You might think that all dogs look alike, but chances are pretty good there's more than one breed in your neighborhood. That's because each animal has its own distinct personality and quirks. Think about how different Chihuahuas and Great Danes are from boxers or golden retrievers.
Each animal has its own set of needs, preferences and habits, which means they're not going to be happy sharing their space with another species. It's like trying to live in two separate houses when only one was built for human use.
And even though some people don't mind having multiple pets, others find it stressful. When two members of different species meet, it can cause trouble. If one animal feels threatened by the presence of another, it will try to drive them away.
What Happens When a Dog and a Cat Cross Paths?
They usually fight over territory, food and sometimes even mating rights. Cats tend to chase after birds and rodents while dogs go after small game, so it's easy to see why cats would feel threatened by a larger animal coming into their domain. In fact, most wild creatures won't bother with domestic pets.
That's because they know that keeping company with our furry friends is often an act of charity. We give them shelter, food and water, and they return the favor by killing pests and destroying vermin nests. Of course, we also provide these animals with health care, education and training, which explains why cats seem more comfortable around us than dogs do.
While this arrangement works great for both humans and domesticated animals, it can get messy. Dogs and cats aren't on equal ground, and neither should they be. A cat may be smaller and less threatening than a German shepherd, but she still wants her personal space. Even if a cat and a dog got along just fine before they met, there's no guarantee that things will remain civil once the animals start fighting.
So why does this happen? What makes pets so territorial? Read on to learn about the biology behind these territorial battles.
When you hear "pet," what kind of image comes to mind? Is it a cute puppy licking its master's face? Or maybe a regal tiger lounging in his enclosure? No matter what type of animal you choose as a companion, you probably wouldn't want to share your house with any number of insects.
These tiny critters can make a meal of your skin, clothes and hair, and they'll spend hours crawling over every inch of your body. So why should we let them stay inside? They feed off of our blood and create painful sores called mange.
Just imagine yourself walking down the street and being swarmed by thousands of little black specks. You'd probably scream bloody murder! The word "mange" refers to infestation, and parasites are a common culprit. Our bodies help keep bugs under control through antibodies that attack foreign invaders.
Sometimes, however, parasites can overwhelm our immune systems and gain access to our bloodstreams. Once they enter our system, parasites produce eggs that hatch new larvae (also known as nymphs) and mites. Adult parasites then attach themselves to warm-blooded hosts using long mouth hooks. Fleas are particularly aggressive parasites.
Not only do they feast on our blood, but they also travel between hosts via their saliva. Fleas are commonly found on cats and dogs, but they can also infect ourselves and other mammals such as monkeys, horses and goats.
In addition to causing disease, fleas can kill certain types of animals. For example, they play a major role in the death of livestock. Cattle owners have been battling cattle diseases caused by mosquitoes since ancient Egypt. Nowadays, farmers spray pesticides on their fields to prevent insect growth, but that creates its own problems.
Many of these chemicals contain toxic substances that harm wildlife and pollute the environment. To solve this problem, scientists have developed several alternative methods of pest control, including releasing harmless parasitic nematodes into infected areas. Nematode populations quickly multiply and devour fleas, ticks and flies until there are hardly any left to spread disease among farm animals.
We now know that parasites are bad news, but did you know that some of them actually benefit their host? Yes, fleas can actually protect their canine or feline companions. On the next page, we'll talk about why that is.
Feline Fleas vs. Dog Fleas
It seems like fleas hate cats almost as much as they dislike dogs. Fleas don't just bite our fur; they also suck our blood and excrete waste products onto our skin. This causes allergic reactions, rashes and sores that attract ants and gnats. They also carry tapeworms and hookworms, which can be transmitted through direct contact and contaminated soil.
But here's where things get interesting. Some fleas actually prefer cats to dogs. Why? Because kitties groom themselves regularly. Their tongues flick across their coats and their claws scrape against the floor tiles. Unlike dogs, who chew their food to break down meat proteins, cats swallow large chunks of raw flesh. As fleas jump from cat to dog, they ingest lots of bacteria picked up during meals.
They soon become full of protein and fat, which helps them survive longer. Without this boost in energy, fleas would starve to death. One way your cat protects herself from fleas is by spraying her coat with urine. She uses this liquid mixture to repel the parasites.
This mutualistic relationship goes both ways. When fleas hop from cat to cat, they pass along valuable information about potential hosts. Through olfactory senses, fleas pick up unique scents. Cat urine contains a chemical called 2-heptanone, which acts as a signal that tells fleas "Hey! Over here!" When a stray flea lands on a cat, it immediately searches for a friendly host. After finding a suitable host, it releases pheromones that alert other fleas within range of the scent.
Now that we understand how important territoriality is to animals, let's examine how it affects cats versus dogs. Cats have been domesticated for hundreds of years, but unlike dogs, they haven't evolved alongside humans. Instead, they came from Africa and Asia, where felines lived free and hunted prey. Today, we call these animals Felis catus.
Since cats have spent millions of years adapting to life indoors, they don't need territories. Most people consider their homes to be safe enough for them. But that doesn't mean they don't enjoy sleeping in cozy spots or playing near their owners. Like most cats, Siamese cats love to curl up in tight balls and sleep near their owners' legs.
On the other hand, dogs originated from wolves. While they don't hunt, these animals still maintain strong territorial instincts. Wolves defend their dens with fierce aggression and guard their kills. Human beings provided dogs with a sense of security and helped them develop pack order. Owners typically train their dogs to perform tricks or fetch objects. With time, dogs learned to recognize household boundaries and form packs based on shared genetics and social behavior.
Dogs share many similarities with wolves, but they also possess distinct differences. Although wolves mate for life, dogs usually mate seasonally and divorce their mates easily. They also experience changes in hormone levels throughout their lives.
Your pooch, on the other hand, experiences puberty and becomes sexually active at a young age. Female dogs go through menopause later in life, but males continue reproducing well past old age.
Although dogs and cats are similar in many respects, they differ greatly when it comes to their territorial nature. Next, we'll compare dog fleas to cat fleas.
Unlike their feline counterparts, dogs can't fend for themselves when it comes to protecting their turf. Canine territorial disputes occur when dogs encounter other animals outside of their home.
Usually, dogs try to dominate other animals through fear or physical force. There are three main reasons why dogs exhibit territorial behaviors. First, dogs view other animals as threats to their survival. Second, dogs compete for resources such as food, water and shelter. Third, dogs seek sexual partners.
Like cats, dogs mark their territories with urine. However, instead of repelling parasites, pee serves another purpose. It's used as a territorial marker to show other canines where their owner's property begins and ends. If a stranger approaches a dog without permission, he may receive a nasty surprise.
Male dogs mark their territories with urine, whereas female dogs add feces to the mix. Both sexes urinate on top of piles of dirt or grass and leave the area immediately.
Just like cats, dogs also engage in defensive posturing. Defensive posturing occurs when an animal displays its dominance by raising its hackles or baring its teeth. A bark or growl is a typical response to perceived threats. Like cats, dogs also display protective behaviors toward their families. If a strange dog wanders too close to your pup, he may growl or snap defensively.
Most people associate fleas with dogs, but cats also suffer from infestations. In fact, cats have more fleas than dogs do.