections or mites.

Cats will lick themselves to keep their coats clean and kempt. However, dogs usually have a specific reason for the behavior.

Some breeds have a higher risk of skin issues than others, but all dogs are susceptible to irritation, yeast infections, mites, and other ailments.

Unfortunately, licking will only make the problem worse! Take your pup to the vet immediately to avoid any lasting complications.

#6. –  Anxiety and Compulsive Behavior

This is another possible cause of excessive licking.

Dogs can suffer from anxiety as humans do. Your pup might have trouble dealing with your absence when you go to work

Alternatively, they can suffer from anxiety in new environments or situations.

Whatever the case may be, dogs often develop coping mechanisms. Some resort to chewing and destruction. Others resort to licking their skin.

The issue can become so severe that it turns into compulsive behavior. It can quickly become a form of compulsive-obsessive disorder, which requires the help of a vet and behavioralist to address.

#7. –  A Need for Exercise

Have a pup who seems to enjoy jumping onto furniture whenever they can? It may be because they need more exercise. Dogs need to play and move to burn off their energy supply.

When they can’t expend that energy by traditional means, they’ll find ways to do so inside!

It’s why they do the “zoomies” and bounce off the walls like maniacs!

Try to incorporate more walks and play sessions into your daily routine. More chances for exercise will make a world of difference.

#8. –  An Attempt to Get a Better View

Dogs are surprisingly determined creatures. One way you’ll experience their resilience is by watching them try to get a view out the window!

Smaller dogs aren’t able to sit by the window to see the world go by. But that’s not going to stop them!

Jumping onto your furniture to get around could be their attempt at finding the perfect vantage point.

Don’t be surprised to see them do the same thing to get to food and snacks, too.

#9. – Affection and Attention

Finally, your dog could want your attention. The constant need for affection drives dogs to do all kinds of things.

It’s why they lean their body weight on you or jump around your furniture. If you’re ignoring your pup, they’ll go to great lengths to get your attention!


Dogs can act like cats for many reasons. In most instances, it’s because they learned behaviors from felines in the house.

So, should you be concerned?

Not at all! The only times you need to be worried is when there’s a medical reason behind it or if the behavior is a byproduct of anxiety. I

n all other cases, it’s not pressing enough to warrant a change.

Think of it as one of your pup’s distinct quirks. Appreciate it for what it is, and cherish your unique canine companion!

Also Read: Why Is My Dog So Attached to me All of a Sudden?

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