As pet owners, we love seeing dogs and cats get along like the best of friends. Sadly, that’s not typically how things work out between these two animals. While some breeds, like the Havanese, get along exceptionally well with cats, they are the exception, not the rule.
Many years ago, my mother had two young cats that jumped the neighbor’s fence. Unfortunately, the neighbors had a couple of large mixed-breed dogs in their backyard, and well… the cats didn’t make it out. It’s just a sad part of life we have to deal with from time to time.
Whenever something like this occurs, it’s a traumatic experience that we wish we could undo; but if you are the owner of a dog that has killed a cat, you may have to take further action depending on the situation.
If your dog has recently killed a cat, your next steps are going to vary greatly depending on whether the cat belonged to you, belonged to someone else, or was a stray. Continue reading to learn more…
If the Cat Belonged to You
If the cat belonged to you, there’s not much further action that needs to be taken. You may want to check with your local county’s ordinances to find out how you should dispose of the remains. Some counties prohibit the burial of animals in backyards, as well as the scattering of cremains.
If you live in such a county, your other options for disposal would be to take the remains to an animal hospital or pet cemetery.
If this was the only cat you owned, I would urge you to think carefully about whether or not you want to replace it. Your dog will most likely attack any other cat you bring into the family. If you already have other cats, you’ll need to keep them separated from your dog, at least for now.
Going forward, you may want to train your dog to be friendly towards cats. In an article I wrote about Bulldogs and Cats, I explain in detail how to train a dog to get along with cats. Click here to read that article.
If the Cat Belonged to Someone Else
If the cat that was killed by your dog belongs to a neighbor, friend, or relative, things can get a little bit trickier…
If the owner is unaware of the incident, you should find out who the owner is – if you don’t already know – and inform them of what happened. They will undoubtedly be upset, so it’s best to do this as tactfully and thoughtfully as possible.
Depending on how and where the incident took place, the owner of the cat may be able to seek legal action against you. If the cat entered your private property, and that is where you dog killed it, it is unlikely the owner would be able to sue you. In that scenario, as long as you did not encourage your dog to attack the cat, it is not your fault.
However, if the incident took place on public property or someone else’s property, you could be found liable. Please bear in mind, though, I am not a lawyer, nor am I offering you legal advise. If you think you may be liable for the death of the cat, you should seek proper legal council.
If the Cat Was a Stray
If the cat was a stray, you should first call animal control. They will remove the remains for you, as well as test the animal for rabies. In the mean time, you should take your dog to a vet to get a rabies booster shot within at least five days of the incident. Even if your dog has been vaccinated for rabies, they still need the booster.
Rabies is not all you have to worry about, though. Stray cats may carry many diseases, including parasites, so it’s very important you take them to a vet. If your dog has not been vaccinated for rabies, and it turns out the cat they killed tested positive for rabies, by law, your dog has to be put down. This is why I always encourage everyone to get their dog the rabies vaccine.
What to Do with the Dog
Just because your dog kills a cat, does not mean they are a bad dog or there is something wrong with them. My Foxhound has killed wild rabbits and birds. She is not a vicious animal that needs to be put down. She was bred to hunt. It is her instinct to kill small animals.
It is, of course, your decision whether or not you want to keep your dog after they have killed another animal; however, I would strongly encourage you to train your dog to get along with other animals, rather than get rid of them. If you do not feel you are up to that task on your own, hiring a professional trainer or taking them to a socialization class would be the best thing to do.
Frany Syufy (January 6, 2020). What to Do When Your Cat Dies at Home. Retrieved from https://www.thesprucepets.com/handling-cat-remains-555231
E.A. Gjelten. Liability for Injury to a Dog or Other Pet. Retrieved from https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/dog-book/chapter9-3.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cats. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/pets/cats.html